Starting from the concept of "invented traditions" coined by E.J. Hobsbawm and T.O. Ranger in 1983, this contribution examines how the misrepresentation of national histories can be prejudicial. An analysis of how this term may be applied to Ancel Key’s invention of "the Mediterranean diet", subsequent to his 1952 journey to Italy, follows. According to Keys, a Mediterranean diet prevents heart disease, due to the appropriate combination of vegetables, carbohydrates, natural proteins and olive oil, thus explaining the low cholesterol rates in the Mediterranean area compared to those of people living in the US. However, although Keys’ intuition may be correct from a clinical point of view, his all-encompassing historical reconstruction reveals itself to be an imaginary description of a world that has never existed. This perspective proves to confound classical antiquity with a modern way of life, on the basis of an exotic and orientalistic view of the Mediterranean area. While this reconstruction strongly contributed to the declaration of the Mediterranean diet as intangible cultural heritage by Unesco in 2010, it is worth underlining that this decision was made at a time when globalization is widely menacing local communities with well-defined cultural identities.
Keywords: Invented traditions, Mediterranean Diet, Food Practises, Intangible Cultural Heritage, Orientalism, Globalization.