Halloumi/hellim is a cheese that does not belong to any one ethnic group or nation alone. Rather, its messy genealogy mirrors the complicated histories of the peoples of the Eastern Mediterranean. Historically, the multi ethnic and multi-religious population of Cyprus had many food traditions in common, and Peter Loizos in his work repeatedly referred to the importance of commensality and the shared culinary practices of Greek and Turkish Cypriots. Recently, however, Greek Cypriots are laying claim to halloumi cheese as an ethnicised national product. Since the EU accession of 2004, the Republic of Cyprus has become eligible to apply to the European Commission’s programme for protective food labels to be awarded to so-called origin products. When a food item is declared an origin product, it is taken to represent the group‘s history and its distribution is mapped onto the group’s territory. The conflicts that ensued with the Republic of Cyprus’ halloumi application to the EU are evidence of this type of ‘gastronationalism’ (DeSoucey, 2010), but also show how the claim to exclusive cultural property is contested by local actors under conditions of globalising markets and supranational political regulation.
European Union, Cyprus, dairy products, nationalism, heritage
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