Interview with Francesc Xavier Altarriba, ideologist and director of “La salut al cistell”

“Eating well and healthily raises nutrition to gastronomy”

He is also the brains behind “La salut al cistell” (Good Health in the Shopping Basket), a programme aired on the Catalan language channel TV3 on Sundays. The show combines gastronomy, nutrition and health with the promotion of the work done by food producers and certain food distributors such as Mercabarna and the municipal Markets.

Q- How did the idea of a programme like “La salut al cistell” originate?
A- The programme came into being to shed light on two realities. On the one hand, the specific importance of the Catalan agrofood sector and, on the other, the scant media coverage received by food production and certain distribution agents. So what we wanted to do was to put together a show to popularise Catalan food produce.

Q- Only Catalan produce?
A- In this globalised world it’s impossible to ignore the existence of products from far-away countries that are rich in exotic flavours. And we have every right to enjoy them. However it’s true that we give priority to Catalan produce on our programme. The fact is that, for reasons of sustainability, ecology and economy, the greater part of our diet should come from places close to where we live.

Q- What does the programme set out to accomplish?
A- Essentially, the show aims to focus on good health from a nutritional perspective. Foods, it must be remembered, are medicines with their particular properties, contraindications, incompatibilities and so on. Nonetheless, just as we trust a physician to inform us which medicines we should be taking, we should also have sufficient food information on which to base our diet, beyond purely gastronomic pleasure and the easy accessibility of certain products.

Q- You’re referring to the adage “you are what you eat”...
A- We lead a life style that is stressful, based on competitiveness and a philosophy of catch-as-catch-can. And healthy eating is one of the things that most suffers from this breakneck pace. We devote little time and quality to nutrition. If we know how to nourish ourselves, then our professional, social and even financial performance will be so much the better! Proper eating is the cornerstone for healthy living. Eating healthfully and well raises nutrition to gastronomy.

Q- The programme also reveals how certain agents work in food production and distribution. Why do you think it’s important to show this work?
A- Many professions related to the agrofood sector are unknown to the majority of the population. That’s why showing the characteristics and specificities of food production and distribution will make them aware of the extraordinary logistical, industrial and sanitary difficulties involved in filling our shopping baskets with guaranteed produce.

Q- Do you think that access to this information will boost the consumption of certain products, too?
A- Knowing how certain products are produced and where they come from, as well as the itinerary they cover before reaching our kitchens, can not only increase their consumption but also give us preliminary insight which will lead to a greater nutritional, alimentary and gastronomic culture.

Q- Mercabarna is one of the programme sponsors, together with the Municipal Institute for Markets and the Government of Catalonia. What’s it been like finding sponsors and collaborators?
A- It has not been easy. In this pioneering project we wanted not only the involvement of the different governments, but also companies from the sector and cooperatives, who in certain cases compete in the market. But they understand it is an opportunity to support the Catalan agrofood sector and make themselves better known to the public.