When you think of America's food capitals, a few typical suspects come to mind: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago. How about Tuscon? Probably not.
Though the Arizonan city with a population of just 500,000 has often been outshined in the culinary department by neighbors like Phoenix and Santa Fe, the small community's dedication to local ingredients and diverse flavors recently earned Tucson a big foodie accolade. As The New York Times reports, the city was recently named an official City of Gastronomy by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco)—becoming the only place in the United States to earn that designation.
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Unesco first created this label to acknowledge cities around the world that actively preserve and protect a culinary cultural heritage—from Parma, Italy; to Bergen, Norway; to Ensenada, Mexico. The cities on the list have also actively used food as a way to promote urban development, and could use a helping hand from Unesco in promoting their culinary culture to outsiders. As Jonathan Mabry, Tucson's officer for historical preservation who wrote the Unesco application, says: "They want towns where the designation will make a difference."