Italians take their food so seriously that they are founding the first university devoted to gastronomy.
"Food, eating, are basic to human existence yet gastronomic sciences have never had academic dignity," University of Gastronomy spokesman Carlo Bogliotti said.
"Higher education has only tackled the technical aspects. Our aim is to study food from the historical, anthropological, psychological, sociological, economic and political aspects as well - with a particular eye to the economically viable safeguarding of quality and biodiversity."
The University of Gastronomy, run by Slow Food Italy, will have twin campuses in Piedmont and Emilia Romagna, which should open in 2004.
It will be an international university, offering three-year degree courses to students from all over the world, two-year specialisation courses and various masters courses and seminars.
Carlo Petrini, the outgoing president of Slow Food, said: "The defence and appreciation of gastronomy is not just culture, it is life."
The regional authorities where each campus is located are providing the buildings and financial support is coming from the private and public sectors.
Mr Bogliotti said: "The students will pay fees, but we do not yet know how much. It will be a private, independent university, but we hope to obtain official accreditation with the Italian university ministry. We are starting with 60 students for each year."