Amatrice quake may curb counterfeit Italian food
AMATRICE- No matter where you live you will find many Italian restaurant and groceries. High demand for Italian food and delicacies, some of the most requested on the planet, has created a significant supply of counterfeit foodstuff and restaurants posing as ‘Italian’, but being so in little but their name, especially in regions with high numbers of Italian immigrants.
Typical Italian cheese, such as ‘Parmigiano Reggiano' and ‘Grana Padano' have been clumsy imitations throughout the world, such as ‘Argentinian Reggianito’ or ‘Wisconsin Grana’ respectively. In the U.S., one can easily stumble upon ‘Mozzarella di Bufala’ made in Vermont, or ‘Burrata’ produced in other American states.
Italian prosciutto has also seen its share of counterfeit. The ‘Prosciutto di San Daniele’, a delicacy certified by the EU as ‘DOP’ (meaning it can bare the name only if produced in a certain Italian region), has been counterfeited in the U.S. under the name ‘Prosciutto Daniele’.
These days, it is hard for an Italian product not to have a low-quality imitation produced outside of the peninsula. Pasta, canned tomatoes, pickled vegetables, have all been mercilessly imitated at great damage to the Italian economy and, indeed, to the unknowing consumers. To many, if not most affectionate consumers of Italian cuisine, the appellation ‘Italian’ is synonymous with quality and simplicity paired with an almost artistic and creative interpretation.
And yet, because of the rise in counterfeit, often times foreign (especially American) consumers of ‘Italian’ food, who might even deem themselves experts in its traditions, when confronted with real traditional Italian cuisine find themselves deeply ignorant of it. Heated discussions at the dinner table or restaurant are bound to ensue.
In one of my many trips to china I found out that many Chinese believed traditional pizza was what was offered to them by American chains such as Pizza Hut, due to their ubiquity throughout the Asian nation. Lo and behold, pizza had been effectively imagined as an American dish. The, quite frankly inevitable result of all this, is the creation of a general confusion as to what Italian food really is, to the point where legislators actually struggle to find ways to define ‘Italian cuisine’, undermining their ability to safeguard the industry.
Evidently, more efficient and better organised culinary education is in dire need, but this will be arduous in our world of ‘fake news’, or ‘bufale’ (its Italian cognate).
As of recently, UNESCO has been a valuable ally in the struggle against counterfeit. The Italian Minister of Agricultural Policy Maurizio Martina proposed at the opening ceremony of the Amatrice Food Centre (opened after the 2016 earthquake), to make, with the help of UNESCO, ‘Pasta Amatriciana’ (a typical dish from the region affected by the earthquake) part of the world’s protected cultural patrimony. UNESCO, as the UN’s specialised agency for the promotion of the world’s cultural heritage, would be in charge of protecting the authenticity of Amatriciana’s original recipe- among the most imitated and vulgarised- through thorough certification.
If this proposal succeeds, this might open the possibility of numerous other Italian dishes and products being institutionally protected by the UN, something all real lovers of Italian food hope.