Archive for the ‘Carlo Petrini’ Tag

History: The McItaly   Leave a comment

In January of 2010, McDonald’s Italy launched its McItaly burger, billed as “A meeting of tastes: the unmistakable taste of McDonald’s® meets the tradition of typical Italian ingredients.” The launch of the burger took place at the McDonald’s restaurant at the Spanish Steps, where in 1986 the protest (against the opening of that same restaurant) that launched Slow Food had taken place. Present at the launch was Luca Zaia, the then Italian Minister of Agriculture. Zaia praised the McItaly, made exclusively of Italian products, and even gave the burger the ministry’s official patronage.

This unleashed a storm of criticism, both from Slow Food and other commentators abroad. Carlo Petrini, founder of Slow Food, wrote a letter to the McItaly burger (and to Zaia) and even denounced the menu item as

Minister Zaia at the unveiling of the McItaly.

something anything but Italian: “Whose grandmother ever made something that looked like this?” he asked rhetorically on the RAI weekend show Che Tempo Che Fa. The Ministry of Agriculture issued press releases denouncing the gastronomic snobs and underlining the Italian-ness of the burger and its aid to farmers in Italy. The polemic continued for two months, until the (already planned) end of the McItaly promotion dampened further polemics.

The unanswered question is “What is Italian?” Is it the presence of Italian-made ingredients? If so, then practically all of McDonald’s products are Italian, as the sourcing is largely national. Or is Italian grandmum’s cooking, as Petrini implies? Modern dishes like spaghetti all’amatriciana are out, then, as they are largely post-war, meat abundance-induced dishes. Despite Italian opinions to the contrary, most of their food cannot be philological in the sense they want it to be, i.e. that “Our food is good because it’s the way we’ve been eating for centuries, a balanced diet based on a peasant diet.” More on “philological food” to come. ZN

View the original press releases of McDonald’s and the Ministry of Agriculture, Petrini’s letter in La Repubblica, and Zaia’s response.

Comment: Petrini’s call to “return to the fields”   Leave a comment

In a recent commentary published in an insert of the Italian newspaper, La Stampa, Maurizio Molinari casts an uncritical eye towards Slow Food Carlo Petrini’s “American blitz.” Petrini, in the days leading up to the recent Salone del Gusto in Turin, made a whirlwind tour of the United States to encourage the youth of America to “return to the fields” (quite literally) and to build a “New Global Network of Sustainable Communities.”

It’s a rather thankless job to be the curmudgeon, but a few details seemed to merit a more critical eye. First, the students of Harvard, Yale, and Princeton universities (the three noted in the article) are rather unlikely to “return to the fields,” in fact rather unlikely to have been there in the first place. It seems also a little naïve to think that a bunch of college kids could create, ex nihilo, a global network out of their local production. This is fact is another seeming contradiction in Petrini’s program: sustainability, at least if one is concerned with a reduction in the use of fossil fuels, necessarily means local food production, distribution, and consumption. It’s an open question whether farmers can sell their authentic agricultural products across oceans and still maintain the pretense of sustainability.

Petrini also finds the source of our current global malaise in the current system of agriculture, and suggests a return to the model used by the first colonists and enouraged by the Founding Fathers of the United States. The idea that the colonial methods of agriculture were sustainable was put to rest over thirty years ago in Changes In The Land, but this point obviously has not as yet sunken in. While small-scale, organic agriculture has fields that have a much higher degree of biodiversity than their industrial counterparts, they are virtual wastelands compared to any two hundred yard square piece of forest. Agriculture–the razing of all trees and intensive cultivation of a small number of usually annual plants–is a massive assault on biodiversity. Organic and industrial differ only by degree.

There is much that Petrini said that is praiseworthy; his push for farmer’s markets is perhaps the best of the ideas listed by Molinari. But suggesting the near-impossible (that Ivy League grads become farmers en masse) or idealizing the never-was (colonial-era biodiversicators) is not a helpful contribution to getting out of our current alimentary mess.  ZN

Grazie a Daniela Buglione per la segnalazione.

Posted November 8, 2010 by zachmon in Uncategorized

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Slow Food — Ed. Petrini   Leave a comment

Slow Food: Collected Writings on Taste, Tradition, and the Honest Pleasures of Food (Carlo Petrini et al.) – This thoughtful volume avoids boredom by flitting around the world of Slow Food. The book is anthology of the best writing from the first five years of Slow Food Editore’s quarterly magazine Slow. Among the best of the articles are  Piero Sardo’s “Vermouth” and the curious origin of the concept of the Mediterrean diet in Annie Hubert’s “The Convict’s Diet”. ZN

Posted October 30, 2010 by zachmon in Uncategorized

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