Sunday, July 20, 2014

cheesed off

First, it was wine.  Now, it’s cheese.

With wine, it was the French.  With cheese, it is the full force of the European Union.  (And that is more annoying, than frightening.)

The French started the fight.  They were offended that California was churning out vats of bubbly and calling it champagne.  In Europe, champagne designates a sparkling wine produced under certain conditions.  And only within the confines of a province that existed when Louis XVI still had a head attached to his shoulders.

Of course, the champagne from California wasn’t champagne.  And anyone who tasted it knew that.

But the French were not satisfied.  Rather than give in, the Californians and the French came to an entente.  The label now reads “California champagne.”

Having toasted victory with a glass of Moet and Chandon, the Europeans have put Americans on notice that the other item on the chardonnay and brie circuit is next.  Cheese.  Well, cheese that is associated with either a European region or nation.  Starting with feta and parmesan.

The Europeans may be rather late to the party on parmesan.  Almost all Americans grew up (and still grow up) believing the dandruff in the green Kraft tube is parmesan.  What glamor once attached to the name is long gone.  It would be like the French getting upset about Americans using the term "French fries".  (And we have already had our donnybrook over that term.)

The Americans have good taste on their side in the dispute over parmesan.  “Parmigiano Reggiano” -- the real stuff -- is a protected trademark.  If the product cannot prove its true Italian provenance, the name does not go on.  For the Europeans to get all ticked off over the use of "parmesan" is like the Cotton Council suing me for infringing on its trademark.

I suspect this dispute will get resolved in a manner similar to the champagne dispute.  “American parmesan” has a nice ring to it.

But the Europeans better keep their hands off of that abomination known as spaghetti bolognese in America.  Anyone who has ever tried denying a child his “children’s spaghetti” knows that the Italians would not have a chance.

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