Top | Oyster Food and Culture

Culinary Racism

(post, LouAnn Con)

Last week, city officals of Lucca, Italy banned any ethnic food that was not its own.  The ruling applies only to the fortified area of town, and included in the ban are kabob vendors and takeaway pizza stands.  The City’s leaders want people eating local dishes consisting of ingredients such as salted cod, bean and rabbit.  They intend to preserve “the culinary traditions and the authenticity of structure, culture and history, establishments whose activities can be tracked to different ethnicities will not be allowed to operate.”

I simply do not understand the motivation - actually I do - I just disagree with it.  People are predisposed to the food they will eat, and will go out of their way to get to it.  If someone wants a slice of pizza or a hamburger, they will not substitute salted cod or rabbit.  It will not happen.  I think this decision will have a detrimental effect on the local economy and some unintended consequences.  This story brings to mind a woman I met from Chicago while staying at a B&B in Auckland, NZ.  This was her second trip abroad, and for both trips she went to the same place, and stayed at the same B&B because they fixed her eggs like she got them at home.  She did not venture from that B&B.  She did not have to - her travel preferences were met by that establishment.  The inspiration for her trips to New Zealand?  Why her all time favorite television show:  Xena - Princess Warrior.  I kid you not.

This woman was not going to try to local cuisine, no way, no how.  She is not alone.  Culinary preferences are strong, and they do not vary solely by country, but within countries as well - think US foods ranging from Philly Cheese Steak to Tex-Mex.  Forcing limited options on consumers usually backfires because intrepid entrepreneurs find ways to game the system.  A better approach would be to highlight the cuisine - offer cooking classes or culinary events that showcase the local food and culture.  What about you, what do you think of this approach?  The French have their own ideas for dealing with this issue, but that’s a topic for another post.