Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Trouble with Tribalism

What are the Italians thinking? Here we have this major sea change in America, along with a world economic crisis, and they start getting down on their friends and neighbors? We have seen some far-out Italian politicians in the last 30 years, but this Luca Zaia, what planet is he from? This is whom the Italian wine industry has to lead them in the 21st century, to boldly go?

In December, Dr. Zaia said,” We must launch the pineapple strike and of all those products that have nothing to do with the Italian agriculture. Yes, therefore, to zampone and cotechino. And no, instead, to the non seasonal products, that do not belong to our tradition and that, often, are cultivated in countries where it is still possible to use insecticides."

But it's OK to employ the wide use of pesticides in Italy, such as Cirtoxin, Decis, Tramat Combi and Lasso Micromix.

On Brunello, the Minister said back in July, with an announcement that the agriculture ministry's department of inspectors will certify the authenticity of the premier Italian wine, "With this act we have not only reinforced our system to guarantee the utmost protection of the consumer, but also restored the image of Brunello, which is a symbol of Italian excellence not only in the United States but the whole world.''

And then 96% of the Brunello producers voted in favor of continuing to use 100% pure Sangiovese grapes for the production of Brunello. After much hasty debate, of which there was much talk about allowing in other varieties.

I asked a producer friend, why the flip flop? Asking not to be identified, he replied, "What does it matter? They (the Brunello producers) are going to do whatever they want to do, like they always have. They feel like the scandal has passed and anyway, some feel entitled to produce a wine that will sell in the world market."

And a month later the Italians were banging the drums that they were the number one producer of wine in the world. For the world! The French had been defeated in the fields. So they felt emboldened. Even Dr. Zaia took time out from his anti-alcohol campaign to slurp some swill among the vines.

I don’t know what to make of his anti-pesticide/anti-alcohol/anti pineapple/ anti cauliflower posits. Zaia eschews kebab in favor of cotechino, cauliflower in favor of broccoli and pineapple in favor of kiwi. Huh?

This pineapple strike in December: Zaia said he was concerned about the environmental impact of shipping pineapples over long distances. But he has campaigned vigorously to sell Italian kiwi’s to China. Just one month ago the Beijing opened the doors wide for the Italian kiwi. Dr. Zaia took the podium, "After ten years of intense diplomatic and technical work from the Italian ministry of Agriculture, we obtained a great result for quality produces in our country. By opening the Chinese market to Italian kiwifruit, a range of new significant possibilities of development for the Italian fruit and vegetable sector is thus displayed."

America has a new president, elected by a large margin, some would say overwhelmingly. His childhood home is Hawaii, and Zaia is throwing down on the national fruit of our president’s homeland. Meanwhile kiwi - which is native to China – is being sent from Italy to China. Whose carbon footprints are all over that?

“What business do I have posting my editorial on Italian or even Lucchese “ethnic food” policies? None, aside from my knowledge that Italian cuisine became a universal gastronomic language thanks to its absorption and incorporation of foreign culinary traditions. Dried pasta? From the Arab world (yes, the Arab world). Tomatoes? From the New World. Corn for Zaia’s beloved polenta (I love polenta, too, btw)? From the New World. Stockfish (baccalĂ )? From Norway.”

“No polenta e baccalĂ ? I can’t imagine a world without it nor do I know of another country where these two foodstuffs could be brought together so deliciously!”

And if we are going to toe the line in Italy, what about coffee? I don’t imagine Dr. Zaia driving a Fiat or even a Lancia. My guess would be a BMW. But, hey, they don’t grow coffee in Italy and they don’t make BMW’s in Italy either, so it’s OK. It's also OK to use (non-local) Mid-East oil to run the car. And (non-local) Russian natural gas to heat the corner office.

Or they could all go back to riding horses in Italy, like we all do in Texas. Then Dr. Zaia could show off his horse-whispering mind-meld talents. Another 60 million horses in Italy wouldn’t have too serious an impact on global warming. It’s only 60 million methane producing mini-factories. Maybe they could feed espresso beans to the horses and the Italians could harvest them after they passed through the horses digestive systems, like the civets in Indonesia. Then it could be considered truly Italian.

Why am I so angry? It’s because I see politicians not understanding the way the world is going and not wanting to lose their power - their gravy train - so they work to keep people down by fear and ignorance. Don’t buy pineapples because they are not local, but let’s sell a non-indigenous kiwi to a country where the kiwi originated from, which just happens to be halfway across the globe. Then the rest of us have to clean up the politician's messes.

I recall what I once heard Bucky Fuller say. He said, “You take a spaceship and load up all the politicians and take them on a round trip around the sun, no one back on earth skips a beat. You take that same spaceship and take all the farmers on that same trip and guess what, we all starve in 6 months!”

Next thing he’ll be wanting to ban chocolate.

Beam him up, Scotty.


Do Bianchi said...

the Italian legislature recently passed a Separatist-party bill (Zaia's party) requiring doctors to report illegal aliens. The extra-comunitari (as they are called) are then immediately slapped with a Euro 200 fine. Is this 1938?

On a lighter note, I believe that image of Capt. Picard is from the vineyard of his brother after their wrestling match among the vines. It's such a great sequence and Capt. Picard had just saved the world from the Borg... no small task.

Lastly, the most precious Zaia pic is the one with the cape... I love the cape...

Great post... and thanks for the shout out... "I am not Herbert. I reach..." I'm sure you get the allusion!

Anonymous said...

maybe that's why Grandpa never looked back after he left Italy. And I feel a bit like him when I think about Italian politicians. But then again, I sometimes feel that American politicians are moving in the same direction...a bunch of beautiful speeches that are aimed to please the listener of the moment...

jgmccue said...

YeeeHa, Alfonso! Fabuloso! Great pictures and juxtapositions! A wonderful way to bring us your knowledge of Italian politicians and let us see the US of A doesn't have a monopoly on political idiocy. Are we going to make it as a species on this planet with such nut-cases at the helm? 51%-49%. But which way?

BK said...

When I was in Kenya in '95 for a month, we used to see these birds everywhere on the Masai Mara. They looked like an eagle with long legs and a big plume of spiky feathers across the top of their head. They were called Secretary Birds, they looked really pompous, and they preyed on snakes and small lizards and insects and other small, untoward creatures.

Maybe, kinda like that politician from Italy?

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