Homely homophobic pasta
AYLİN ÖNEY TANWhat do bananas, Brunello and Barilla have in common? It was a triple BBB effect that stirred the Italian media in the past three months. The answer is hidden under another “B” word: Bigotry.
Something must be going terribly wrong in Italy. Italian food has been experience a renaissance in the past decade; everybody loved anything Italian, and just when all Italian or Italian-sounding brands everywhere were enjoying their stardom, a few misfortunate public speeches scratched the gilded glamorous surface to reveal the mundane background. The triple incidences all involved food, flying bananas, some good but spilled Brunello wine tainting the reputation of its owner, and finally the home brand of most Italian families, Barilla, becoming the most homophobic brand while trying to hold onto homely virtues targeting traditional customers.
First, it was the crisis of bananas thrown at the first ever black minister of Italy, Cecile Kyenge, the minister for integration, who is a naturalized Italian citizen born in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The incident occurred at a political rally while the minister was giving a speech in the town of Cervia on the Adriatic coast. The act occurred after a statement by Roberto Calderoli, the vice-president Northern League in the Senate with a notorious record of racist and Islamophobic comments. The Northern League is known for its extreme chauvinistic right-wing stance, and has called current Prime Minister Enrico Letta’s grand coalition a “bongo bongo” government. Calderoli, meanwhile, did not fall short of the low bar set by his party and said the black minister reminded him of an orangutan. Barely escaping the bananas, Kyenge took the case gracefully, saying it was a “waste of food,” cleverly referring to starving people in Africa.
The second outrage was in the social media, and was quickly shared among wine lovers on Facebook. Fulvio Bressan, a reputed winery owner in Friuli, called the minister a “sporca scimmia nera” on his Timeline. Translated as “filthy black ape,” this was beyond the pale of tolerance in wine circles. It was Turkish-born wine expert Hande Leimar who spotted the words of hatred and warned her friend Katie Parla, another food and wine blogger. Hande initially thought Bressan’s Facebook account could have been hacked or something. Katie and Hande, both “foreigners” residing in Rome, were shocked by the racist words of the Friulian wine guy. Katie courageously spread the word beyond the borders of Italy, and soon it was almost an international scandal. A leading expert on Italian wine, Antonio Galloni, wrote in the Vinous forum his horror at the said words: “I was deeply shocked, amazed and saddened to read these comments. Unfortunately, in Italy this way of thinking is not as unusual as one might think or hope.”
Finally, it was Barilla that hit it big. The biggest brand of pasta in the word is being boycotted by many these days after the reckless statement of company chair Guido Barilla. His exact words were: “Non faremo pubblicità con omosessuali, perché a noi piace la famiglia tradizionale,” translated as “We won’t do ads with homosexuals, because we like the traditional family.” He went further, saying gays could eat other brands. Well other brands soon took up the case promoting hand-in-hand happy penne, a “straight” pasta, when mistakenly pronounced “pene” can mean – well something very “straight.” Of course, there were jokes about farfalles, the butterfly or bow-tie pastas which may imply other things. The leading rivals made their choices clear: “No matter if you like farfalle or maccheroni, just love!” One joke in social media was best of all. They were promoting Barilla Bigotoni, instead of the brand’s own rigatoni, as homage to the bigotry of the company.
Food cases oscillating between the xenophobic and snobbish are not new in Italy. There have been attempts to ban all foreign food in historical city centers. The movement targeted not only American chains like McDonald’s, but also focused on falafel joints and kebab corner shops. Usually covered in the press as “Italy bans kebab” and similar flashy headlines, the approach stirred a lot of controversy. The case even had its share in the Turkish media as Turks get sentimental about anything related to kebabs. In Italy, reactions were as colorful as ever: a group called “Cous-cous Clan” soon emerged, throwing ethnic parties with ethnic food.
Maybe it’s time for Italians to give up their “Acqua Nera,” namely coffee, that was brought into the port of Venice by the Turks. Italians not knowing what to call the strange black drink simply called it “Black Water,” and eventually the first ever coffee shop in Europe was opened in Venice back in 1645. It seems that the Venetian ancestors of the Northern League were more tolerant than their successors; they did not reject coffee even though it originated in Africa.
BB cosmetic face creams are on the rise now, concealing any blemishes in the skin. But this BBB
case won’t provide a healing potion to give disgraceful racists a face-lift. Now Mr. Barilla Guido
can stuff his mouth with all the pastasciutta his company produces. The world does not want to buy “bigotoni” in 21th century!
Recipe of the Day: “Bigoli al Salsa,” a Venetian specialty, is a good choice in this bigotry case. Bigoli, which is made with whole wheat, is known as the darkest color pasta. To prepare the “salsa,” stir-fry two finely chopped onions in plenty of olive oil and throw in a handful of salted sardines. Boil and drain the bigoli and toss the sardines in the pan. Enjoy!
Bite of the week
Fork of the Week: To have real black pasta, you can buy your seppia ink sauce or blacktinted
sepia pasta at Carluccio’s at Kanyon, which just celebrated its anniversary.
Cork of the Week: My pick of the week is my favorite “B.” Barbare sounds Italian, and unfortunately reminds one of the now boycotted Barilla, but it’s a name to remember and note down. Barbare is a small rising boutique winery in Turkey, and their wines are delightful. Barbare Syrah Grenache
Mourvedre 2009 is a very good choice and Barbare Prestige Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot 2009 even more so, with its almost blackish dark red color and deeply nuanced aromas.