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Regional Foods: There's No Taste Like Home

September 26, 2002

After reading "Europe's Food Regions Fight to Keep Their Good Names" (Sept. 16), I shared in Andrea Bonati's outrage that some cheeses not made in Parma, Italy, are nevertheless called "parmesan." After all, how could a non-Parma parmesan ever hope to capture that je ne sais quoi that defines the original? (I hear it's the breeze that makes the cheese.) Lest your readers get the impression that such cultural crimes are only perpetrated against Europeans, allow me to relate two tales from a recent trip to France.

At a restaurant in Paris, I was shocked to see "Philly cheese steak" listed on the menu. As you can imagine, I felt that a part of my American-ness had been ripped from my soul. It's the subtle flavor imparted by Philadelphia's unique climatic conditions--combining a hint of auto exhaust with the tang of the Delaware River--that separates a run-of-the-mill cheese steak from a genuine Philly cheese steak. Later that evening, at a bar, I was forced to endure a further cultural indignity as a patron next to me ordered a "Long Island iced tea." Obviously, when made by a cheerful Parisian, such a drink would lack the special qualities that only a truly surly Long Island bartender can impart.

From Key lime pie to Tex-Mex to Boston baked beans, our precious cultural heritage is being stolen from right under our noses. Someone should pay. Now if you'll excuse me, my hamburger is getting cold ... oh, sorry, Hamburg; I mean my "Washington-urger."

Aaron Lukas

Chief Speechwriter

U.S. Trade Representative

Washington

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