26 April 2012

AUNTIE PASTA; It's Not Easy Being Green

SARONNO, Italy – No doubt you’ve all heard of the war on drugs and the war on women, well there is another war being waged in Italy. The Italian war is all about basil. Not just any old basil, but Ligurian basil – and the reprobate? The Italian Minister of the Environment Corrado Clini. 
 Capitano Basilico to the Rescue
The situation is a little convoluted and a little complicated, like most things Italian, but it seems Clini thinks it is time Italians accepted the use of genetically modified seeds. He even had the audacity to suggest that there were some foods, like Ligurian basil, that have already been modified by the mutagenesis of seeds, which is just another way of saying genetically modified.  Well, I can tell you he set off a firestorm of protests. He would have been better off saying Ligurian grandmothers can't cook. In fact, the Ligurians were so offended he's lucky they didn't send out Capitano Basilico to teach him a lesson or two.

As the law stands now, genetically modified seeds are prohibited in Italy. The only genetically modified foodstuffs allowed to be imported into the country are soy and corn used in animal feed. So when Minister Clini went on to suggest that basil,  the pride of Liguria, was on a par with animal feed, all hell broke loose.
Nobody Messes with Ligurian Basil, says Capitano Basilico
A much offended and indignant President of the Consortium of Genovese Basil DOP, Mario Anfossi, issued a statement refuting the Minister’s claim and has even gone so far as to request the Consortium’s Legal Department look into filing a claim against the Minister of the Environment for damages to the sacrosanct image of Ligurian basil. 

“It is absurd,” Anfossi said, “ that an Italian government official would purposely issue false and misleading statements nullifying the good work carried out by the Ligurian Basil Consortium. “After all,” he added, “Genovese basil didn’t earn the coveted DOP designation for no reason.

Having a DOP designation, you may recall, means that the product is the real deal. It's part of a system established by the European Union to protect the reputation of regional foods and eliminate the chance of misleading consumers with non-genuine products, which may be of inferior quality or of different flavor. (for more info on this you can check out http://thisitalianlife.blogspot.it/2010/08/auntie-pasta-italians-do-it-whey-better.html)
On Your Mark, Get Ready, Pound!
Minister Clini’s timing couldn’t have been any worse. While this firestorm was raging, in the hallowed halls of the Ducal Palace in Genoa the finals of the IAAF World Pesto Championship were in full swing. 

100 participants from around the world were pounding their little hearts out, trying to win the coveted Wooden Pestle. It was a fair fight. Each pesto maker was given four packs of DOP Genovese basil, 40 grams of Pecorino Fiore Sardo cheese, 50-60 grams of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, 2 cloves of Vessalico garlic, 10 grams of salt, 30 grams of pine nuts from Pisa, a bottle of DOP Ligurian extra-virgin olive oil, a marble mortar and pestle and 40 minutes to prepare their pesto.

Surrounded by TV cameras and photographers, they were then judged by a jury of 30 experts, including restaurateurs, sommeliers and journalists. The judges kept a careful eye on each of the finalist, awarding points for how well they handled the ingredients, how well they organized their work, and of course the color, consistency and taste of their pesto. 
The Real Deal
Among the magnificent 100 finalists there was a naturalized Genovese from Sri Lanka, 83 year old Alfonsina Trucco, the oldest participant, and 25 year old Christina Orilia, the youngest participant.  Other pesto makers included a businessman and a computer consultant from Genoa, an entrepreneur from Moscow, a consultant from Lyon, France, a nuclear physicist from Genoa, and two medical doctors. Some contestants had come from as far away as the USA, Canada and Argentina.

And the winner of this year’s Campionato Mondiale del Pesto al Mortaio (World Championship of Mortar-Made Pesto) was 54 year old Sergio Muto, an Italian who lives in Germany.
The Happy Winner - Sergio Muto
You know, this pesto business has inspired me. I’m actually thinking about entering the pesto competition myself next year.  After all, as the Italians say, it’s not about winning, it’s about being there. Anyone care to join me?

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