International disputes can arise over a variety of issues: global warming, nuclear weapons, airspace, trade policies, currency manipulations, use of water - and now, the labelling of parmesan cheese.
As I'm sure you know, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese is produced exclusively in a small patch of 330 dairies on the Italian countryside. Under the rules of the European Union, parmesan cheese cannot use the label Parmigiano-Reggiano unless it is produced in Italy. And now it is showing up under that label in the Ukraine. An Italian food cop, Inspector Domenico Vona, has discovered this outrage and wants to put a stop to it.
Wars have started over less. It reminds me of a work trip to Haiti in August a few years ago. If you learn only one lesson from this article, let it be this: DON'T EVER VOLUNTEER TO GO TO HAITI IN AUGUST.
We were down in Port au Prince remodeling a home into a small schoolhouse. It was 100 degrees in the shade, but there is no shade in Haiti. And the humidity was about the same. It was so hot that one evening it started to rain and I ran out into the rain without a shirt to cool off and the rain was warm. No fooling.
Anyway, one evening we went to a little bar for a sip of relief - a cool beer. The little bar had no stools, tables or chairs, so we had to sit outside on the curb along with the stray dogs and cats to cool off. The beer was El Presidente. There was a big billboard right beside the bar that read: "El Presidente, Pride of the Caribbean."
As I sipped my (one) beer, I read this on the bottle: "El Presidente is brewed in Milwaukee, Wisconsin." Where are the beer cops and inspectors when pride is at stake?
They make parmesan cheese in Wisconsin too. Only they call it parmesan SarVecchio. So far the Italians have not complained. Furthermore, Wisconsin drills holes in cheese to make Swiss cheese, but Switzerland is silent because there is no Swiss cheese in Switzerland. Over there they make "Alpine" cheeses such as Emmentaler and Gruyere. The Emmentaler is what the Americans know as Swiss cheese.
Roquefort cheese is a semi-hard bleu cheese made from sheep's milk and originated from the Roquefort-sur-Soulzon region in the south of France. Roquefort is called the cheese of kings and folks. French laws provide that only cheese from that region may be called Roquefort cheese. But again, Wisconsin doesn't want to miss out on any cheese business. So, they make the same thing, sheep's milk and all, and call it "Bohemian Blue." No word yet from France.
And the English don't complain that we make English Muffins here because they don't call them muffins, they call them biscuits.
This business of who owns the recipe or the name could cause civil, and maybe legal strife in the United States too. For example, our daughter Cinderella has a marvelous recipe for what she calls, "North Dakota Potatoes" from a dish brought from the old country (North Dakota) by her mother. It's a favorite for Christmas, Easter, and other family gatherings and is often served in Minnesota. Problems? The folks from North Dakota come over and enjoy it, but so far, no claims of ownership.
Recipes and name jurisdictional boundaries can only cause trouble. Think of Texas Toast, Boston Baked Beans, Philly Cheese Sandwiches, German Potato Salad and French Toast.
There ought to be a world-wide agreement (like the Paris climate accord which the US just dropped out of) that all food is owned by all the people on Earth and they can break bread together in friendship, harmony and peace - the Break Bread Together Accord.