To shelter its cuisine, Italian city bans foreign flavors
New eateries that serve kebabs, couscous, and even pineapple are no longer welcome in Tuscan town of Lucca.
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And what of food from Sicily, which has a heavy Arab influence – should couscous, a staple of Sicilian dishes, be classed as foreign or Italian?Skip to next paragraph
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Vittorio Castellani, a television chef and author of cookbooks, says there is "no dish on the face of the earth" that is not derived from a mélange of different ingredients and a fusion of culinary styles.
The influence of other styles of cuisine is fundamental to the development of food, says Roberto Burdese, the president of Slow Food, a movement that campaigns for the use of locally grown food in regional recipes.
"The enemy is not so much ethnic food, but food of poor quality," Mr. Burdese says. "A bad Tuscan trattoria does more damage than a kebab shop."
The national debate is reflected online, where a Facebook group, the Cous Cous Clan, has been formed to protest the ban.
But it is not just Lucca that is concerned with the invasion of foreign food. The Lombardy region, also run by the Northern League, said it, too, would campaign for Italians to eat Italian.
The number of kebab shops in Milan, the biggest city in the north, has come under particular scrutiny, leading one Italian newspaper to declare that politicians were unleashing "a new Lombard crusade against the Saracens."
Italians are concerned that other countries are muscling in on some of their best-known gastronomic treasures.
Low quality olive oil from Greece, Turkey, and Tunisia is often passed off as extra virgin Italian oil, while truffles are imported from China, much to the disgust of Italian gourmets, who say they are far inferior in taste to those sniffed out by hogs and hounds in Italian forests.
The protectionist instinct appears to be on the rise – at Christmas, Dr. Zaia, the agriculture minister, called on Italians to forgo one of their festive favorites, pineapples.
Millions of Italians regard a couple of slices of pineapple after a heavy Christmas lunch as a cleansing dessert, but the minister appealed to his countrymen to shun the foreign fruit and instead opt for Italian delicacies such as panetone, a type of sponge cake.
Rejecting imported food would help Italy's 1 million farms, Zaia said, which together contribute more than $80 billion to the country's gross domestic product.