Archive for the ‘EU Protected Food Names scheme’ Category

Love-Hate about the US-Europe

I have a long post simmering where I get into some of the things I don’t like about the US. Some apply to Europe as well, but that’s easy since Europe is basically a bunch of countries which have banded together because they finally figured out trying to kill each other made no sense. Although, there are a few people who still think it does. Part of this is due to watching (wasting a couple of hours) the first two episodes of something called “Tribes of Europe”. Europe has survived serious destruction without ending up like that series.

Portrait de la contesse Fouler de Relingue

Anyway, it sort of comes down to four things: food, culture, distance, caring for cities and countryside, and transport. We could get into the Oxford comma as well, but that is francophony-anglophony. The French will eat Grandma, but prefer their lovers….

I’m not sure I should make “head” jokes, but I am very certain some of my ancestors made it through the Terror. They were able to enjoy the bals des victimes, but they exited stage right when it came to Les Mis. I’m posting the cleaned up version of coiffure à la Titus which was popular post-terror. My race memory clicked on the painting by Guérin in the Louvre.

I don’t relate to US history and always thought that the Civil War monuments commemorated the Franco-Prussian War, which was the Civil War for me. My relations fought on both sides. A direct result was that my great-great-grandfather shipped his son off to the States to avoid Bismarck’s Army. It also set off a chain reaction of events which would lead to my being born in the US. The Second World War led to my father coming to the States.

The thing is that I can get the things I like in Europe in the States/North America, and some of the things I hate about the States exist in Europe. Although, it’s hard to get something vaguely like Europe’s history in North America. People in the US prefer the myth and have done a great job of wrecking the real history, but that is changing. Just not fast enough for my taste.

Still, I would prefer Europe to the States even if there were TGVs, the cities ended at defined boundaries, and there were really cool small towns out there that had restaurants that served exciting local food. As opposed to restaurants that are exciting because everyone is carrying guns–that’s not they type of excitement I mean. I left out more obvous old settlements. Places like Cahokia and Cahawba don’t do it for me since they were ethnically cleansed from history.

I didn’t get the Hudson Valley School of Painting and the concept behind it until I spent a lot of time on the ground (can’t make a good pun of “sur-le-champ”). But no matter what the appearance is, natural resources are limited. While the Americas have been populated for millenia, the cultures that populated them have been ethnically cleansed. Or are seen as a quaint. This quotation about the “First Thanksgiving” gets to the point:

One is that history doesn’t begin for Native people until Europeans arrive. People had been in the Americas for least 12,000 years and according to some Native traditions, since the beginning of time. And having history start with the English is a way of dismissing all that. The second is that the arrival of the Mayflower is some kind of first-contact episode. It’s not. Wampanoags had a century of contact with Europeans–it was bloody and it involved slave raiding by Europeans. At least two and maybe more Wampanoags, when the Pilgrims arrived, spoke English, had already been to Europe and back and knew the very organizers of the Pilgrims’ venture.

Most poignantly, using a shared dinner as a symbol for colonialism really has it backward. No question about it, Wampanoag leader Ousamequin reached out to the English at Plymouth and wanted an alliance with them. But it’s not because he was innately friendly. It’s because his people have been decimated by an epidemic disease, and Ousamequin sees the English as an opportunity to fend off his tribal rebels. That’s not the stuff of Thanksgiving pageants. The Thanksgiving myth doesn’t address the deterioration of this relationship culminating in one of the most horrific colonial Indian wars on record, King Philip’s War, and also doesn’t address Wampanoag survival and adaptation over the centuries, which is why they’re still here, despite the odds.

I found that while looking for this clip. I saw it when I went to the Smithsonian Museum of the Native American the day my application for European residency came through. The speaker is Paul Chaat Smith (Comanche).

Unfortunately, the westward expansion of the English Colonies meant ethnic cleansing of the Native Americans.

Anyway, Paul, my family is supposed to have been there for that First Thanksgiving, but it’s a lot more difficult for a European to move back than most people realise. And changing North America for the better is tough with monied interests blocking the way.

First Chicken Tikka Masala–Now Balti!

Just in case you didn’t know it, Chicken Tikka Masala is actually British. There is some debate as to where it originated, but it’s British! In fact, it is so British that it has probably knocked Fish and Chips and a few other stereotypical dishes off the scene.

O! the Roast Beef of Old England!
And O!” for old England’s Roast Beef!

Now, Birmingham’s Balti Association have applied for the EU Protected Food Names scheme which would make Birmingham Balti dishes a Traditional Speciality Guaranteed Product.  For those not in the know,   the Balti Cuisine comes from the Balti Triangle, the name given to the areas of Sparkbrook, Balsall Heath, Sparkhill and part of Moseley in Birmingham.

To repeat myself about all this EU food protection schemes:

European Union law uses various designations to protect the names of regional foods. There are three distinct regimes of geographical indications according to the law: Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) and Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG). The law which is enforced within the EU and being gradually expanded internationally via bilateral agreements between the EU and non-EU countries was designed to ensure that only products genuinely originating in that region are allowed in commerce identified by that name. This law came into force in 1992 with the purpose of the protecting the reputation of regional foods, promoting rural and agricultural activity, helping producers obtain a premium price for their authentic products, and eliminating the unfair competition and misleading of consumers by non-genuine products, which may be of inferior quality or of different flavour. These laws protect the names of wines, cheeses, hams, sausages, seafood, olives, beers, Balsamic vinegar and even regional breads, fruits, raw meats and vegetables.

So, Arbroath Smokies need to be made in Arbroath Scotland. For example, Roquefort cheese must be made from milk of a certain breed of sheep, and matured in the natural caves near the town of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon in the Aveyron region of France, where it is infected with the spores of a fungus (Penicillium roqueforti) that grows in these caves. In the case of the Cumberland sausage they now need to be made in what was the county of Cumberland, England, now part of Cumbria with lots of pepper and sage. They are traditionally very long (up to 50 cm), and sold rolled in a flat, circular coil but within western Cumbria they are more often served in long curved lengths.

The Protected Geographical Indication system is similar to Appellation systems throughout the world, such as the Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) used in France, the Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC) used in Italy, the Denominação de Origem Controlada (DOC) used in Portugal, and the Denominación de Origen (DO) system used in Spain. In many cases, the EU PDO/PGI system works parallel with the system used in the specified country, and in some cases is subordinated to the appellation system that was already instituted, particularly with wine, for example, and in France (in particular) with cheese, for example Maroilles (as most others) has both PDO (AOP in French) and AOC classifications, but generally only the AOC classification will be shown.

So, what makes Balti Cuisine Special?

Mohammed Arif, owner of Adil Balti and Tandoori Restaurant, claims to be first man to introduce the Balti to Britain – after bringing the idea from Kashmir – when he opened his restaurant in 1977.

The Balti style of cooking is not only quicker, but also a lighter and healthier version of a traditional curry.A true Birmingham Balti must be served in the same thin steel bowl it is cooked in over a hot flame, as it is this “Balti” bowl (a proper balti looks like a small wok, it can also be called a karahi) that gives the dish its name.  The Balti pioneers of the 70s and 80s also switched from using traditional ghee, which is high in saturated fat, to using vegetable oil.

While ghee is the traditional cooking ingredient used on the south Asian sub-continent, the use of vegetable oil in Birmingham Baltis is stipulated as a key unique feature in the Birmingham Balti Association’s (BBA) application to EU.

It requires that all Birmingham Baltis must use vegetable oil instead of ghee.

Another requirement is for all meat to be “off-the-bone” to allow it to be cooked quickly over the hot flame.

This off-the-bone preparation of meat sets the Balti apart from the more traditional “on-the-bone” meat used in the “one-pot” style of cooking from the Indian subcontinent.

 For a traditional Balti, all meat needs to be “off-the-bone” to allow it to be cooked quickly

While “one-pot” curries might take hours to cook all the ingredients, Balti chefs add meat and vegetables to the dish one ingredient at a time.

And freshness of ingredients is crucial to real Balti connoisseurs.

“Pre-prepared generic commercial curry pastes and powders are not used and not permitted” in any true Birmingham Balti, according to the BBA.

Baltis can vary from restaurant to restaurant as each Balti house prepares its own “restaurant sauce” to use as a base.

Should the Balti dish get protected name status, the dish would join Cumberland Sausages, Arbroath Smokies, Cornish Pasties, Stilton Cheese,among other foods.

So, although this protects the proprietors of the Balti Triangle restaurants, it does stop people in other parts of the world from enjoying balti dishes–short of a visit to Birmingham.

But will this mean that the Ali-Baba Balti House in Leamington Spa isn’t a proper Balti Restaurant? Somehow, I think it does.

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