European Soccer: Hatred and history beyond the pitch

 

The European community saw yet another display of Anti-Semitism at the Europa League soccer game between England’s Tottenham and Italy’s Lazio last Thursday during a high tension game in Rome.

Tottenham is known for having a strong Jewish following from Northern England. These fans were attacked without merit at the game, with remarks from Lazio fans including “Juden Tottenham” calling upon difficult memories from the second World War. “Free Palestine” was also among the chants from Lazio fans, touching upon the current and continuing situation between Israel and Palestine.

In unfortunate situations such as this, one can truly see the power that this sport has beyond the pitch, as fans take matters into their own hands…transforming the sport from enjoyable passtime to personal attack. The World Jewish Congress has asked that Lazio be removed from the Europa league for their racist commentary, as the team seemed to support their fans’ opinions.

Regardless of the tolerance and anti-racism campaigns run by UEFA in recent years, it’s disheartening to see that hatred still very much exists in this organization.

Soccer, or football as they say, is much more than a sport in Europe, but a means for fans to identify with a political, economic, national, and racial past. This adds an interesting dynamic to each game, as one roots for the team that truly represents their personal experience. Displays of hatred and violence at games bring unfortunate realities into the limelight.

Where do we go from here? Have you had any personal experience with sports related racism and intolerance? Please share your stories, everyone deserves to be heard.
At least I am a Juventus fan 😉

 

Aftershocks: The Fate of Parmigiano Reggiano

Image

As many of you know, the Emilia Romagna region (famous for production of Prosciutto di Parma and Parmigiano Reggiano) of Italy was hit bad last month by a series of relentless earthquakes. May 20th and 29th were bad days in the world of cheese producers, as years of careful aging and hard labor toppled to the ground.

According to a letter published by the Parmigiano Reggiano Consortium, damages include:

  • 37 factories effected in towns of Mantova, Modena, and Reggio Emilia
  • 600,000 wheels were effected in the quake
  • Of those 600,000 wheels, 50% can be saved and continue on in aging for eventual sale as certified DOP Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 300,000 wheels (amounting to roughly 10% of annual production) have been irreparably destroyed.

What does this information say about the market? For those of you who are unaware, the rise and fall of price in Parmigiano Reggiano is monitored as closely as the NYSE. Weekly, a private Italian dairy consulting firm (www.clal.it/en) produces a stock market-esque analysis of the supply/demand chain of prices for all forms of cheese and dairy products in Italy.

To give you an idea of the evolving market: Image

The top line representing Parmigiano Reggiano, you can see that prices in 2011/12 are above 12 Euro per kg (roughly $8/lb) in ITALY! At Whole Foods this dairy gold sells for over $20/lb. While prices are suspected to fall in 2013, based on the simple laws of supply and demand it will take roughly 2 years to replace the destroyed product.

Being a salesman for imported Parmigiano Reggiano, this is not good news for me. Will Parmigiano Reggiano retain it’s standing title as the “King” of cheeses? Most likely… it seems people will always pay to be satisfied…the joys of niche markets!

 

Environmentally Friendly Eating..But Honestly Who Cares?

One would think that going to a Slow Food university, being bombarded by information about deteriorating local food systems, biodiversity, and environmental travesties that have been caused by the global food system, would successfully work to change my ‘bad’ consumer habits. Being preached to about GMO foods and how each purchase of imported produce I make is single-handedly destroying the universe should have technically changed my consumer habits, but my friends, I have a confession to make…..

…..I buy out of season fruits imported from Chile, I enjoy eating meat, and I am a slave to convenience. Having the choice of going to do my shopping at the Saturday farmer’s market, I choose to go to the supermarket attached to my house, and buy the prepackaged, pre-washed lettuce because I cant stand the idea of having to wash dirt and insects out of my vegetables before eating them. *cringe*

What does this mean? I think that my eating habits reflect the reality of most of our society. A truth that is both relieving and slightly depressing. Every day, we are hit in the face with ‘go-to’ terms that are used to convince the average consumer to change their habits in an effort to save the environment. “Buy Organic!” “Buy Local!” “No GMOs!” “Unprocessed!” “Fair Trade!” “Zero Food Miles!” “Eat in Season!” But has the overuse and over promotion of these terms had a counter productive effect? Does the general population really care that some farm worker in Brazil is being disgustingly exploited for the sole purpose of providing us with freshly brewed Arabica coffee every morning?

It is impossible to completely change the eating habits and working routines of an entire population, which brings me to ask myself, is the Slow Food movement doomed to fail? Pardon my apathy, but it is a question that I continues to poke my brain. Is the ‘fairness’ and ‘morality’ of a locally grown indigenous apple enough to justify its higher price?

Perhaps we need a different approach. How would an overworked stock broker in New York approach the situation of buying locally grown food? Is he going to go out of his way after a busy day of work to find the farmer’s market? Probably not. What about the morbidly obese truck driver in Mississippi who disparagingly regards the organic movement as a corporate excuse to bump up food prices?

How much value does buying fair, organic, local, and environmentally friendly foods hold for the general population? Is it time to start reorganizing the Slow Food approach to make it more relevant for the average consumer? The answer lies in convincing marketing. People don’t want to be hit in the face with facts and figures, using guilt to motivate them to change their evil ways, because ultimately the only emotion that evolves is resent.

There’s nothing worse than protesting hippies outside of large supermarket chains, condemning the masses for consumer failure. The truth is, the fault is not the consumer’s but the large corporations that have jumped on the organic bandwagon for capitalistic gains. How much change is really being done?

You want people to stop eating fast-food? Don’t babble about the corrupt meat industry and the influx of greenhouse gases, because really, a photo is worth 1,000 words.

Perfect Marketing

To make real changes, we have to make the messages relevant to the average consumers. Not just the elitist yuppies that live to boast about their elevated eating morality. The real world doesn’t have time to think about the unfortunate consequences of the corporate food system. It’s time to start thinking more strategically if organizations like Slow Food want to successfully spread their message rather than become lost in the sea of smug Al Gore clones.

What do you think? In the world outside of the microcosm of die hard organic/fair trade/local food eaters are the messages these organizations are trying to deliver effective?

DISCUSS

All Eyes on Israel

The past week has been a difficult one for Israel, having boarded the Turkish flotilla and killing 9 “humanitarian” activists attempting to break the blockade in Gaza. I rarely voice my political opinions on this blog, but being that this is a forum for thoughts and opinions, I thought I would dedicate this entry to my support of Israel, the State of the Jewish people.

I don’t want to get into these endless arguments about who’s fault it is that there is unrest between Israel and Palestine, who threw the first stone, the first missle. Everyone’s opinions of course vary on their experience with the situation, and their historical ties with the land.Walking home from dinner at a friend’s house last night, I was bombarded by the new graffiti in the area… including “Israeliani=Nazisti” (Israelis=Nazis) which fundamentally bothered me.

So, in an effort to avoid the argument that has given me an ulcer the size of the sink-hole in Guatemala, I thought I’d put up a recipe for Hummus, a scrumptious chick-pea based dip and a staple in Israeli cuisine. Eaten as an appetizer or condiment, hummus is incredibly easy to make and full of Mediterranean flavor.

Hummus

Ingredients:

  • 1 16 oz can of chick peas
  • 1/4 cup liquid from can
  • 4 tbsp of lemon juice
  • 1 1/4 tbsp Tahini (sesame paste)
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic
  • 2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Directions:

  1. Drain chickpeas from can keeping aside 1/4 of container’s liquid.
  2. Place beans and remaining ingredients into food processor and mix for 3-5 mins on low until well blended.
  3. Place blended mixture into a small bowl, leaving well in the center of the dip.
  4. Fill well with pine nuts, paprika, and olive oil.
  5. Serve.
Hummus and Pita

Hummus goes best with warm pita, fresh vegetables, or spiced meats. It’s too easy not to make, and too awesome not to enjoy. I highly recommend this recipe. It will definitely be the first thing I eat in Israel when I go for a visit next month.

Therefore, I realize many people will be against my support of Israel, and this entry might even raise some eyebrows, but as a Jew I feel connected to a land that is rightfully governed by my people, and will continue to be in support of Israel regardless of public opinion. No one is perfect, and every country makes mistakes, but it seems that regardless of what they do Israel is always portrayed in a severely negative light.

So, Enjoy some hummus, warm up some pita, and try to see the world from multiple perspectives, not just the ones regurgitated by the media.

בתיאבון

(B’tayavon, which means Bon Apetit in Hebrew)

Shalom!

P.S. only a week after the flotilla incident and Parma has already become littered with Anti-Israel graffiti….It’s kind of sad to see in a city that I cherish so deeply…



Foie Gras: France’s Deviant Delicacy

Foie Gras: Fatty Duck Liver

Foie Gras, a French word that rolls beautifully off the tongue but not so easily into the stomach, at least for some. Translated from French, Foie Gras literally means “fatty liver,” specifically speaking, the fatty liver of a duck or goose. Though the original notion of creating the delicacy was born in ancient Egypt, contemporarily, France produces the highest amount of this product per year (producing almost 19,000 tonnes and 78% of the worlds supply in 2005).

Both within France and abroad, this delicate slice of buttery liver is not only a prized delicacy but also a controversial culinary concoction. Topping the list of the world’s most disputed foods, Foie Gras has been continually denounced by animal rights activists who argue that its production methodologies are in violation of regulations that protect the humane treatment of animals.

What is it about Foie Gras that separates it so distinctly from other forms of liver preparation and consumption? What makes this product so abhorred by animal lovers and squeamish eaters? The answer is simple: production, production, production. Foie Gras earned its namesake because of the effects of intentional force-feeding (in French this process is called gavage d’oie) on the livers of ducks and geese. Force-feeding techniques are the key contributors in rendering an incredibly oversized and highly fatty liver, ultimately creating the rich, creamy and delicate texture of the consumable product.

Using specially designed machinery, a long feeding tube is inserted into the throat of farm-raised ducks and geese twice a day to fill them to capacity with a strict diet of corn. While producers claim that this force-feeding process is painless to the animals because they lack an esophagus and gag-reflexes the practice is nonetheless concerning, especially regarding the harmful effects of an oversized liver to the animal.

J.Barthouil's Foie Gras

Based on my prejudgements, it was difficult to enter the heart of a land that held foie gras to a different luxurious standard, and went against activists’ requests to cease its production. The duck farmer and producers at J.Barthouil were wary of the issues their product has caused, and are working hard to change its internationally notorious reputation.

In foie gras’ defense, we were told that ducks and geese are migrating animals, and therefore are naturally equipped to store fat for long periods of migration. Therefore, their livers are easily enlarged by the gavage force-feeding process. As far as the animal’s health was concerned, the producer at J.Barthouil assured us that, “If we were to let these animals free, thus stopping the gavage feeding techniques, their livers would return to normal in a matter of days.” This statement seemed hard to believe but was nonetheless accepted by the majority of those who listened.

On the company’s brochure, it is advertised that foie gras is “in fact the healthy liver of an adult duck or goose,” however, seeing the large, fatty, beige mass that they defined as liver, the optimal health of the organ was marginally apparent. Emphasizing the fact that animals are not stressed during this force feeding process, the producer underlined the fact that a stressed animal would produce a low-quality tasting product.

A Healthy Liver?

Not surprisingly, the producers at J.Barthouil lamented that while their product is made without the use of chemical additives and organic feeding, the foie gras itself cannot be registered as an organic product. Regardless of details in feed and the free-range living conditions of animals used for this particular company, it cannot receive an organic certification because of complaints made by animal rights activists.

It must be said however that the duck farm we visited in Domezain-Berraute was a small-scale production facility which allowed for ducks to roam freely in a large area of land before their ultimate fate in the gavage room. Unlike industrial manufacturing of foie gras, one could definitely acknowledge a different quality of care and respect that this farm had for its animals. The final consumable product however, was nonetheless created using the same basic methods of force-feeding.

Corn: The Main Feed

Entering the gavage room on the duck farm in Domezain-Berraute, the pungent and absolutely nauseating smell of the caged animals overwhelmed my senses. As my eyes began to water, the kind farmer boasted that the quality of his foie gras cannot be met by industrial manufacturers. While this statement was confirmed by my classmates, who happily enjoyed the fruits of the farmer’s labor, I could not help but ignore the underlying truth and reality that goes into making foie gras.

The facility was vast, and divided into small cages each housing seven ducks. The room was equipped with large industrial fans that the farmer told us were necessary to cool the animals who were overheated due to their extensively large diet. Looking up close at the animals, I was almost frightened by their size. Never had I seen a duck that large in my entire life. Their backsides almost sagged from their bloated internal organs. I continued to hold my breath.

Leaving the gavage room and liberated into the fresh air of the outdoors, we learned about the traditional conservation methods of foie gras. While it can be whipped into a mousse, packed into a confit, or preserved whole, the most important conservative is duck fat. It can be packaged into cans which extends the conservation of this product to well over a year or jars filled with the duck fat that can be kept for many months.

The final question of consumption remains that the disposal of the consumer, based on his personal preferences, beliefs and priorities. For some, specific issues of animal rights are not considered when eating luxury products such as foie gras, after all humans are carnivorous beings. The concept of consuming a fine delicacy holds high importance for food lovers, especially professional gastronomes therefore making the controversial debate surrounding foie gras seem superfluous.

Others however, dance to a different beat, allowing themselves to enjoy eating meat products while still remaining wary of the places from which these products come. Being that foie gras is a major staple of French cuisine, it would be useless to make a successful campaign to abolish its production altogether, but a knowledge about the facts that go into making a product of this kind is important to understand the origins and sacrifices that go into the foods we eat and the choices we make as informed consumers.

My liver hurts….and something tells me it’s not the fault of my lush-inclined habits.


A Slippery Slope: The Oily State of Louisiana’s Fishing Industry

Louisiana Seafood Products

As we have all been hearing about on the nightly news, the April 20th rupture of the Deepwater Horizons Drillsite off the Gulf Coast of Mexico is proving to become an incredibly challenging and traumatic event for local wildlife, fisherman, and the people of Louisiana. While this issue may not seem relevant to those living outside of this area, the consequences could be extreme, and ultimately effect every American seafood lover.

President Obama took a visit to the area this week to give a comment on the current state of the situation, stating that the spill is a “potentially unprecedented environmental disaster.”

Current Oil Spill Site

The map above was published May 1st, showing the oil that continues to spill from the rig at 5,000 barrels/day has hit the natural wetlands that make up 25% of America’s total wetland ecosystem. Aside from the various species of indigenous birds and plantlife that may be killed off due to the spill, it is the Seafood industry that will have to endure some serious economic travesties on account of this oily disaster.

Louisiana has a $2.4 Billion seafood industry, supplying not only the Gulf Coast with abundant amounts of Oysters, Shrimp, Tuna, and Crab, but also the rest of the United States. As of now, the seafood industry has been working hard to communicate that their fish is still safe to eat, however, as the oil continues to flow, industrial buyers are considering switching their business to North-Eastern fish distributors, for fear of safe products and rising prices.

It is hard to predict the true future of the Gulf Coast fishing industry, as methods to divert the oil flow are already underway. The important question is, are rubber booms sufficient enough to save the future of Seafood Gumbo? Only time will tell..

Better start praying...

For more information and updates on the current status of the oil spill, please visit: Here