Real foodies protect their recipes with the law
Being particular about our food has become something of a first world obsession. Who knows exactly when it started, but from that point on, we haven’t stopped talking, writing and reading about what we eat, how and where it’s grown and the myriad of ways we cook it.
Recently the discussion has become even more sophisticated, with an increasing number of food enthusiasts and producers ensuring the food they create is preserved in authenticity by law.
Yep, it’s possible to legally preserve the regional integrity of food and recipes. At least in Europe, where a scheme established by the European Union in 1993 meant countries could apply to have “protected food names” assigned to some of their most specialist foods.
So why are we talking about it now? Well, there’s two main reasons.
Firstly, because according to a piece in this week’s The Guardian, Britain who already have 48 dishes approved by the EU, including Cornish Pasties and Melton Mowbray pork pies, are on the push to add more. Which is a probably a competitive thing given countries such as Italy have 244 PDOs and PGIs, France 191 and Spain 154.
And secondly, because when it comes to the battle for regional branding of food, Australia is sadly out of the race. But more on that later.
The proper EU terminology for the food preserving process in the UK is Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) or Protected Geographic Indication (PGI). PDO means a product must be “made to a traditional recipe, in a certain geographical area, with ingredients from that area”. While PGI “means it must also be made in a specific region to its traditional recipe, but may include ingredients from further afield.”
From the consumer’s perspective the PDO or PGI, marked with little red and yellow, or little blue and yellow sticker, are a stamp of authenticity. It means you can be assured that as you’re hoeing into a deliciously buttery Melton Mowbray pork pie, or flaky Cornish Pastie, they’re the real deal.
It’s easy to understand why people feel protective of recipes and food. There is something oddly romantic and comforting about the notion of holding onto to the past through your tastebuds. Several months ago my grandmother gave me a pile of old 1950s and 1960s cookbooks that are not only an entertaining but also a fun exercise in social history. It’s often amusing to see what people ate and drank in the decades before I was born.
What is amazing however is that preserving traditional foods and recipes can actually be a lucrative enterprise. The Guardian reports PGI and PDO products contribute £1bn to the UK economy, with an equally robust impact on regional economies as it helps to produce jobs and entice tourists.
So why is Australia so far behind in this regard? Our relatively young history is one reason, according to Alla Wolf-Tasker, the Executive Chef co-proprietor of the Lake House, in Daylesford Victoria and a bit of doyenne when it comes to regional food and wine.
“Artisan food is relatively new in Australia. Unlike Europe where the importance of good food is part of the national DNA - we really have never had that “peasant” class here. Agriculture and food production here still is mainly monoculture and big agri concerns….Things are definitely changing but it will take time.” she said.
The good news however is that Australia already has terrific potential. Wolf-Tasker said produce like Tasmanian Leatherwood honey, Queensland bunya nuts, Wessex saddleback pigs and the bull boar sausage from the original Swiss Italian settlers of the Daylesford region in Victoria have already been flagged as unique foods worth preserving.
The next step is gaining momentum: “Not only do we need great producers and growers who understand the big picture and the potential. Government should and could take some interest in this. There are many benefits,” she said.
Tell me what food you’d want to protect on Twitter: @lucyjk
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