“Designation of origin invented”. This is the title of the report with which Alberto Grandi intends to reveal the lies of agri-food marketing. “I was tired of this story that Italian cuisine and products have always been the best in the world and what we eat today is the son of Renaissance cuisine”. Alberto Grandi he is associate professor at the University of Parma; he teaches business history, history of European integration and has taught economic history and food history. He is the author of about forty essays and monographs in Italy and abroad and on Friday 16 September he accompanied the numerous attendees at the Casa Rosa farmhouse in Travazzano di Carpaneto in an excursus through the pages of one of his best-known books, which also given the name to his report, penultimate appointment, for 2022, of the cycle At dinner with science: the scientific popularization appointments at the tip of the fork organized by Confagricoltura Piacenza and Agriturist. “Denominazione di Origine Inventata” this is the title of the book and of the report, which literally dismantled, even amusingly, some of the most deeply rooted beliefs of agri-food storytelling that wants its ancient history for each product, preferably with a famous person who appreciated it, it does not matter if it is artfully adapted to the needs of marketing. Strengthened by his skills as a historian, Alberto Grandi looks for the confirmation of the narratives in the documents and so it goes that the Modica chocolate does not come from the Aztecs, because they did not know sugar and therefore could not make the famous chocolate; that it is documented how Michelangelo went personally to choose the marble blocks in the quarries near Colonnata, but nowhere is it written that “while he was there, he was stocking up on lard” and, to come to our business, that the Today’s Parmigiano Reggiano and Grana Padano are not at all similar to the cheese created by the wisdom of the Emilian monks of a thousand years ago, on the contrary, the Parmigiano Reggiano most similar to that is the infamous Parmesan produced in Wisconsin, USA. And that sweet and juicy wonder called Pachino tomato is a hybrid produced in the laboratory by an Israeli seed multinational in 1986.
“While the Italians – he continues – have eaten little and badly for centuries, so much so that pellagra was widespread, then we ate a lot and badly and only in recent years have we eaten a lot and well. I started to tell the story of Italian cuisine, dispelling these myths. If we had to eat what the Gonzagas and the Farnese ate it would make us sick, for a technical reason: for the Renaissance courts, cooking was also an ostentation of wealth, there was an abuse of spices compared to our ability to endure, but this was not needed. to cover the flavors of a badly preserved meat, because there was no aging; however, spices were the most expensive product and to abuse them was to show potency. The cuisine that is supposed to be the progenitor of today’s Italian cuisine has nothing to do with reality, because modern cuisine is made up of simplicity and quality of raw materials “.
Another example? “Pasta is the symbol of Italian cuisine, but it hasn’t always been this way. It comes from the Arabs in the Late Middle Ages, then disappears and reappears in Naples in the mid-seventeenth century for economic reasons. Pasta was not born as an Italian dish, but from a specific region and became a symbolic dish of Italian cuisine after the great Italian migration to America, from the end of the 19th century until 1915, where Italians find themselves exchanging local customs ”. And the carbonara? “Brought by the Americans, at the end of the Second World War, probably putting together freeze-dried eggs and bacon with the pasta they had known on the spot. The proof is that there was no recipe book before the 1950s that talks about carbonara ”.
Alberto Grandi therefore revealed how the many typical Italian products, most of the dishes and the Mediterranean diet itself are very good, but the legends of history and wisdom that accompany them are much more recent inventions. The resounding success of the Italian gastronomic industry, however, is the result of real know-how. “My basic thesis – concludes Grandi – is that the excellent reputation of Italian cuisine in the world has grown in recent decades thanks to a series of products that have identified Italian good taste. Like the Vespa: efficient, inexpensive, elegant, some agri-food products have imposed a style and are symbols of the Italian spirit at the table. They are high quality industrial products that determine a point of reference which is then flanked by small great excellences “.
And to stay on the subject, the evening could only end with the excellent cuisine of the farm: at the table the substance prevailed over the narration. On the plate, cooked with wisdom, the company’s products: from the inevitable tortelli, to vegetables to roast cockerel.
The appointments of Dinner With Science 2022 they will end on Friday 30 September at the Agriturismo La Finestra sul Po (San Nazzaro – Monticelli) with Professor Filippo De Braud who will talk about caloric restriction in cancer therapy.