Wednesday, February 2, 2011

There are no jackbooted foodies coming for your pepperoni

Matthew Yglesias willfully misreads a New York Times article about pepperoni in the interest of picking a fight with mythical "food authenticity police":
Apparently the food authenticity police are coming for our pepperoni on the grounds that there’s “one thing it is not: Italian.” John Mariani is quoted as saying it’s “Purely an Italian-American creation, like chicken Parmesan.” And like chicken parm, it’s delicious!

The re-discovery of authentic Italian cooking was an excellent corrective to a somewhat bastardized cuisine that had become compromised by weak access to ingredients and an ill-informed customer base. But the idea that the upshot of that rediscovery should be to throw out decades worth of Italian-American innovation is ridiculous. At the end of the day, tomatoes are from the Western Hemisphere and thus not “really” part of Italian cooking, but that would be a nutty way of looking at the situation.
I guess it's good that nobody is looking at it that way then! While the article does cite Ruhlman bashing pepperoni early on, the rest of the article is about attempts to produce high end artisinal pepperoni by taking out the nitrates and using better quality ingredients. Oh, the horror. How can we ever be free of this menace to our culinary freedom? Now it's true that people can be snobby about the concept of authenticity, but I don't really comprehend how desiring to eat a dish prepared as it would be in Tuscany is any kind of indictment of the distinct cuisine created by Italian American immigrants. It's even harder to understand how high-end restaurants and artisinal meat curers trying to upgrade Italian-American cuisine with better ingredients is "throwing out decades worth of Italian-American innovation."