It is Bastille Festival in Franschhoek this weekend and although I am not in the Valley this year to join in the celebrations, I can almost hear the pop of corks and smell the crusty goodness of a freshly-baked baguette! Do you know the interesting story about the origin of the baguette? Reading this, I again realise the importance of conserving our food heritage.
At our Pierneef à La Motte restaurant, we serve traditional Cape Winelands Cuisine and a lot of research has gone into the traditional recipes of the Winelands. In fact, we even published a cookbook sharing the history and recipes – in their adapted form for a modern-day kitchen and palate of course.
But of course we are not unique and while many of us are familiar with the protection of regional names for drinks such as Champagne, Port, Tequila and India’s Darjeeling Tea to name a few, there are many such protected foods as well. For me, this is about more than brand protection and a guarantee of origin, quality and style. Of course, they are important as well, but for me, it is also about protecting the story, the tradition and the history.
One such story is from the Italian town of Parma, the home of Parmigiano-Reggiano and Parma Ham.
“Parmigiano-Reggiano or Parmesan cheese is named after the Italian producing areas, which comprise the Provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Bologna (only the area to the west of the river Reno), Modena (all in Emilia-Romagna), and Mantova (in Lombardia, but only the area to the south of river Po). Under Italian law, only cheese produced in these provinces may be labelled “Parmigiano-Reggiano”, and European law classifies the name, as well as the translation “Parmesan”, as a protected designation of origin. Parmigiano is the Italian adjective for Parma and Reggiano that for Reggio Emilia. Outside the EU, the name “Parmesan” can legally be used for cheeses similar to Parmigiano-Reggiano, with only the full Italian name unambiguously referring to Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. It is known as the “King of Cheeses”.” (Do follow the link for more information on the production process)
“Parma ham or prosciutto di Parma is the best known of a family of Italian air-dried hams that also includes prosciutto crudo, and San Daniele and Carpegna hams, all of which can be used in similar ways. It is made by traditional artisan methods according to strict rules protected under European law. These govern things such as the specific breed, age and feed of the animals used. After salting, the pork legs are preserved by drying in the gentle breezes of the Parma region, which are considered an important factor in developing the flavour.”
And in another twist, after Parmesan was made, the leftover whey was traditionally used to feed the pigs from which “Prosciutto di Parma” was produced. Having a food story does not get much better than this!
Europa with its exceptional culinary culture has many protected names, but it is a global trend with protected food names varying from Japan’s Kobe Beef to America’s Vidalia Onions.
In Britain, one of the most famous protected foods is the traditional Cornish pasty, which has Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status in Europe. Filled with beef, onion and root vegetables, it is the food most associated with Cornwall and is regarded as the national dish. It accounts for 6% of the Cornish food economy!
Another cheese to have been granted the status of a protected designation of origin by the European Commission is the English Stilton. Both Blue Stilton and White Stilton enjoy PDO status which requires that they have to be produced in the three counties of Derbyshire, Leicestershire, and Nottinghamshire and made according to a strict code.
Protecting such original foods is especially important to me as it protects the craft and the tradition. There might be many more affordable, similar tasting products available, but when enjoying the original, there is an appreciation for the skill and passion and history that goes with it.
In negotiations with Europa about the proposed protection of Geographical Indications, South Africa only requested three names for agricultural products (food) to be protected – rooibos, honeybush and Karoo lamb. On 20 August we are hosting Professor Johann Kirsten, the mastermind behind the legal protection and certification for Karoo Lamb as well as head of the Department of Agricultural Economics, Extension and Rural Development at the University of Pretoria, at our Evening of Vintage Wine & Venison. He will present a talk on the importance and conservation of regional food as part of our culture and food heritage focusing on his efforts with the Karoo Lamb certification. I can’t wait to hear these thoughts!