Thursday, January 13, 2011
Exploitation of Regional Cuisine at Walfart's
I was at Walmart the other day getting an oil change. I like the idea of dropping off the car and then, for a half of an hour, walking around the bizzarre mecca of American consumerism that is Walmart. I usually don't buy much, but as you know, I find endless amusement in the strange and horrible ways we have come to market, manufacture, and package our chosen forms of sustenance. Ambling by the little sausage/cheese island I found some eyebrow raising items amongst the usual Hickory Farms crap.
First we have the above cheeses, proudly emblazoned with the ol' Stars and Bars, a Union Jack, and the Irish flag (I don't have a snappy nickname for Ireland's flag). There are "Irish" and "English" style cheddars, the American one just says mild cheddar. I inspected the labels and, quite unsurprisingly, all of the selections are processed cheeses. I started to ponder the question of what additive or flavoring they are using which makes one processed cheese food "Irish" style and another "English" style. I am picturing Chinese factory workers pouring giant buckets of liquid labeled "Artificial Irish Cheese Flavoring" into swirling vats of cheese goo.
Next we have some charcuterie (using this word in its loosest form), which is a subject that is very close to my heart (maybe even closer than cheese).
Pictured above is Veneto, Liguria, and Tuscana style "salami" produced by Danielle Inc. (a massive meat co. which recently recalled about a million pounds of product due to salmonella). Despite the differing regional names, all three "salamis" looked pretty similar to me, so I checked the label.
All three had the exact same ingredients, with exception that the darker one had some "artificial smoke flavoring." Now I know that the ingredient list for many varieties of salume are fairly similar, the nuances being dictated by regional ingredients/methods, but I have a sneaking suspicion that this stuff is made using the same salami sludge molded and died into slightly different forms. I would hazard that this product line is very much along the lines of a Hickory Farms type summer sausage which has been jazzed up a little and given some fancy names.
It just strikes me as funny (not funny haha, funny sad) when food corps. take some poor region, steal its local food tradition, slap the label on some processed monstrosity, and then out compete the local producers. Imagine if Walfart's started peddling jars of "Albany Style Hot Dog Sauce (here is my recipe if you happen to be an outlander)." That would get your knickers all bunched up in your neather regions, wouldn't it? I think so.