The Species of the Origin

Not long ago, the European Union, which would be called the United States of Europe except that they're not united and not states, released a list of 41 food items which have names they say should only be used when a product is made in a specific area and manner. European areas and manners, of course. And why not? We all know Europeans have better manners than we do. Then again, who doesn't?

They say all champagne should come from the Champagne region of France, feta cheese should be made only in Greece, and haggis should be exclusively cooked up in Scotland. Just kidding about the haggis. It doesn't really need to be protected since no one else in the world has ever considered boiling lamb offal and oatmeal in a sheep's stomach, not even in Biafra during the worst of their famine.

Other food names the EU wants reserved include Bordeaux, ouzo, Gorgonzola, and Italian Parma ham, which the Italians are upset about because they can't sell it in Canada under that name. It seems a company there already holds the trademark to "Parma Ham" for a product it makes in Canada. Parma, Ontario, Canada, of course. If this doesn't get straightened out quickly the Italians might retaliate by making their own Canada Dry ginger ale, Prince Albert tobacco, and Canadian bacon, which would actually be a money saver when they cook up Hawaiian pizzas. Right, like any self-respecting Italian would want pineapple and Canadian bacon on a pizza. Of course this could open a whole new can of, uh, pineapple, since Hawaii might decide that no one but they have the right to use their state's name on a pizza. See how quickly this gets messy?

This is far from a new battle. In 1994 the United States and the European Union agreed to respect some of each other's products, but only if we promised to learn how to pronounce crêpe, Liebfraumilch, and croissant without sounding like we have a mouth full of each. As a result of this agreement, no one in Europe can call their whiskey bourbon and we can't call ours Scotch. Luckily we're still allowed to make the only Scotch tape, which proves how strong the adhesive tape lobby is in this country. I think I'd better contact my agent quickly and see if she can sell that phrase to the tape lobby to use as their official slogan.

Although U.S. vintners aren't yet barred from using the name champagne, out of respect for the bubbly product which originated in France, many already use terms like sparkling wine, Methode Champenoise, and Cold Duck to differentiate their products from beverages you'd enjoy drinking. Lest you think the EU is being too demanding, remember that they haven't asked that all frankfurters be made in Frankfurt, Danish pastries baked in Denmark, or English Leather made in England. Just kidding about the last one. Everyone knows English Leather comes from a decomposing landfill in Lodi, New Jersey.

The Europeans aren't the only ones becoming possessive about their products. In India they say Darjeeling tea should only come from their country, while Thailand claims the name Basmati rice should be exclusively theirs. Here in the United States we have our own products to protect. Like American cheese. Even though no other country has ever shown any interest in making it -- probably because they're afraid to find out what's in it or why it comes individually wrapped in plastic like Cheese For Dummies -- we shouldn't take any chances. After all, there's no telling how vindictive the EU might feel if Wisconsin doesn't stop making feta. That's why we should bargain hard to ensure that no one in Europe tries to make Mississippi mud pie, New York style pizza, or Rocky Mountain oysters, not that it's likely anyone would consider doing the latter. At least not if they have any idea what they really are.

The battle could heat up. The next thing you know the EU will insist that New Jersey change its name because the Channel Island was using it first. Then Paris, Texas, Rome, New York, and both Athenses -- Georgia and Ohio -- will have to come up with new names. Luckily New Mexico will be safe because Mexico isn't a member of the European Union. Yet. This is a good thing since there's already enough confusion about the state. According to New Mexico magazine, many Americans believe the state is a foreign country. They even had a monthly column which reprinted examples of this, which proves just how lacking our education system is. Hell, I thought everyone knew the only state that's truly foreign is California.

Luckily some countries are making concessions. For a while Greece was insisting that kalamata olives could only come from their country but they relented. Switzerland wanted their Etivaz cheese protected until they found out no one else had ever heard of it. And Britain agreed to remove Blue Stilton from the list, but only if the Tony Awards are renamed so people don't think their Prime Minister is sponsoring them.

It's a good thing they're not being too hard-headed. If they push too much the U.S. might have to retaliate by forcing the Europeans to not use the name Arnold unless they're referring to California's governor, even though Benedict Arnold, also-ran Gary Coleman's TV character, and the pig on Green Acres had claim to the name first. But that's okay because they all have the same country of origin, even though Arnold the Pig is rumored to have been shipped to Parma, Canada to be preserved for posterity. Or rather, for breakfast. But whatever you do, don't even think about making French toast to go with him. You know, I think I just lost my appetite completely.

More Mad Dog can be found online at: www.maddogproductions.com. His compilation of humorous travel columns, "If It's Such a Small World Then Why Have I Been Sitting on This Airplane For Twelve Hours?" is available from Xlibris Corporation.

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