Posted by: oysterculture | January 27, 2009

Culinary Racism – Banned Ethnic Food

Lucca Italy (picture from Wikipedia)

Lucca Italy (picture from Wikipedia)

Yesterday, city officals of Lucca, Italy banned any ethnic food that was not its own.  The ruling applies only to the fortified area of town, and included in the ban are kabob vendors and takeaway pizza stands.  The City’s leaders want people eating local dishes consisting of ingredients such as salted cod, bean and rabbit.  They intend to preserve “the culinary traditions and the authenticity of structure, culture and history, establishments whose activities can be tracked to different ethnicities will not be allowed to operate.”

I simply do not understand the motivation – actually I do – I just disagree with it.  People are predisposed to the food they will eat, and will go out of their way to get to it.  If someone wants a slice of pizza or a hamburger, they will not substitute salted cod or rabbit.  It will not happen.  I think this decision will have a detrimental effect on the local economy and some unintended consequences.  This story brings to mind a woman I met from Chicago while staying at a B&B in Auckland, NZ.  This was her second trip abroad, and for both trips she went to the same place, and stayed at the same B&B because they fixed her eggs like she got them at home.  She did not venture from that B&B.  She did not have to – her travel preferences were met by that establishment.  The inspiration for her trips to New Zealand?  Why her all time favorite television show:  Xena – Princess Warrior.  I kid you not.

Xena  Warrior Princess

Xena Warrior Princess

This woman was not going to try to local cuisine, no way, no how.  She is not alone.  Culinary preferences are strong, and they do not vary solely by country, but within countries as well – think US foods ranging from Philly Cheese Steak to Tex-Mex.  Forcing limited options on consumers usually backfires because intrepid entrepreneurs find ways to game the system.  A better approach would be to highlight the cuisine – offer cooking classes or culinary events that showcase the local food and culture.  What about you, what do you think of this approach?  The French have their own ideas for dealing with this issue, but that’s a topic for another post.



  1. Yah Xena!
    I wonder what the thought process was behind making this decision. It doesn’t seem like the best way to encourage the traditional foods. I agree this will probably backfire and create some unintended responses. I wonder if they did a study on who ate what…like different age groups, locals vs tourists, etc..before they went ahead with this.

  2. My impression from what I read is that it was a shoot from the hip response. I’m curious to see what, if any fallout will occur as a result. Especially, did the local restaurants see in uptick in business as a result?

  3. Wow, I can’t believe that they can do that legally. It’s one thing to encourage people to eat local products/cuisine but another to ban non-local vendors. That is definitely not right.

  4. Xena, Xenophobia, sound the same…
    What are my countrymen going to do? Holy Macaroni (I’m French!)!
    While you are at it, you could always start commenting (I’ll help you!) on Arnie trying to ban foie gras, saying that it is inhuman!
    Well, has he seen the duck and geese crowding for food? Has he seen in what condition chicken are raised?
    Just buzz me, and we’ll have fun!
    Cheers and all that!

  5. Wow, you’d think they’d prefer the carrot to the stick in this context. How meaningful is it if everyone is eating local cuisine because they HAVE to, instead of because they WANT to. Sounds akin to chaining your loved one to a radiator so they CAN’T leave you.

    Well, okay that might be a tad worse….

  6. Dragon Life – I agree there are a lot of issues that need to be addressed and its hard to prioritze. The French took an entirely different approach, but I don’t want to show my hand as I am still working on that post, but I look forward to hearing your opinion. =) I envy you, as one of the aspects I enjoy about international travel and living abroad is the ability to look from the outside in on one’s homeland. It leads to some different perspectives.

    Guiltless Glutton – Let’s not give them any ideas with the radiators. I agree a carrot approach seems more sensible. I just have a feeling the outcome will not be what they intended.

  7. Intersting post. It makes me wonder what I would if America passed such a thing.

    Oh god.

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