Tuesday, 22 February 2011

It's just a recipe...

It’s a recipe I tell you. I’ve eaten some awful “traditional Cornish Pasties” in the eponymous county and some pretty ace ones made elsewhere. Yet – unlike Yorkshire pudding, Lancashire Hot Pot or the London ParticularCornish pasty gets a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI):

So what you're looking for is this: under new protected status, a genuine Cornish pasty must be made in Cornwall. It must have a distinctive "D" shape, crimped on one side (never on top); the filling should be "chunky" (minced or roughly cut chunks of beef – representing no less than 12.5% of the content); add potato, swede (in Cornwall, some of us call it turnip), onion and a light seasoning, packed into a pastry case ("golden in colour, savoury, glazed with milk or egg and robust enough to retain its shape") and slowly baked.

Sounds lovely and I’m sure there’s a few black and white flags waving but, in truth, it’s just protectionism. It’s just a fix to protect one set of folk who make something from other sets of folk who might make that something. And, worse still, it’s arbitrary – Melton Mowbray Pies get protection despite, like the Cornish pasty, that pie just being a recipe, a variation to a pie of no greater merit than any other pie.

I could wander through the utter nonsense that is EU protection of geography – a world where one product is protected while another isn’t, where we can’t call fizzy wine champagne unless it comes from Champagne but where anyone can make Cheddar or Wensleydale. These are recipes, methods, approaches to the making of something and no more deserve special protection than any other technique.

Take this to its logical conclusion and Yorkshire Puddings could only be made and sold in the ‘Broad Acres’ and Lamb scouse will be something only saleable in Liverpool. What matters isn’t the precise location of manufacturer but the quality of the food being made – all PGIs do is grant a license to certain producers, they give no indication of quality.

I like food and seek out ‘authenticity’ but I don’t think that this authenticity merits protection under the law. Nobody is fooled into thinking a Cornish pasty is always made in Cornwall any more than we believe all the Eccles cakes come from Eccles or Lincolnshire sausages from Lincolnshire. This is simply protection – and arbitrary, selective protection at that.

I’m sure that Ginsters – that massive Cornish maker of food for petrol stations – will be delighted. Indeed, I might try and buys some shares – the EU has just given a big boost to their profits after all!



Anonymous said...

I think that protected status ought generally to be restricted either to ingredients from a particular place, or to processing that's only possible in a particular place(like Roquefort).

Otherwise, you're right. It's merely an arbitrary protection, not of idiosyncrasy, but of selected profit margins.

SadButMadLad said...

Knowing how authoritarian goverments like to get into every small detail of personal life (cf Honduras 'banning' smoking in the home) it won't be long before you can't make a Cornish Pasty at home.