How far should governments go regulating what citizens eat – or learn to cook?
In the US and Europe, the current argument is about whether governments should ban foie gras.
In Iran, it is over banning Western cuisine recipes from TV cooking programs. The Associated Press notes:
Jamejamonline reported late Saturday that the deputy head of Iran’s state broadcasting company, Ali Darabi, announced the ban during a visit to one of the country’s 30 state-run TV channels. Some cooking programs on Iranian stations present recipes for foreign cuisine, such as Italian and French.
Clearly, the ban is meant to encourage TV programs to teach viewers how to make classic Iranian dishes, not Italian pasta or American hamburgers.
But what exactly is an Iranian dish?
When do Persian-ized foreign recipes become Persian?
Is Estamboli Polo -– a wonderful dish of stewed green beans -– as Persian as, say, Qormeh Sabzi, an equally delicious fenugreek stew?
Aren’t Middle Eastern empires famously good at adapting foreign culture to be their own?
Consider the Ottoman Turks. They borrowed dishes from the Greeks, Albanians, and Arabs. Such dishes form part Ottoman Cuisine, no longer foreign.
Americans have done the same with nearly all foods: few dishes served nationally are Native American.
It is difficult to think of a great national cuisine that has not borrowed heavily.
The point is that exposure to new recipes -– whether it is through a caravan trader or TV show — can help to strengthen and enrich local cooking.
(Image from advertising by Mondo Pasta)