Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Mayo Label Collection: Mini Mayo For A Mayor Price

T2. Alna. Naplus, Tunesia. February 2000. 1,350 dinar (€ 1,05) for 9 cl!!

In my latest Mayonnaise Label Collection entry on Lesieux, I posted one of the very few labels I possess from a Muslim country (Tunesia) and observed that the Golden Sauce is not exactly a staple in Islamic cuisine. I also confessed that I had no ready explanation for that lack of popularity. However, from time to time one does gain an impression by looking at local practices; and today’s brand is a case in point.

For who can be surprised that Mayonnaise never reaches broad national popularity if this is how we market it?! Only 9 cl of sauce, for more than an €uro! That is almost 12 € per litre! La Veuve Clicquot is often cheaper! And where does all that money go? What does it pay for? Well, not to buy ingredients of the highest quality, I assure you! You are basically paying for the packaging. For only the kitschy label and ditto cap are golden here, not the sauce itself. The matter to emerge from this Lilliput jar was basically oil: liquid, tasteless, and most lamentable. It served – grand total – one Oeuf Mayonaise. And did it no great service.

Note that the little strip cut out of the label was missing on purchase. Everybody may decide for himself what it originally said. But note that there is no Sell By Date to be found anywhere else… In short: some manufacturers are as unscrupulous as the retailers that sell their products!

Post Scriptum: My good friend Azra Ali, who is at present residing in Saudi Arabia, has told me she will look out for Saudi Mayonnaise labels to add to the collection. Alfred B. Mittington’s heart rejoices with the prospect. For what IS a collection of Mayonnaise labels that falls so horridly short of items from North-Africa and the Middle East?

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Disobey Diktat nº 13.644!!

To prohibit, forbid, restrict, control and regulate is an immense pleasure, dear reader. It is, in fact, such a tremendous delight that you wish to enjoy it again and again and again. And thus, very soon, you will grow addicted to prohibiting.

Surely I need not tell you that in all of history there has not been an institution more ardently addicted to prescription and interdiction than our beloved European Union, whose rules and edicts and orders run into the tens of thousands every bloody year, imposing upon us all, to the most minute detail, standards, rules of behaviour, quality, design of products, packaging, gender equality, politically correct ways of consumption, speed limits, weights and measures, health rules, profit margins and what not. (1)

Of course, in the long run, if you keep happily at it for a few fat decades, you will eventually run out of reasonable things to regulate. But… you are addicted! You must go on! You cannot withstand the urge! You must find new stuff to control and curb back in order to satisfy your insatiable craving for domineering. And so, of late, our Brussels Masters have taken to regulating the unreasonable as well.

And one of the most imbecile, absurd and abominable of them is surely the prohibition of this:

The innocent aceitero: a most functional, well-wrought metal container holding a flask of olive oil, another of vinegar, a jar of salt and a jar of pepper. This, our Beurocrat Solomons have decided, is a danger to public health, honest entrepreneurial practices, and consumer comfort (not that anyone ever asked a consumer his opinion, of course.)

Why, you may ask, is this devilish invention – which has graced the dinner tables of private homes and restaurants of southern countries for over a hundred years without any outbreak of epidemics or consumer revolts - a mortal danger to the health and well-being of the European population?

Well, so the Diktat explains, because it might just be that the hotelier does not live up to his commitment, and cynically fills the flask of oil with a product inferior in quality to the one he pledged to his customer.

This is such truly tremendous baloney that I have a hard time convincing myself I should explain it nevertheless.

It is, for starters, total nonsense, because in all the many decades that I ate in Spanish, Italian and Portuguese restaurants, I have never ever anywhere encountered, on the menu or on the bistro walls, any announcement of the brand of olive oil that the innkeeper would put on the table. And where there is no formal previous commitment, there cannot possibly be a break of faith.

Secondly, this is the sheerest baloney because – as any veteran of Mediterranean cuisine is perfectly aware – it takes a customer only one bite to know exactly what quality oil he is eating. And a landlord who offers third rate olive oil to line his salads will quickly lose the customers he does not deserve.

And lastly, when it comes to perversion, the cure is infinitely worse than the imaginary decease. For WHAT do Our Brussels’ Masters prescribe today’s innkeepers to offer instead? Why, yes: pre-packed plastic of course!!! Instead of the clean, cheap, economic aceitero, the innkeeper is by Diktat forced to supply these so-called ‘monodosis’ cups of oil and minute flasks of vinegar, which come with proper labels so that hotelier cheating is out of the question.

Now surely, these products serve a fine purpose in certain settings (like when you’re going on a picnic or when you’re camping), and I highly recommend them on a voluntary basis. But when abused, they become wasteful, polluting and expensive.

Imagine, dear reader, ALL the tables in ALL the restaurants in ALL of Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, France etc etc, being supplied with these cups! As they are made of plastic, this practice produces an immense polluting heap of unorganic garbage every single day (and this from a EU which has the environment high on its list of priorities…) Not only that: whenever one of these cups is opened, but not fully finished, the contents are naturally thrown away. Do that 10,000 times a day, and imagine the tremendous waste, while there is hunger in Africa and Asia and even among the poor of Europe (caused, incidentally, by that same European Union which loves the poor so very dearly…) And then there is the price. I googled around a little and ran into the cheapest of the lot (not the one shown in the picture above). Its producer offered 140 cups of 10 ml contents for 12,29 €uros. That is 12,29 € for 1.4 liters!! Where a normal litre bottle of fine first pressing virgin olive oil rarely comes close to 8!

This Diktat is an abomination, dear reader. It is the seedy ejaculation of perverts who rule for pleasure. And it ought to be ignored and disobeyed by all people of goodwill, good taste, sophistication and culinary love. Not to mention those who think that all the funds we squander on Brussels ought to go to the poor of Africa, Asia, Greece, Portugal, Spain and Cyprus!

(1) For a nice little list of what absurd, unimaginable legislation the Euro-Parliament busies itself, read this here column by eloquent Dan Hannan.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Golden Quotebook: Melville on Paupers and Plutocrats

The nauseating spectacle of the European rich getting away with corruption and fraud, while the crisis they caused is visited upon the most vulnerable, inspired me to quote the following terse lines from America's foremost author:

Now Jonah's captain, shipmates, was one whose discernment detects crime in any, but whose cupidity exposes it only in the penniless. In this world, shipmates, Sin that pays its way can travel freely, and without a passport, whereas Virtue, if a pauper, is stopped at all frontiers.

[Melville, Moby Dick, Chapter 9]

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Golden Quotebook: Enes Karic on Mass Murder

For a change away from Mayonnaise and lesser culinary arts than that, I offer you today a wise remark from a former Bosnian Minister of Education. 

When someone kills a man, he is put in prison. 
When someone kills 20 people, he is declared mentally ill and put in a psychiatric ward. 
But when someone kills 200,000 people, he is invited to Geneva for peace negotiati­ons. 

[Enes Karic, quoted in Time Magazine, 22 May 1995]