Look, I know things are tough in Europe. I read the papers. A handful of rich countries trying to prop up a slew of underperformers, all in the name of unity and, some day, wider prosperity.
For now, though, things are tough. And people do tend to lash out.
Then again, there’s always room for straight-up crazy, and that could be what’s going on this week. The European Union wants us to stop using the label Parmesan cheese if said cheese is made in the U.S. or, for that matter, anywhere outside Parma, Italy.
No, really, it is credibly reported that they are serious. Feta? Only if it’s from Greece. The list goes on: Asiago (Italy), Gorgonzola (Italy), Romano (Italy), Muenster (France), many more. OK, we get it. Italy is really good at cheese. Stunning. But here’s news: So is Wisconsin, and they’ve been doing it for a long time, too.
Canada has already caved. A perfectly good feta cheese made there has to be sold there as feta-like or feta style. I think we’re already confused enough with the labels we have, though most of us at least dimly understand something labeled “cheese” is more desirable than something labeled “cheese food product.”
Besides, we’re terrible at naming things. We come up with made-up words like Ambien, Zoloft and Viagra. Turning the dark powers of label engineering loose on a solid, honest cheddar cannot be good.
Here’s what our European friends – many of them aghast at America the Obese, or so we are told – perhaps don’t fully appreciate. We are living in the great Age of Cheese. It is everywhere, and thank you, Dairy Council. You have to be one of most successful lobbying and marketing organizations in history.
Let me give you a case study. More than once, I’ve been drawn into giving up something for Lent. A couple of times I’ve gone overboard: No chocolate, no Cokes, no cookies, no cake, no cheese. (Yes, there’s a theme: No sinful C’s, though you are not getting between me and my morning coffee. That’s non-negotiable.)
Everything on that list is actually fairly easy – at least for six weeks of Lent – except the last one. Go out to eat anywhere, whether it’s McDonald’s or the fanciest restaurant in town. Try to avoid the cheese. It’s on your salad, it’s melted across the entree, and it’s drizzled, then drizzled again, onto anything with carbs. You can avoid all that – lots of fish and half-naked salads – and you’ll be healthier, but it takes some effort, and it cuts off most of the menu. The exercise is quite an eye-opener.
Europe is looking at this the wrong way. Embrace the Age of Cheese, forget the technicalities, and sell, sell, sell. The market is endless, at least on this side of the Atlantic.
Although I can understand Europe using this as a bargaining position, our good friends need to remember who holds the high cards. We invented Cheez Whiz, which Kraft doesn’t even sell in Europe – yet. You know what they say: Don’t bring a fine and subtle Roquefort to a Philly Cheesesteak fight. It won’t end well for you.
Follow Jeff Fox on Twitter @Fox_EJC.