The “Chocolate Wars” and food nationalism

Kraft cheese and Cadbury Dairy Milk. Photo: AP file photo.

Kraft "cheese product" and Cadbury Dairy Milk. Photo: AP file photo.

A few topics that people get heated about: politics, religion, and sport.  I’d add food to that list.  The New York Times discussed this in an article titled The Chocolate Wars.  It’s about Kraft’s attempt to mount a takeover of Cadbury.

The mayor of London had this colorful comment:

“We face an appalling choice of succumbing either to Kraft, makers of the plastic flaps of orange cheese, or to Hershey, whose Hershey bars have been likened in flavor — by independent experts — to a mixture of soap powder and baby vomit.”

There was a similar article in The Economist about a Middle Eastern staple: Rivalry over hummus. That rivalry is almost a microcosm of that region’s conflicts, fears of encroachment, and quest to preserve its heritage.

Why do people feel so strongly about food?  The NY times article points out how certain foods are an inextricable part of our childhoods. Due to that, we’re loathe to see them lost to a faceless corporation, particularly a foreign one.

National pride is a big factor too.  I’ve yet to meet anyone from Europe who isn’t proud of their cheeses, bread, and beer. Just to name a few things.

There is also a snobby satisfaction in bashing food and claiming you got better stuff from the original country. I know it’ll be hard to eat Chinese food in America after having so many delightful meals in China and Taiwan.

In Taiwan, sometimes the debate is over whether Chinese food in Taiwan or mainland China is better.  See this discussion thread on an expat forum.  The common argument is that China’s best chefs fled to Taiwan and Hong Kong around 1949. I like to play devil’s advocate and say I like Malaysian Chinese food the best.

In many of my conversations about food, it’s only a matter of time before that common enemy surfaces: America. The articles about chocolate and hummus reflect that trend. Although cities like San Francisco or New York would claim their food is right up there in the top rank.

Any great dishes you’d like to claim for your country or city? Any great memories of meals you’ve had abroad?  Please share them in the comments. Names of specific restaurants and their websites would be greatly appreciated.

Posted by | Comments (2)  | December 25, 2009
Category: Notes from the collective travel mind, Travel News

2 Responses to “The “Chocolate Wars” and food nationalism”

  1. Says:

    That’s too bad about Cadbury…don’t blame them for being upset about a takeover. Napa Valley and Sonoma are known for their wines. Not sure what Phoenix, AZ is known for. Guess you could say Mexican food, but some restaurants are better than others.

  2. brian Says:

    As someone who lives in the shadow of NYC, I consider the gauntlet thrown: 1) Pizza, Neapolitan style, of course. (Also, do not get me started on Chicago’s pizza. If I wanted that much dough, I’d eat a loaf of bread.) 2) Bagels, as our water is perfect for both bagels and pizza to the extent that restaurants on the West Coast will have New York water delivered to their establishments. I will give a nod to Montreal’s bagels, which while different from a New York bagel, are still delicious. 3) Jewish deli, or any deli period for that matter. Our cultural hodgepodge has enabled us to maintain our culinary traditions. There’s more, but now I’m hungry. Time for lunch.