While I was living in Bologna, I discovered a fantastic sweet fruity wine called a Romagna Cagnina (more specifically, a bottle of Terre Cevico Cagnina Dolce DOC). When I was living in Bologna, I discovered a fantastic sweet fruity wine called a Romagna Cagnina (more specifically, a bottle of Terre Cevico Cagnina Dolce DOC). While visiting nearby Ravenna and delving into its Byzantine history, I discovered an intriguing connection between the region’s wine and stonecutters and laborers from Istria. The grape variety used in the wine might have been brought to Ravenna by these workers, who also used Istrian stone in the construction of the city’s monuments. Here is a small excerpt from a webpage advertising the wine:

This wine has been talked about since the Byzantine era when the first vines arrived from Istria during the importation of limestone for the construction of churches, baptisteries and historical monuments of the Ravenna area. The name appears to derive from the slightly harsh characteristics of this ancient grape variety, as it was said to “bite the palate”.

A longer description about the wine can be found here.

This article from the Financial Times provides some funny criticisms on the “invention” of Italian food traditions based on the work of Alberto Grandi. The article also points out a link with food and nationalistic politics:

Today, Italian food is as much a leitmotif for rightwing politicians as beautiful young women and football were in the Berlusconi era. As part of her election campaign in 2022, prime minister Giorgia Meloni posted a TikTok video in which an old lady taught her how to seal tortellini parcels by hand. This month, Meloni’s minister of agriculture, Francesco Lollobrigida, suggested establishing a task force to monitor quality standards in Italian restaurants around the world. He fears that chefs may get recipes wrong, or use ingredients that aren’t Italian. (Officially listed “traditional food products” now number a staggering 4,820.)

Today, after making home-made kimchi, my partner and I decided to listen to this podcast on Sinica about the history of the chile pepper in China. In the episode Kaiser Kuo talks with historian Brian R. Dott about his latest book “The Chili Pepper in China: A Cultural Biography.” A summary from the book’s web page:

Brian R. Dott explores how the nonnative chile went from obscurity to ubiquity in China, influencing not just cuisine but also medicine, language, and cultural identity. He details how its versatility became essential to a variety of regional cuisines and swayed both elite and popular medical and healing practices. Dott tracks the cultural meaning of the chile across a wide swath of literary texts and artworks, revealing how the spread of chiles fundamentally altered the meaning of the term spicy. He emphasizes the intersection between food and gender, tracing the chile as a symbol for both male virility and female passion. Integrating food studies, the history of medicine, and Chinese cultural history, The Chile Pepper in China sheds new light on the piquant cultural impact of a potent plant and raises broader questions regarding notions of authenticity in cuisine.

A quote from the Freakonomics podcast “How the Supermarket Helped America Win the Cold War”:

[Peter Timmer]: I used to ask my class, I’m talking 1985, “Where is the world’s largest supercomputer?” And the correct answer was, “It’s at the Pentagon.” Okay. “Where is the world’s second largest supercomputer?” Bentonville, Ark. Home of Walmart. They used that computer to track every single item on every single Walmart shelf. That information technology is what revolutionized food marketing. And it was pretty much invented by Walmart.

The episode is terrific if you are interested in the history of food production, the creation of supermarkets and the use of science and technology to create an abundance of food.

DW Documentary made available the fantastic documentary “Soyalism”. I can recommend it if you are interested in the otherwise hidden and dark side of industrial food production. See the full documentary here. Or watch it on Youtube.

Industrial agriculture is increasingly dominating the world market. It’s forcing small farmers to quit and taking over vast swathes of land. This documentary shows how destructive the lucrative agribusiness is.