Antonio Carluccio tells a literary festival in Cheltenham that the British are terrible at Bolognese, and we all rush to nod in agreement and shake our heads at our own embarrassing incompetence.
You can read one of the many articles on it here
As widely as this has been reported, there has been a distinct lack of commentary. The line seemed to be, 'it has been said, and by an Italian, therefore we must deal with it'.
I’ve always liked Carluccio. Ever since he took the time to come to Westminster College to personally demonstrate pasta making to his young chefs. I was working there at the time and he made an impression.
But this form of culinary cultural supremacy is bullshit, and he needs to be called on it.
Firstly, when we say Bolognese in this country we’re not generally making a claim to be recreating a traditional Italian dish, as made in Bologna. It’s simply become a byword for a pasta sauce using minced meat and tomato. We don’t have an English word that will do the job, so Bolognese it is.
Secondly, Antonio apparently speaks for Italy…but where are all these Italians who agree on exactly how a dish is cooked? I’ve known countless Italian chefs over the years and I’ve enjoyed working with all of them. But they don’t agree on ANYTHING.
From one region to the next, one city to the next, or between neighbours and best friends, the only thing these guys ever agree on, is that the other guy doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about.
Thirdly; is authenticity actually important? Half of what we think of as authentic is really just a nod to the realities and limitations of a different world that no longer exists. If we applied a Carluccio style embargo on innovation and adaptation in cooking, things would be very, very boring.
In fact it’s entirely because we don’t do that in this country that we have become such a vibrant hub of fantastic restaurants and innovators.
I haven’t even mentioned the many, many incredible UK restaurants making excellent, authentic Italian food. It’s somewhat beside the point.
So Antonio, with the greatest of respect for everything you’ve achieved: it’s time to let this one drop.