(Posted originally on February 3rd, 2007)
Maybe the joke in this one just isn’t that clear or good, for a number of people have been asking me, what this is about. It’s not an advertisement for Italy, it’s just a parody on one of the stereotypical fantasies people sometimes seem to have about the country, its food and its culture. Sure, there’s plenty of good food to be found in Italy, but they have McDonald’s over there, too. And you can drive around the valley of the river Po without ever meeting father Camillo, or mayor Peppone. What I mean to say is that all those romantic, distant places in books, films, commercials, food and travel shows just don’t exist as such. (Just in case you didn’t know...)
On the other hand, I’m not saying that it’s just the same, if you use bland, mass-marketed ingredients full of weird additives or first-rate organic stuff. It’s just that sometimes all this foodie raving about this and that rare and expensive food item is superficial bullshit. In the end of the day, a wagyu steak will taste pretty much like one made of local beef. I assume, never having tried Kobe beef, but it’s still beef, right?
Maybe I’m wrong, but I just feel that often a truly remarkable and memorable eating experience has more to do with the situation and the events leading up to the meal, than the meal itself. You know, like the same cheese sandwich will taste so much better if you have it on a sunny day at the beach, next to a girl in a bikini, than if you chew on it alone in your dirty, one-room flat. Or, to give another example, like when my friend Anssi and his family visited us last September: from the minute we got to our place from the airport to the point they went back home we either ran around the city in search of the right ingredients, or cooked them, or ate what we had cooked. The seven course dinner that we put together was, of course, nothing short of phenomenal, at least for us. I remember wondering at the time, whether some outsider, who would not have had anything to do with the preparing of the dinner, would have thought our mushroom raviolis were so fantastic. The fact that we had worked so hard on the food definitely gave it an extra flavour.
And then there’s the necessity of being hip, cool and up-to-date. A lot of people have heard of things that are the hottest cool right now, yet they have no idea, what the stuff is like. Therefore it’s often enough to create an illusion of... exclusivity, so that the upper middle-class can feel special. You know these people, the ones to whom it is very important to buy a Louis Vuitton handbag with LV stamped all over it, who will make a point of their wine being expensive (which is around 40 euros) and the vegetables being organic and bought from the finest delicacy store in town. These people won’t really care, what their dinner tastes like, as long as they are assured that not everybody can afford it. They have Italian design kitchens, where they slice pieces of o-toro with their Swiss high-carbon steel knives and smoke Cohibas while eating the fish. It is their all-consuming need to be original, unique and exclusive that makes them so overwhelmingly superficial, ordinary and mediocre, that they surely would not do well in a blind tasting with a Philadelphia tiramisu against one with Umberto’s mascarpone.
Oh, just realized that I’m ranting. You’ve probably gotten my point a long time ago. (And I’ve made myself seem like this angry and envious poor guy) So I will stop now and conclude by admitting that yes, I know that donkeys aren’t really that big. I just realized it while colouring the picture, but couldn’t be bothered to draw a smaller donkey or a larger man. Not that it matters, because the entire story is based on false images anyway.