Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Brummie Balti

You may or not know that our beloved European Union has a scheme to protect certain regional and/or traditional food- and drinkstuffs from piracy (and you thought it was all about supporting French farmers and straightening bananas, didn't you). It's called the Protected Food Names scheme, and it comes in three flavours: Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), Protected Geographical Indication (PGI), and Traditional Specialities Guaranteed (TSG). And here's me thinking the EU was all about open markets and free trade. And straighter bananas.

But I guess it's reassuring to know that that very expensive bottle of fizz you bought came from the Champagne region of France, and you won't be wasting your hard-earned cash on the well-known Tchiampain from China. It seems we are all deemed to be idiots these days, who cannot tell the difference between the salt-packed, Tetra-packed cheese-like substance from Denmark and your actual Greek feta cheese?

All well and good, I suppose, but this story caught my eye recently. The Birmingham Balti Association has applied to the EU Protected Food Names scheme to have its curries given TSG. And the chosen name is 'Birmingham Balti', which is odd, because nobody, but nobody calls it that. It's just 'Balti'.

I should explain what a Balti is at this point, for the benefit of the 7.12 billion or so people who don't live in Birmingham, England. It's a kind of curry, served in a small bowl with handles (and the bowl is called a 'balti', which some commentators say means 'bucket'). The dish was, apparently, invented in Birmingham in the 1980s. So don't be rushing off to the sub-continent and demanding a Balti, they won't have a clue what you are talking about. Or they'll give you a bucket.

Given that Baltis first appeared in 1982, I think the 'Traditional' bit is pushing it. And I'm not at all clear what benefit it offers anybody. Are they going to sue anyone selling something under the name of 'Birmingham Balti'? Are they going to force people to abide by a specific recipe?

Does anybody, actually, care?

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