Friday, November 24, 2006

Lawyers Offended by "Brooklyn-Style Pizza"

You find the darndest things sometimes. Like a discussion of whether "the law can place any restrictions on how corporate America adopts and exploits local gastronomic traditions and culture." AKA the offensive case of the "Brooklyn-Style Pizza" being marketed around America by Domino's.

The discussion appears on in an intelligent and very legally-titled article called, "Should the Law Regulate Whether and When Corporations Use Locality-Based Food Designations Such as 'Brooklyn Style Pizza'?" In other words, should there be a Badge of Brooklyn (BOB) to certify that something is really and genuinely a Brooklyn thing like a canoli from Court Street Pastry or pizza from Totonnos, and not just some "Brooklyn-style" abomination offered up as a marketing gimmick. (We found the article via the IPTAblog, which offered a compelling entry on the Appellations and Origin of Brooklyn-Style Pizza.)

Don't laugh. (Or do, because this whole pizza flap has been funny as hell.) In Europe, they take their "appellations of origins" seriously. The authors explain (in language that normal people can understand):
As readers may be aware, in Europe, certain foods carry deep associations with local regions and traditions. The word "Champagne" refers to a place in France, not just a style of sparkling wine; the word "Parmesan" refers to a place in Italy, not only a style of cheese. And the local producers do not want wine producers in America to be able to call their sparkling wine "champagne," nor do they want cheese made in Holland to be called "parmesan."

Over the years, a system of legal regulation limiting the use of geographic titles, or "appellations of origin" has developed. European wines have traditionally been regulated by the French Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) system, the Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) used in Italy, and the Denominación de Origen system used in Spain. Since 1992 the European Union has expanded this concept to foodstuffs by employing various legal devices, such as protected designation of origin (PDO), protected geographical indication (PGI) and Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG).
Wouldn't you love to see the bureaucracy in Washington that would develop around certifying products as genuine and the rules and guidelines they would develop? The absurdity value alone might be worth the hundreds of millions in tax dollars it would cost every year. In any case, we'll return to the lawyer's cogent analysis of the pizza situation:
Domino's campaign for its "Brooklyn Style Pizza"...trades in crude stereotypes about urban America. Its website has a cast of ethnic stereotypes, and a liberal amount of what we think is supposed to be "attitude." Meanwhile, the television ad that accompanies the campaign looks like an outtake from "Welcome Back Kotter."

The point is not that Brooklyn has changed dramatically over the past 25 years. The point is that it doesn't seem like anyone who truly cares about Brooklyn--its people or its food--had very much to do with the "Brooklyn Style Pizza."

The practice of appellations of origin is just starting to get a foothold in the United States. We are not sure that pizza from Brooklyn deserves that sort of care and attention. But think that there is a connection between respect for the local pedigree of a product and respect for that product's region or home.

In the case of Domino's "Brooklyn Style Pizza," we think that the lesson is particularly clear: Local flavor or authenticity should not be manufactured along with a homogenized, national product. Even if consumers are not fooled--they know, in the end, they are just getting a Domino's pizza--Brooklyn and the dignity of its local culture have been cheapened as a result.
Not to flog a dead horse, but us, we wouldn't eat the crap if you paid us.


Blogger JR's Thumbprints said...

A franchise cannot claim a certain type of homedish based on location unless they originated there. Shame on Dominos.

Found your blog through Cherry Bleeds.

8:19 AM  

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