The McItaly McControversy

Does the introduction of the McItaly burger mean that McDonald's is finally tuning in to the higher themes of gastronomy on the Italian Peninsula, or that civilization itself is under attack?

McDonald's would argue that the McItaly burger is a big step forward, as it's made from "all-local ingredients, including the artichoke spread and the Asiago cheese." Critics such as Matthew Fort at the Guardian in the U.K. say the Italian government's endorsement of the new product is nothing short of a "monstrous act of national betrayal."

Dan Mitchell at Slate moderates, sort of, but it seems pretty clear everybody's talking about different things. McDonald's sees itself as embracing Italian food and culture by making a burger tailored to local tastes using local ingredients. Points for the company: The move doesn't make McDonald's a local trattoria, but it does show that the company's paying attention to its critics and putting a bit more money into the local economy.

Critics--always eager to go for the low-hanging fruit and bash an American-based multinational corporation--are incensed because a fast-food product is being dressed up in sacred regalia: the "local food" robe that defenders of provincial, farm-fresh cuisine treat with such reverence.

The truth is this: Good for McDonald's for acknowledging the country in which it's doing business. Good for the critics for asserting Italy's proud, authentic, hyperlocal culinary heritage, a heritage McDonald's will never have a serious claim to. And if anyone gives up his local food on a one-for-one substitution basis for a McItaly ... seriously? Someone that dumb was never meant to be a committed champion of local food to begin with.

Image source: Flickr member barisione under Creative Commons

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