In our supercharged political climate, it is very easy to hear debate about almost anything. Certainly our personal bubbles, airways and internet places buzz with opinions on issues and non issues. I won't of course go into my own views on specific subjects, nor will I make a list for my culinary friends. My blogging site is primarily about an escape . about the possibility of turning off some of the noise from our worlds of work and of politics.
But just as I made it a point to stay away from political commentary long enough, earlier today I ended up fueling a small, perhaps silent debate within my own kitchen. And all over a few glass containers of mushrooms.
Let me elaborate more clearly.
For years my pantry has been stocking a few glass jars of Giorgio's brand mushrooms. Blasphemous! That's probably what you are thinking. A foodie like Mick using something from a jar ? A prepared food ? How can that be ? Yep, "mea culpa, mea maxima culpa", I am guilty of this minor infraction. The bottom line here is that this brand of mushrooms seems to be quite good for certain dishes, and a good form of insurance for those days when the pantry stockpiles might run low. Besides, I came to view this a trusted brand.
|The Giorgio Mushroom Pyramid|
My relationship with Giorgio Foods took a very bad turn today. As I was preparing to saute' a few jars along with some garlic and oregano to be used as a pizza filling, I noticed where this batch of product came from. Semi-concealed lettering on the back of the label read: Product of China . What ??
To my utmost dismay the back label of what is painted and claimed as "America's Favorite Mushroom" was a actually product of China! I looked carefully at all the labels, and one after one, they each sported the same string of words. Folks, mushrooms from China are being imported into to heart of USA mushroom country. Not sure if you knew this but, Pennsylvania is America's capital of all that is mushroom. Have you heard about Kenneth Square ? Just take a quick peak at what Wikipedia has to say.
Not sure what to say . But I am sure that this is just something that I ca not accept. Nor should you my friends. The piercing disappointment perhaps come from the fact that I am a mushroom lover in many ways. More than jut eating these delicacies, mushroom tradition goes back to my Calabrian roots. Read on.
My love affair with mushrooms goes a long way back. As a teenager growing up in the hills and mountains of southern Italy, mushroom hunting in late summer and especially October was one of those male bonding and social experiences that I will always cherish. When scouring the hills and slopes for absconded treats like porcini and other wild varieties, you can easily become Superman. At times you become resistant to fatigue. At times, your human compass leads to places you have never explored before and then safely back to your car, motor bike, and even back to stubborn old impatient mules. At times your hands seems coated in Teflon, even strong Kevlar as even prickly chestnut shells seem to do no harm as they bloody up your swollen fingers. And of course, the Superman mushroom hunter becomes impervious to early morning semi-alpine cold temperatures, as he trots along protected only by a very light, albeit stylish - remember you are in Italy - jacket or wool sweater.
But enough reminiscing, let me get back to my fury about imports.
I am sincerely in favor of globalization, free trade and immigration as the forces and flows benefit all parties. And I base this view on economic theory and not mere personal opinion. However I am also of the view that a level of practical balance also needs to be present in the trade policies and the decisions that business leaders make..
With a bit of research (source USDA), I discovered that our top agricultural imports from China. are mushrooms , garlic and apple juice America is rich in all three of these products and we should be able to grow, process and distribute these using American labor and know how. It's good for the economy, and good for the environment and for our health. So seeing that ":America's Favorite Mushroom" packer imports from China, just makes very little economic sense to me.
I won't explicitly tell you to change your shopping habits, but do be more inquisitive when filling up your cart. Some knowledge of our food provenance should not be undervalued.
America's Favorite Mushroom company sure had me fooled. Now I've got some emailing to do to mister Giorgio himself. I will let you know how they respond. I just can't bring myself to say "America's Favorite Mushroom .. imported from China"
Some Pertinent Links
Main Web Site
Interesting Reads, Negative Sentiment and Other News
Google : Chinese Imported Garlic
From our friends at NPR
US Dept of Agriculture - Economic Research Service