The View from My Kitchen

Benvenuti! I hope you enjoy il panorama dalla mia cucina Italiana -- "the view from my Italian kitchen,"-- where I indulge my passion for Italian food and cooking. From here, I share some thoughts and ideas on food, as well as recipes and restaurant reviews, notes on travel, and a few garnishes from a lifetime in the entertainment industry.

You can help by leaving comments on posts and by becoming a follower. I'd really like to know who you are and what your thoughts are on what I'm doing. To date, more than a quarter million people have viewed the blog and that's great. But every great leader needs followers and if I am ever to achieve my goal of becoming the next great leader of the Italian culinary world :-) I need followers!

Grazie mille!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Pastagate? Canadian Restaurant Told to Translate Italian Menu to French

C'est WHAT?

Just when I thought I had heard it all, along comes this outrageous story from Quebec.

In case you were blissfully unaware, there is a law in the predominantly French-speaking Canadian province that designates French as the official language of Quebec. It's called La charte de la langue française, or “The Charter of the French Language.” Or simply Bill 101. The history of this law is long and convoluted and you can look it up if you're really desperate for knowledge. What it boils down to is “when in French-Canada, speak as the French-Canadians do.”

Besides defining French as the language of law and government and education, one of the provisions of Bill 101 deals with commerce and business. Specifically, the restaurant business. By law, restaurant menus and wine lists in Quebec must be in the official language. The statute allows for other languages to be used, but the prominence of French must be at least equivalent to any other language.

You with me so far? It's kind of like here in the United States. There's no actual regulation that says every frippin' thing written in English must also be translated into Spanish, but that seems to be the way it is.

Anyway, back to Canada where some whiny French crusader got it in his head that Montreal's Buonanotte was in violation of the edict and reported said violation to the Office québécois de la française, the province's legally constituted Language Police. Did I mention – or do I have to – that Buonanotte is an Italian restaurant? “Immaterial,” say the linguistic gendarmes! According to their uber-strict interpretation of the law, there was found to be entirely too much Italian on the Italian restaurant's menu. Words like “pasta,” “antipasti,” “carne,” and “pesce” were deemed to be in contravention to the statute protecting the linguistic purity of the province. They must be replaced with French words, say the patois police.

Really? You can't put “pasta” on an Italian menu? Instead of ordering a nice plate of pasta arribbiata, I have to order pâtes en colère? I say not only “no,” but “hell no!”

And Buonanotte hasn't been the only target of this ridiculously rabid enforcement of a fundamentally stupid law. Another Italian eatery was forced to remove the offensive word “ristorante” from its signage. I'm surprised these fools didn't demand that Buonanotte owner Massimo Lecas change the name of his establishment to Bonsoir. Maybe they just haven't thought of that one yet.

Everybody knows the Italians taught the French how to cook. (Don't they?) I'd be tempted to posit that maybe this is just a fit of petty Gallic pique directed at Italian cuisine, except that a British eatery – Brit Chips – got pasted for featuring its signature “fish and chips” on the menu. It had to be listed as poisson frit, et frites. No, the people behind this are just pazzo. Excuse me. I mean fou.

Actually, saner heads have prevailed. After the initial scourging the authorities received in the press over what is widely being referred to as “Pastagate,” they admitted to “an excess of zeal.” Ya think?! And Language Minister Diane De Courcy, Quebec's head language cop, has promised to “review” her agency's enforcement of the silly law. Well......she didn't call it a silly law. And she maintains that her people were just responding to citizen complaints.

In any case, Massimo Lecas got an official letter – officially written in French, naturellement – telling him that the official inquiry into his menu is officially closed. And the zealous zouaves of the mother tongue have now approved the use of “pasta” and other Italian words on the menu, provided they are the “exotic” names of dishes in their native languages.

I think I'll go chow down on some spaghetti; I'm feeling “exotic” tonight.

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