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In this week’s edition of Good Reads, E&M's Frances Jackson shares a few online titbits that caught her eye over the last few weeks: prepare yourselves for a whistle-stop tour of current European hotspots, both culinary and cultural.

 

Frances, Diaphragm / Baby editor

 

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FORGOTTEN EUROPE, BRIEFLY REMEMBERED

 

This is not only my first Good Reads of the year, but also my first as a magazine rather than blog editor. I suspect that the festive season is still preying on my mind though, because I am very much in the mood to indulge myself and shall be shamelessly tailoring these picks to my own personal whims and interests. Some readers might recall that I have previously used these pages to argue that Western media outlets suffer from a chronic lack of interest when it comes to Albania. In general I stand by this point, but I was at least pleasantly surprised to see the country getting a couple of mentions in recent days.

 

The first, which even spent a little while trending on the website of the Independent, was connected to Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama’s decision to arrange three coloured pencils like Le Tricolore in his lapel pocket for the Charlie Hébdo demonstration last Sunday. The author is right to highlight the fact that Rama is himself an artist, yet I do feel that he misses a couple of other important points. Namely that the politician used to live in Paris, and, perhaps even more significantly, is now leader of a European country that – however secular it may be – does have a Muslim majority.

 

My other discovery was a travel piece about the mallësori, a mountain community in the far reaches of northern Albania. Amongst the sweeping and evocative descriptions of life in the mountains, there are perhaps hints of the strain of orientalism identified by Larry Wolff in Inventing Eastern Europe, but for the most part, I found the author to be fairly even-handed in his judgement. In fact, for me, the main effect of the article was simply to unleash a certain nostalgia for the country that I called home for a few months back in 2013. All I can say is read it, and go there. Seriously. Albania is a wonderful place that does not deserve the oft-unsavoury reputation it has acquired.

Published in Good Reads
Tuesday, 05 March 2013 23:13

Romania and the Horse Meat Scandal

Horse meat is on everyone’s lips these days. Most likely, literally as well as figuratively. The scandal that started in mid-January and seemed like another endearing phase in Romanian-British relations quickly spread across the continent and all the way to Asia.

Countries like France, Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Norway, Denmark, Holland, Finland, Italy and even China have all reported detecting horse meat in frozen products based on minced beef. Several types of lasagne, tortellini, ravioli and pizza from brands like Findus, Nestle and Picard have been withdrawn from supermarket shelves and tested in laboratories. According to French and British authorities, at least one circuit of meat distribution in Europe identified Romania as the country of origin for the mislabelled horse meat. Another transport seems to have come from Cyprus.

European authorities are now trying to establish whether these cases are connected to one another and were orchestrated by a transnational crime organisation or if they are dealing with isolated frauds.

The only clear aspect of this international horse meat "crisis"... is that no one can name a country of origin.

Whatever the origin of the meat is and regardless of how it was labelled – in Romania or anywhere else along the chain of distribution – there are some facts which cannot be ignored. Horse meat and carcasses do not look like beef or cow carcasses. Even if the meat was packed and shipped as beef, the sanitary authorities in the countries of distribution should have been noticed – and they probably did. For example, the head of the French group Findus, Christophe Guillon, said that the horse meat used in lasagne had a French stamp certifying it was beef. The distributor responsible for this mix-up seems to be Spanghero, also a French company, which applied the stamp. This is not to say Romanian or Cypriot producers and distributors had no role in the scam – they may have very well participated, but it is unlikely that they acted alone.

Published in Under Eastern Eyes
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