Friday, January 06, 2006

Golden Arches Fall

With all the bad news going around I thought this might cheer you up. I know it did me. I am always distressed and embarrassed when I see so many McDonald's everywhere I go in the world. I am also embarrassed to admit that I have, out of laziness, eaten in many of them when I could have walked another few yards and had something local, tasty and more nutritious. I always promise myself I won't but somehow I find myself eating a double cheeseburger and fries and then feeling guilty and a traitor to myself and my obsession with proper food.

AFTER a five-year battle, the fast-food giant McDonald’s has retreated from a southern Italian town, defeated by the sheer wholesomeness of a local baker’s bread.

The closure of McDonald’s in Altamura, Apulia, was hailed yesterday as a victory for European cuisine against globalised fast food.

Luigi Digesù, the baker, said that he had not set out to force McDonald’s to close down in any “bellicose spirit”. He had merely offered the 65,000 residents tasty filled panini — bread rolls — which they overwhelmingly preferred to hamburgers and chicken nuggets. “It is a question of free choice,” Signor Digesù said.

His speciality fillings include mortadella, mozzarella and eggs or scamorza cheese, eggs, basil and tomato, as well as fèdda, a local version of bruschetta — toasted bread drizzled with olive oil and salt and covered in chopped tomatoes.

McDonald’s opened in a piazza in the centre of Altamura, 45km (30 miles) south of Bari, in 2001, infuriating devotees of traditional Apulia gastronomy such as Peppino Colamonico, a doctor, and Onofrio Pepe, a journalist. They campaigned against McDonald’s as the Friends of Cardoncello, named after a southern Italian mushroom.

Altamura, founded in the 5th century BC and rebuilt in the Middle Ages by Frederick II, is famed for its fragrant, golden bread — and for Signor Digesù’s victorious panini.

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