World

Culinary racism?

Cittadella’s mayor has a beef with Turkish kebabs
Emma Teitel
An Indian Muslim vendor grills meat kebabs over burning coals at a roadside stall in preparation for Muslims breaking their fast at sundown in Mumbai on August 19, 2010. Muslims around the world are observing the holy month of Ramadan -- a month of fasting and spiritual purity during which they refrain from eating, drinking or sex from dawn until dusk. AFP PHOTO/ Sajjad HUSSAIN (Photo credit should read SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images)
Culinary racism
Sajjad Hussain/AFP/Getty Images

The walls surrounding Cittadella were erected to protect the northern Italian city amid violent, 13th-century wars. The fighting has long since ended, but another, more bizarre war is under way: Mayor Massimo Botocci has taken aim at the kebab, a Turkish meat sold at streetside stands. “They aren’t part of our tradition,” the mayor explained, adding that “the smell it gives off” doesn’t fit with the city’s rich, Italian heritage. “If someone wants to eat a kebab, he can do it at home or outside of the historic centre,” he said, citing health and sanitation regulations.

Botocci, a deputy with the populist, anti-immigrant Northern League, part of Silvio Berlusconi’s ruling, centre-right coalition, is not alone in taking umbrage with the kebab: in 2010, the mayors of Lucca in Tuscany and Milan imposed similar bans, which were widely interpreted as an attack aimed at the country’s Middle Eastern and Indian immigrants. But Botocci is facing a tough fight in Cittadella: Italy’s north boasts the country’s best kebab. He may find that the city’s medieval walls are better at keeping out foreign invaders than foreign foods.