Ice & Pice

It is a great achievement for a small country to be able to produce such a glossy food and wine mag. And it is not only appearance it is its substance too. It is instructive without being preachy and it is broad without being shallow. In many aspect it is simply better than many food and wine mags anywhere. As always, the question of resources might threaten projects in small markets, such as Croatian, by shortcomings in the consistency of quality. Now in its sixth issue, Ice & Pice (dialectal name for “food and beverages”) remained remarkably consistent, but some cracks begin to show. In an article entitled “Uspostava kriterija kvalitete” (Establishing quality criteria) the author argues in favor of traditional values by, apparently, opposing technological changes in production of wine and olive oil. I cannot escape the conclusion that the author personally simply prefers corky (TCA tainted) wines and oxidized olive oil to the products free of such characteristics for the sake of tradition in itself as a value per se.

While I wholeheartedly agree that many aspects of tradition are indeed important values not only per se, but also as specific characteristics of various food products and produce I cannot agree that improvements should be discarded as somehow less valuable and/or acceptable. In the post post-modern societies which we live in, whose main characteristic is the historically unprecedented pace of change it is beyond point to argue against it. It is simply pathetic to argue to the contrary in light of the plain tasting results and the broadening of the consumer base as a result of such improvements. In other words, I would also defend traditions over technological improvements should the traditions result with superior quality. Unfortunately, it is not always so and I have stopped buying “traditional” Dalmatian olive oil long ago. Oil kept in traditional stone carved containers (”kamenica”) and sold in plastic bottles enclosed with newspaper sheets convinced me by their inferiority because it always tasted rancid due to oxidation. I am now happily buying new wave of Istrian and lately of Dalmatian oils simply because thy are superior in quality to many a global competitor, be it Tuscan, Sicilian or Californian. I am all the happier should their superiority be caused by tradition in addition to the new technologies. While I agree that technology per se cannot be a reason for abandoning the traditions, and that at the same time there are many technologically correct products many of them do not have more individual characteristics than some traditional products. However, author’s position shows certain fear of changes, of globalization and loosing one’s own identity, which might be individual but are probably generally more apparent with smaller societies. While the risk is real, the outcome of the loss of identity is, in my view, primarily possible if such societies do not accept improvements enabled by the changes in technologies. If such societies stick to their traditional techniques in the unchanged form, their products will simply be squeezed out of the global markets without ever communicating their identities properly and the identities will be lost, indeed. I feel that should such smaller societies quickly and nimbly adopt the changes, or even introduce technological solutions based on their own traditions, they will be able to assert their values and have broad adoption of its own values, now compatible with the tastes of broad and educated global consumer base. In the society in which leading is a mutual process small societies can contribute and lead to the equal measure as bigger groups can.

Finally, and in reference to the cracks in quality shown in issue number six, this very same article shows serious ignorance of the facts and the global media power distribution that it off handedly tries to criticize. The author obviously does not know his facts when he bunches Robert Parker and Wine Spectator into a single group. While reality is very different, the author is obviously blissfully unaware that Parker issues a magazine entitled Wine Advocate which is not only unrelated to Wine Spectator, but is not aware of the tensions that exist between the two and various views that they promote. I will be so free as not to criticize further particular inaccuracies, but will in a sweep, dismiss the position shown as rather anachronistic, slightly xenophobic and self damaging. My opinion is that such positions, often seen where there is not enough human resources, are results of the insufficient information, lack of experience of the global processes and the sense of uncertainty that emerges as a result. Finally, while I agree with the author that the cork is preferred wine bottle enclosure, I have to admit that I am frustrated with every corky bottle I open and that I had perfectly nice bottles of great wine enclosed with screw-caps — however much I dread opening them with a twist of a hand rather than with a twist of a corkscrew. I feel one should not be dogmatic, that one should embrace changes and experiment with them. I would like to remind the author that our valued traditions were also created from a series of ancient experiments and of adapting to the past technological changes and the long experiences of their repeated utilization. I augur Ice & Pice to avoid further disappointments of this kind and show the strength of small societies and their contributions to the global society with more courage.

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