Knox’s trial by majority jury

I’ve included morning links pointers to Timothy Egan’s excellent coverage of the murder trial of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito in Italy; see here and here. Sadly, they were both convicted today. By most accounts that don’t slip into tabloid-style junk reporting, the conviction was based on shaky evidence, anti-American sentiment, and the deluded fantasies of the local prosecutor. (See this post on Simple Justice, via Radley.)

I know very little about the Italian justice system, but one thing this trial demonstrates is the virtue of requiring unanimous juries for conviction. The Seattle Times notes that Italian prosecutors have to meet a much lower standard:

Italian juries have only to reach majority consensus. Each of the eight jurors imposes a sentence they believe proper, from life down to acquittal. The ultimate sentence given is the maximum that at least five of the jurors will support.

I’m not aware of the jury’s vote being published, but it’s possible that the two were sentenced to more than 20 years in prison on the basis of just 5 of the 8 jurors’ vote. They will hopefully fare better on appeal, though that process could take years.

Oregon’s low bar for conviction


You say “tomato,” I say “foreign and evil!”

I’ve covered a lot of stupid bans here, but I don’t think any of them can match the absurdity of this one:

… the “foreign” kebab […] is being kicked out of Italian cities as it becomes the target of a campaign against ethnic food, backed by the centre-right Government of Silvio Berlusconi.

The drive to make Italians eat Italian, which was described by the Left and leading chefs as gastronomic racism, began in the town of Lucca this week, where the council banned any new ethnic food outlets from opening within the ancient city walls.

Yesterday it spread to Lombardy and its regional capital, Milan, which is also run by the centre Right. The antiimmigrant Northern League party brought in the restrictions “to protect local specialities from the growing popularity of ethnic cuisines”.

Luca Zaia, the Minister of Agriculture and a member of the Northern League from the Veneto region, applauded the authorities in Lucca and Milan for cracking down on nonItalian food. “We stand for tradition and the safeguarding of our culture,” he said.

Mr Zaia said that those ethnic restaurants allowed to operate “whether they serve kebabs, sushi or Chinese food” should “stop importing container loads of meat and fish from who knows where” and use only Italian ingredients.

Asked if he had ever eaten a kebab, Mr Zaia said: “No – and I defy anyone to prove the contrary. I prefer the dishes of my native Veneto. I even refuse to eat pineapple.”

Yes, one would hate to see a culture enriched by centuries of being a Mediterranean trading center sullied by foreign influences. And as always, there’s slightly more to the story than simple xenophobia:

Davide Boni, a councillor in Milan for the Northern League, which also opposes the building of mosques in Italian cities, said that kebab shop owners were prepared to work long hours, which was unfair competition.

Italian cuisine as we know it today incorporated influences from around the world, including spices from Asia and produce from the Americas. In the interest of authenticity, perhaps Mr. Zaia should encourage the Roman diet that persisted in Italy until it was transformed by new 16th century imports. Here, from On Food and Cooking, is a description of garum, the fish sauce that played an essential culinary role from ancient times until just a few hundred years ago:

According to the Roman natural historian Pliny, “garum consists of the guts of fish and other parts that would otherwise be considered refuse, so that garum is really the liquor from putrefaction.” Despite its origins and no doubt powerful aroma, Pliny noted that “scarcely any other liquid except perfume has become more highly valued,” […] Garum was made by salting the fish innards, letting the mixture ferment in the sun for several months until the flesh had mostly fallen apart, and then straining the brown liquid. It was used as an ingredient in cooked dishes and as a sauce at the table, sometimes mixed with wine or vinegar […] Some form of garum is called for in nearly every savory recipe in the late Roman collection attributed to Apicius.

Fish sauce can be very tasty and is used frequently in Asian cooking. Yet somehow I don’t see Italians giving up their pastas and spices for a return to salted fish guts, nor should they. Cuisines improve when they cross with other cultures and incorporate their ingredients and techniques, and Italians develop a richer culture when they can eat pasta and kebabs. Banning “foreign” cooking would lead only to stagnation and illusory purity.

Update 2/4/09: In the comments, Barzelay adds more context to Zaia’s “native” Venetian cuisine:

[…] Venice has the most Middle Eastern influence of all of Italy. So much of the architecture and cuisine of that city is influenced by its trade with Arabs, and its conquer by the French. All the typical Venetian [dishes] I can think of, with the possible exception of this one good liver and onions thing they do borrows from Arab or French cuisine. The “Venetian sandwich” consists of bread–made with the French oils or butter instead of the traditional Italian animal fats–with some fish, meat, or veg, plus tons of mayonnaise–obviously from France. They also do a bunch of bean dishes and rice dishes borrowed from Arabs, and use TONS of salt cod–borrowed from Basque Spain. Oh, and even the liver dish is usually served with polenta–made from corn that was a late import from the Americas.

So I guess what they’re really saying is that they want to freeze Italian cuisine just before WWII.


Latte crudo 1 euro

Jill Santopietro goes shopping at Eataly in Turin:

What really caught my attention wasn’t the fresh-baked breads, the fish market next to the fish grill or the cheese stand near the cozy pizza and wine bar, but a large, unassuming box near the bread section. On it was a life-size photo of an adorable cow with a sign that read, “Latte crudo 1 euro,” and a newspaper article about the health benefits of raw milk. Every morning a local farmer delivers his cows’ milk to Eataly, where it’s pumped into the cooler. As with bulk filtered-water fixtures at many Whole Foods (sorry, New Yorkers, I haven’t seen any here yet), customers either bring their own bottle or buy a new one and fill it up. One euro for a liter of fresh raw milk? Incredible.

And in the former Carpano vermouth factory, no less. I must go!

Presumably the loyal customers spending 1 euro for raw milk aren’t falling ill every weekend. Where government doesn’t push raw milk onto a black market, people purchase within an acceptable level of risk. It’s better than raiding farms and forcing customers onto shady internet sites, yes?

Raw milk rebellion