Barilla makes a video opening up about the possibility of seeing insects on Italians' dining tables. God forbid! Predictably, the clip attracts a ton of comments, the vast majority (but not all...) negative. Immediately the social storm prompts the pasta maker to withdraw the video and vehemently deny that its die plates will ever produce worm vermicelli.
And here come immediately the debunkers enlisted by the high caliber of the mainstream media narrative: "Wired," "Vanity Fair," "Repubblica"... With the usual little finger raised, they blame the spreaders of "fake news" ("No, Barilla doesn't want to make pasta with insects") and they also take the opportunity to take a swipe at the usual conspiracists ("the useless controversy about chitin and ecdysteroon"). A one-two that shifts the lath of the debate a bit further: anyone who says Barilla wants to make farfalle out of butterflies is a hoaxer, but still, even if it did, it would do well.
It must be said that the video posted by the pasta maker was perfectly packaged for being equivocal. It is a clumsy attempt at stand-up comedy that to the usual joke about cream in carbonara adds that all in all it is better to replace it with some caterpillars that taste like cheek lard... and cringe detectors explode. But in the meantime it dispenses some data and mainstream media wisdom about how many countries in the world binge on grasshoppers ("Just think, even in Europe!" And if the Europeans, who are known to be more civilized than us backward Italians, do it... huh, then...) and how many delicious insect species there would be if only we weren't such idiots as to insist on preferring a Capri salad to the protein bars of smashed coackroach featured in the science fiction film Snowpiercer (2015). For those unfamiliar with it, it constitutes a glimpse of post-apocalyptic science fiction that we recommend to everyone, because mutatis mutandis it is incredibly evocative of a certain world they would like to build "for our own good" in the future.
But now let's return to Barilla. After the 2013 blowback, with the pasta maker's patron declaring himself a bit too much in favor of natural marriage and the subsequent pillorying in the unified media with a "homophobic pasta" sign around his neck, it is clear that the brand has decided to take more modern stances, as is evident in its most recent TV commercials, which are a paean to the multiracial and inclusive society. So could the endorsement for the bugs so dear to the bold new world vaticinated at Davos and Brussels have been missing? Of course not. And it also takes the opportunity to do some sentiment analysis, which is that area of market research to understand the reactions of the consumer public through ballons d'essai.
In any case, Barilla's backtracking on bug strangozzi is very interesting especially for how it will evolve in the near future. Since, as we noted above, in 2013 the reaction of a market segment to Guido Barilla's non-lgbt-friendly remarks was able to force the pasta maker into a very rapid ideological realignment; now the response of the public unwilling to find grasshopper cavatelli on their plates (an amount of buyers dozens of times more numerous than the homosexuals who may have felt insulted by Guido Barilla's remarks in 2013) should achieve a similar result in the direction of traditionalism - at least at the table. Whether and how much this will happen will give us a measure of how much consumer opinion really matters now in guiding corporate policies, compared to the power of lobbies and pressure groups.
However, as we shall see, at the moment Barilla's attempt to assay reactions to the sarcophaga carnaria taglioni really looks like something planned in a big way. For the issue does not just appear as a pebble in the pigeonhole just to quantify the (very predictable) reaction of the web - from the suburban housewife to the social-friendly minister - and then make the blunt denial. Evidence of this is the speed with which came the counter-battery fire of the heavy calibers and the assaults of the camel troops, such as journalist Selvaggia Lucarelli, who in a tweet blames the ignorance of the hoi polloi. "Provincials" who still insist on preferring sheep arrosticini to crickets. After refusing to hug the Chinese and eat spring rolls at the covid outbreak, it is yet more proof that ordinary people do not deserve the right to vote, we add.
La polemica su Barilla e sull’idea che si possano utilizzare insetti per farine o in sostituzione di altri alimenti per tutelare l’ambiente dimostra quanto siamo vecchi, provinciali, poco lungimiranti. E fa male Barilla a spaventarsi, perché il futuro va più veloce degli hashtag.
— Selvaggia Lucarelli (@stanzaselvaggia) November 2, 2022
All this hype is shaping up in the eyes of those with a minimum of experience as yet another Overton Window. The insect taboo needs to be broken even in the home of good food, and already for quite a while the mainstream media have been informing us on a daily basis about how backward we are in not wanting to accept the diet of the future, and what the cost - unquestionable, of course - is to the environment of this stubborn attachment to Sunday lunch at grandma's. So already authoritative 23-year-old Italian "entomophagy expert chefs" are popping up, cooking caterpillars and earthworms and assuring us that they are delicious and ethically recommended.
That all this is happening while Von der Leyen is on a pilgrimage to the Melinda&Bill Gates Foundation to lavish praise on the synthetic meat and other human feeds of the future, prophesying of a Europe that will no longer produce farmed meat and will import most of the rest of its food needs - this will be regarded by debunkers as a pure coincidence. Exactly as it is a coincidence, of course, that a large part of them have salaries whose paychecks have recognizable signatures.
Emanuele Mastrangelo is editor-in-chief of "Storia in Rete" since 2006. Military-historical cartographer, he is author of several books (the last one, with Enrico Petrucci, is Iconoclastia. La pazzia contagiosa della cancel culture che sta distruggendo la nostra storia) and edited Eroi. 22 storie dalla Grande Guerra and Terra benedetta. Storie d'Italia e di italiani.