There's much banter lately regarding a popular Italian restaurant chain and the integrity of its so-called Italian food. People and experts are discussing whether the fare is real Italian, fake Italian or maybe even non-Italian.
You know the place. You've probably eaten there. Let's just call it Oliver's Garden.
Some are saying Oliver's Garden doesn't serve anything at all like Italian food. Instead, they say, it's a fast-food restaurant best described as an Italian Denny's.
An online critic and former employee says the company misrepresents itself in advertising when it claims Oliver's Garden sends chefs to an uppity Tuscany cooking institute. Instead, says the ex-employee, it's a free vacation perk to managers who've done well. The institute is simply rented by Oliver's Garden in the off-season. Attendees allegedly do more touring and sightseeing than learning the fine art of Italian cuisine. The TV commercial, some say, is just plain bogus.
You can make up your own mind about the status of Oliver's Garden.
As far as I'm concerned, very little of today's food is what it claims to be.
For example, French fries aren't from France. What we call French fries were created in Belgium. And English muffins aren't English. And American Chinese restaurants don't really serve real Chinese food, say critics.
General Tso never touched a piece of General Tso's chicken and probably never even heard of it. It was invented in a New York eatery about 1974.
Turkish taffy never came from Turkey. It was created in Long Island, NY, and its name stretches the truth just like taffy.
Probably none of the Swiss cheese you eat comes from Switzerland. German chocolate cake doesn't come from Germany. It was first made in Texas.
French toast came from either England or Italy, but not France.
Moon rock candy isn't from the moon, nor made from rocks.
Animal crackers aren't really made from animals. The list goes on and on.
Are you aware that Harvard beets have never been to college? Harvard beets came from an old English recipe not even on the same continent as Harvard. Buffalo wings come from a chicken, not a buffalo.
But not all foods and products are deceptive.
Olive oil comes from olives. Sunflower oil comes from sunflower seeds.
But baby oil doesn't come from babies.
And a Jewish Apple cake isn't really Jewish. The apples used in the cake aren't Jewish either. There's no such thing as a Jewish apple. If we had Jewish apples, then we'd also have Baptist apples, Methodist apples, and Lutheran apples.
Of course, we know better. Most apples tend to be ecumenical. Or maybe the apples of the world try to avoid organized religion altogether. Mother Nature set it up that way.
Apples themselves understand that they're nothing more than apples. An apple is an apple. We humans make things confusing when we try to convince others that an apple can be Jewish.
So don't believe everything you read and never believe everything you eat.
A gourmet meal that's supposed to be from romantic Tuscany, might actually be from the local garden of some joker named Oliver.