Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Garlic Wars!

June 20, 2007
Celebrities kick up a stink over garlic in their pasta
Richard Owen in Rome

Gourmets, chefs and celebrities are engaged in garlic wars over a campaign to banish it from Italian cuisine.

Garlic – properly known as Allium sativum– has long been central to the famed Mediterranean diet. It is also said to have health-giving properties, acting as a natural antibiotic and helping to prevent heart disease, high blood pressure, the common cold and even cancer.

However, Carlo Rossella, a prominent television executive, announced a campaign yesterday to persuade Italian restaurants not to use “stinking garlic” in their dishes. Rossella – news editor of Canale 5, one of the three commercial networks owned by Silvio Berlusconi, the media tycoon and former Prime Minister – said that he was compiling a food guide recommending only restaurants that banned garlic.

“Garlic stinks, I can’t digest it and I avoid it like a vampire,” Rossella declared in Il Foglio, a newspaper owned by Mr Berlusconi’s wife, the former actress Veronica Lario. He said that many people were allergic to garlic, which caused stomach upsets.

Mr Berlusconi himself is known to dislike garlic and in the past has issued breath fresheners to officials and electoral candidates of his Forza Italia party if he smelt so much as a whiff of garlic on their breath.

The anti-garlic campaign is backed by showbusiness luminaries such as the actors Monica Bellucci and Raoul Bova; top businessmen such as Luca Cordero Di Montezemolo, chairman of Fiat and head of Confindustria, the Italian CBI, and Marco Tronchetti Provera, the head of Pirelli; as well as by Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio, the Environment Minister and leader of the Green Party.

The restaurants of the top three luxury hotels in Rome – the Eden, the Hassler and the Hilton – offer garlic-free food, as do some of the best dining spots in the city. Paola Micara, owner of La Barchetta, said that she had put a sign up in the kitchen stating “No garlic!” as a reminder to staff.

Rossella said that it was easier to find garlic-free food in northern Italy than in the south. Cooking without garlic in Calabria or Sicily was almost unthinkable, although some restaurants in Naples or Capri would make dishes without garlic if asked in advance, he said.

Defenders of garlic point out that it has been used in Italian cooking since Roman times, when Pliny the Elder offered a list of its benefits in his Natural History. Antonello Colonna, a leading Rome chef, dismissed cooking without garlic as just a passing fad. “I’ve even put garlic into dishes at official dinners for Berlusconi without him realising,” Mr Colonna said.

“The secret is in how you use it. You must never fry it – you crush it, and then boil it so it’s digestible.” He added: “Garlic is king in the Italian kitchen. Getting rid of it is like making do without violins in a great orchestra.”

Ratz! Getting Drunk off Illegal Booze

Rats! Look who's getting tipsy on illegal booze

PATNA, India (Reuters) - Rats are gnawing at beer cans and making holes in caps of whisky bottles stored in police storehouses in eastern India and apparently getting drunk, authorities said on Wednesday.

The rodents' love for liquor has the police department in Bihar state stumped as it tries to store hundreds of bottles seized from illegal sellers from across the state in Patna, the state capital, said Kundan Krishnan, a senior officer.

"We are fed up with these drunk rats and cannot explain why they have suddenly turned to consumption of alcohol," he said.

The problem costs revenue as the seized liquor is usually sold through auctions, he said.

Rats were also attacking people near the police buildings, nibbling at their toes, although it was not clear if they were under the influence, officials and witnesses said.

Deadly Obituary

Jörg Immendorff, who died on Monday aged 61, was Germany's best-known and most provocative artist, a close friend of the former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and, in 2003, the central figure in a sex scandal involving prostitutes and cocaine-fuelled orgies at a luxury hotel.

In what became known as the Orgy of the Year, Immendorff was discovered naked having his nipples licked by a retinue of seven young filles de joie, while 11 grams of cocaine lay ready for consumption on a Versace ashtray nearby.

Notwithstanding his exotic private life - he had also been a luminary of Dusseldorf's sadomasochistic scene - Immendorff was regarded by many critics as an original and vigorous artist of great complexity.

His early work in the 1960s reflected the political upheavals of the times, but he later emerged as one of the leading figures of the new German Expressionism.

In 2005 Immendorff's work was hung at the Saatchi Gallery in London as part of an exhibition - The Triumph of Painting - that ranked among the top five British shows of that year. Charles Saatchi was a long-standing and enthusiastic collector of Immendorff's paintings.

After coming to prominence as a member of the German art movement Jungen Wilden (the Young Wild Ones), Immendorff became a figure of national acclaim, whose pictures sold for more than £100,000 apiece. His best-known work includes the Café Deutschland series of 16 large paintings in which he addressed the conflict between East and West Germany.

His huge colourful canvases, depicting fictitious settings such as discothèques and cafés, were heavily laden with political iconography and imagery. "In my paintings, symbols associated with National Socialist Germany function as kinds of clichés in so far as they stand for universal evils," he explained in 2003.

"The factors that led to [Hitler's] rise to power and the destruction he subsequently wrought remain permanent dangers. Such images must be painted. To make them taboo would be regressive.

"The smoking swastika indicates that the matter is far from closed, be it in Germany or the malicious terrorism emanating from the Middle East. Evil takes root and flourishes when art and freedom of expression are censored."

Last January Immendorff ran into heavy critical flak for his official retirement portrait of his friend, the outgoing German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, which was completed on the ailing artist's instructions by his students.

The result was an odd icon-like image painted in gold, with a melting black eagle, symbol of the German state, in the foreground. Also in the picture is Immendorff himself, represented as a broken man, a reference to his increasing physical frailty.

"There are statues of Elvis Presley that look like this," sneered one critic. "Siberian oligarchs and Californian rappers have a need - alongside their collection of Rolex watches - to immortalise themselves in this manner."

Schroeder had apparently given the commission to Immendorff as a way of letting the painter atone for his public humiliation in August 2003.

Caught in a £1,100-a-night suite at the Steigenberger Park Hotel, Dusseldorf, with seven naked young call-girls and several lines of cocaine, Immendorff was being hustled away by police while still more prostitutes were arriving.

As well as the drugs found on the scene, a further 10 grams of cocaine were found at Immendorff's atelier nearby.

At his trial the following year, Immendorff admitted cocaine possession, and having organised 27 similar orgies between February 2001 and the date of his arrest. In the light of his confession and his terminal illness, he was put on probation and heavily fined.

Jörg Immendorff was born on June 14 1945 near Lüneberg, the Saxon town twinned with Scunthorpe where Himmler committed suicide. Immendorff studied in Dusseldorf under Joseph Beuys, the influential modern artist whose principal media were animal fat and felt, before being expelled for Maoist activism.

Immendorff rejected traditional painting in 1966 by scrawling the words "Stop Painting" across one of his pictures, and made the natural progression into the art establishment, spending 12 years teaching and later holding guest professorships all over Europe.

He also created stage designs, including some for the Salzburg Festival, exhibited as a sculptor, owned a sex bar near the Reeperbahn in Hamburg's red-light district, and helped to design André Heller's avant-garde amusement park Luna Luna in 1987.

In 1996 Immendorff became a professor at the art academy in Dusseldorf from which he had been dismissed as a student in the 1960s. The following year he was awarded the richest art prize in the world, from the Museum of Contemporary Art in Monterrey, Mexico.

His sculptures include a large bronze of the German film star Hans Albers and a spectacular piece of iron, 25 metres high, in the shape of an oak tree trunk, erected at Riesa, near Dresden, in 1999. Although named "Elbquelle" by Immendorff himself, locals know it as "Rostige Eiche" ("rusty oak").

In 1998 he was diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. When he could no longer paint with his left hand, he switched to the right.

For the last year, unable to hold a paintbrush, he had been confined to a wheelchair and directed his assistants to paint by following his instructions.

Jörg Immendorff married, in 2000, Oda Jaune, a former student more than 30 years his junior; their daughter was born the following year. Both survive him.

Sir Bin Ladin WTF?!

Islamabad - A hard-line Pakistani parliamentarian and head of a religious political party on Wednesday demanded a "sir" title for Osama bin Laden, the lead of the al-Qaeda terrorist network, in retaliation for Britain knighting author Salman Rushdie. "Muslims should confer the 'sir' title and all other awards on bin Laden and Mullah Omar in reply to Britain's shameful decision to knight Rushdie," Sami ul Haq, leader of the pro-Taliban Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, said in a statement, referring also to the leader of the Taliban.

Such a move would not only go against the political grain of Britain, who joined in the international effort to drive the Taliban from power and al-Qaeda from their Afghan safe haven in 2001, but it would also break knighthood rules, under which foreigners may not be addressed as sir.

Rushdie, 60, was given the recognition at birthday honours for Britain's Queen Elizabeth II on Saturday, about two decades after his book The Satanic Verses sparked protests in Muslim countries, including Pakistan, in 1989.

The novel also became the subject in the same year of a fatwa, a religious edict, by late Iranian spiritual leader Ayatollah Khomenei, who demanded Rushdie's death.

"Europe and Western nations are intentionally pushing Muslims towards extremism by awarding a nefarious person," Haq said.

The hard-line leader, who is also a parliament member, called upon the Pakistani government to withdraw its support for the US-led war on terrorism.

The honour for Rushdie triggered diplomatic tensions between Islamabad and London Tuesday as the Pakistani Foreign Office summoned Britain's high commissioner to Islamabad, Robert Brinkley, to protest the award.

Britain in return expressed deep concern over comments by a Pakistani minister that the honour could provoke radical Muslims to carry out suicide attacks.

Brinkley had conveyed the "clear message" that, in Britain's view, "nothing can justify suicide bomb attacks," the Foreign Office in London said.

Earlier, thousands of Pakistanis held protest rallies in various cities and burned British flags and effigies of Queen Elizabeth II.

The supporters of a radical Islamic group in the eastern city of Lahore were planning Wednesday to stage a public hanging of an effigy of Rushdie, an Indian-born author who is under constant British police surveillance and has moved house more than 30 times in two decades of hiding.

According to some press reports, British police are reviewing his security after threats from Islamic extremists since his knighthood.