Updated: September 22, 2015 12:15:09 am
The rosogolla is to east India what Helen of Troy was to Greece. Odisha has gone to war with West Bengal over the deceptively simple sweet, a ball of spongy cottage cheese boiled in syrup. It has set up three expert committees to refine its claim for a geographical indication tag that would define Puri as its point of origin. Embittered, the Bengalis have initiated countermeasures against this trinity project. But this will be a futile war with no winners, since no originator is identified in pre-modern times.
Nevertheless, it’s a war worth fighting, for geographical indication enriches regions by sequestering intellectual property and creating trade monopolies. For instance, anyone can duplicate the process for producing Camembert or Roquefort cheese, but only cheeses produced in those regions can legally use these labels. Tennessee whiskey must be produced in the state of Tennessee, while an identical product distilled and bottled in, say, West Bengal, would have to be called something else. Bangla, perchance? Often, such monopolies produce lucrative fringe benefits. The Chianti valley of Tuscany, the Mecca of red wine, gets a fair bit of revenue from international visitors who pay large sums and drink deep, in order to learn to tell a Frescobaldi from a Barbaresco.
But that’s wine. The origins of food, especially snacks, are generally lost in time. About a dozen Americans lay claim to the hamburger. The Turks and the Persians can credibly bid for original jurisdiction over the Indian samosa. The sandwich is a rarity, attributed to the Earl of Sandwich, a champion gambler who would not stop for a square meal while at play; a triangular one served the purpose. The rosogolla issue will enjoy no such clarity. The combatants should drop it and instead seize the rosogolla itself, and eat it.
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