The War On Openness Becomes The War On Stinky Cheese : Monkey See Our food blogger says a 300 percent tariff on Roquefort imposed in the closing days of the Bush administration isn't really about food at all.
NPR logo The War On Openness Becomes The War On Stinky Cheese

The War On Openness Becomes The War On Stinky Cheese

Roquefort: We've got bad news for those of you who think this looks delicious. AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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AFP/Getty Images

And you thought "freedom fries" was the most shockingly egregious example of ugly Americanism.

Now comes word that the Bush administration, in its final days, waged a holy war against stinky cheese.

According to a front-page story in yesterday's Washington Post, the administration "imposed a 300 percent duty on Roquefort, in effect closing off the U.S. market. Americans, it declared, will no longer get to taste the creamy concoction that, in its authentic, most glorious form, comes with an odor of wet sheep and veins of blue mold that go perfectly with rye bread and coarse red wine."

If you like that sort of thing.

Of course, if you do, you probably also have a fondness for French truffles, Irish oatmeal, Italian sparkling water and foie gras ("fatty livers of ducks and geese," in the words of U.S. officials), all of which were slapped with prohibitively high tariffs.

What this is all about, after the jump...

Not since John McCain famously spat, "That one," in the final debate have we seen a more convincing expression of the right wing's disdain of the quote-unquote liberal elite.

The measure, officials say, was "designed as retaliation for a European Union ban on imports of U.S. beef containing hormones."

Sure. And we went to war in Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein.

What the tariffs represent, it doesn't take too much imagination to see, is a middle finger at the coming age of openness — a defiant last stand from the Bushies against Europe, against intellectuals, against tolerance, against multilateralism (in policy and in food).

Obama, we can only hope, will take swift and immediate action, and, just as he dismantled the legal basis for torture, undo the damage of the tariffs and repair our sorry, silly image in the world.

Todd Kliman is a James Beard Award-winning restaurant critic and the food and wine editor of Washingtonian magazine. The Wild Vine, his book about the Rosetta stone of American wine, is due in 2009.