The government’s recent ban on artery clogging trans fats reminded me of a true-life story about two local bakers from Altamura in Bari, Italy who in 2007 decided that they had enough of franchised fast food often prepared with little regard for the quality of the ingredients. They believed that a focaccia roll could be prepared just as well as a commercial hamburger bun with wholesome ingredients and artisan care. So when the largest fast food franchise in the world opened a huge restaurant in their neighborhood they decided to prove a point. Proud of their own region’s food and traditions, they opened a bakery down the street from the fast food giant and began to make a thick cut focaccia, kneaded and baked by hand and filled with local produce typical of the region; salumi, cheeses, sausages and fresh vegetables. Like the Biblical David they single-handedly put the fast food restaurant out of business. The townspeople preferred the focaccia to the commercially prepared hamburger.
News stories, a documentary and a film (Focaccia Blues) about the Altamurian bakers whose “focaccia ate the hamburger” followed and a city famously known for its bread and buns becomes a champion for the traditions of regional diversity and a food culture that is a way of life in Italy.
Here is my favorite video on how to make focaccia.