The company cafeteria announced a tease to a theme offering scheduled for a couple of weeks hence: Taste of the Central Mediterranean".

Im nothing if not well-read, and I have to say, Ive never heard of the term Central Mediterranean", in gastronomic, historic, cultural or political terms.

Referencing the map above, Id judge this Central Mediterranean to be, simply, Italy. And so I wondered: Was the cafeteria just going to serve up Italian food, and try to pass it off as something more exotic by tagging it with a new label?

Then I considered that this designation could include the southern portion of the Mediterranean, i.e. Libya and Tunisia. Im not terribly familiar with North African cuisine, but Id imagine it would include hummus and couscous. That would be a weird amalgam of dishes: Spaghetti and hummus?

I asked a few people today about what came to mind when I posed the term Central Mediterranean to them. To my surprise, they all cited Greece. This might have been because I was the messenger But I always considered Greece to be Eastern Mediterranean; and indeed, the old geopolitical designator Near East used to include Greece and the rest of the Balkans (thats no longer the case), thus reinforcing the easternness of that country.

But actually, referring again to the map, I guess I could see how Greece could be placed into a central grouping. I think Italy isnt considered that way due to the persistence of Cold War thinking: Italy was on the right side of the Iron Curtain, so subconscious political thought would continue to place it more alongside France and Spain than with the other side of the Mediterranean. (Of course Greece was also with the West during the Cold War, but I digress.)

I originally thought using Central Mediterranean as a descriptor was a dumb move. But, as Ive obviously put far too much thought into this, its turned out to be an inspired action, because it got my attention like nothing else could have. Now, Im extremely curious to find out what food theyre going to be serving up to fit into this label (maybe theyll be especially daring and include some southern French bouillabaisse in the mix). It doesnt mean Ill actually eat the stuff, but my interest is certainly piqued.


So, did MasterCard (or, more accurately, its advertising agency McCann Erickson) really rip off Swingers in a recent edition of their commercials?

Due to the number of inquiries over the perceived copycatting, McCann sent out an email explaining that it got permission to use the scene, and even tried to get Swingers star Jon Favreau to direct the spot (scheduling conflicts prevented that from happening).

Skepticism remains, however. New York Times advertising writer Stuart Elliot addressed the issue in a recent email newsletter (I cant find the URL, and in fact it might have been email-only and thus never have had one). I believe Elliot spoke with people at McCann and confirmed that the commercial was an authorized homage, not a lift.

Swingers didnt come to my mind the first time I saw the MasterCard commercial; not sure why, since the script was identical. If anything, I think McCann should have made the connection more obvious, so deflect even the semblance of swiping. They could have ended it with the tagline, MasterCard, accepted by swingers everywhere".

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