I never thought twice about Barilla pasta. It's the best factory pasta I've tasted; it has the perfect bite when it's al dente. But today, Barilla isn't looking so great. As The Guardian reported:
"Guido Barilla, who controls the fourth-generation Barilla Group family business with his two brothers, sparked outrage among activists, consumers and some politicians when he said he would not consider using a gay family to advertise Barilla pasta."
Barilla was speaking on Italian radio and explained himself this way: "For us the concept of the sacred family remains one of the basic values of the company... I would not do it, but not out of a lack of respect for homosexuals who have the right to do what they want without bothering others… [but] I don't see things like they do and I think the family that we speak to is a classic family."
When Barilla was asked how he thought the brand's gay customers might react to that kind of attitude, he replied:
"Well, if they like our pasta and our message, they will eat it; if they don't like it and they don't like what we say they will… eat another
Guido Barilla later tried apologizing, saying that in the interview, he "simply wanted to highlight the central role of the woman in the family." The company struts its "family values." But check out this promotional video for Barilla, and watch as these family values turn slightly cultish (see below).
Does this mean that Barilla are pasta-lytizers? Fortunately, there are many other tasty alternatives for those whose patience with the brand is feeling overcooked.
My Italian friend Bianca Baggio, and one of the best cooks I know — she makes a killer polenta with porcini mushrooms — uses Barilla pasta when she doesn't make her own pasta. A lot of people do, but with all the calls for a boycott what's a sensitive foodie to do?
Speaking from her kitchen in Cambridge, Mass., Baggio said Barilla is everyday pasta in Italy.
"It's what you grew up with, it's what you see on the kitchen table every day. So I was so upset when I heard this news," she said. "There are a lot of great pastas out there but I will not support someone that discriminates against gay couples. I will be ready to get rid of my Barilla anytime, today!"
Baggio says there's generational differences in how Italian consumers are reacting. The older generation, like her parents, believes people are free to say or do whatever they want. Others who are closer to the issue feel that the comments coming from Barilla's CEO are crazy.
"Why does Barilla do something like that? I think its immoral in this day and age to say something like that. I mean people should be free to love one another, Barilla should not come out and say something like that. I think people should respond," Baggio said.
Baggio plans to respond. She says she's going to put all her boxes of Barilla pasta out on the street.
"People can come and get it." She says her relationship with Barillo is "finito!"