Pro­tect our Parmo!

Mayor de­mands of­fi­cial sta­tus for 2,000-calo­rie post-pub del­i­cacy

Daily Mail - - News - By Chris Brooke

The deep-fried, calo­rie-laden ‘Parmo’ has for decades been re­garded in the North East as the best way to sat­isfy hunger at the end of a night out.

It’s even de­fined in the Ox­ford English Dic­tionary, where the name is said to orig­i­nate from the parme­san cheese of­ten used to top the treat.

But the lo­cal Mayor’s cam­paign to se­cure Pro­tected Des­ig­na­tion of Ori­gin sta­tus for the dish has been met with protests by health cam­paign­ers and politi­cians.

Pro­mot­ing a ‘mon­strous’ food con­tain­ing about 2,000 calo­ries per serv­ing in a re­gion with among the high­est obe­sity rates in the coun­try has not gone down well.

Con­ser­va­tive Ben Houchen, 30, who be­came the first Mayor of Tees Val­ley in May, said the com­mu­nity should take ‘pride’ in the lo­cal del­i­cacy. He launched his cam­paign un­der the slo­gan ‘Proud of the Parmo’ and was pho­tographed eat­ing one on a visit to the lo­cal fac­tory, which pro­duces 10,000 Par­mos a week.

Said to have been in­tro­duced to Mid­dles­brough in 1958 by a for­mer Amer­i­can army chef, the Parmo is made by deep-fry­ing a flat­tened piece of breaded chicken. It is cov­ered in bechamel sauce, topped with grated cheese (of­ten parme­san but not al­ways) and grilled.

It can also be made with pork esca­lope and vari­a­tions in­clude pizza-type top­pings such as pep­per­oni or mush­rooms. Mr Houchen wants it to be given of­fi­cial EU pro­tected sta­tus like the Melton Mow­bray pork pie, Cum­ber­land sausage and Parma ham.

A PDO ap­plies to prod­ucts which must be pro­duced, pro­cessed or pre­pared within a spe­cific ge­o­graph­i­cal area and have a rep­u­ta­tion, fea­tures or qual­i­ties at­trib­ut­able to that lo­ca­tion.

Pub­lic health nu­tri­tion­ist Yvonne Wake said: ‘It’s sad that some­one like this should be fight­ing the cor­ner of the Parmo as op­posed to a healthy dish.’ The Na­tional Obe­sity Fo­rum’s chair­man Tam Fry de­scribed the Parmo as ‘ a beast’ and the Mayor’s back­ing as ‘hor­ren­dous’. Mr Fry said a 2,000calo­rie por­tion rep­re­sented 80 per cent of a man’s en­tire rec­om­mended daily calo­rie in­take.

He said: ‘When some­one asks me why North-East [obe­sity] fig­ures are so high, I can an­swer in two syl­la­bles – Parmo. You would have to be an Olympic ath­lete to eat it with­out ef­fect.’

While Jenny Chap­man, the Labour MP for nearby Dar­ling­ton, said: ‘ Res­i­dents will be ask­ing what is in his head, he has re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and must take them se­ri­ously.’ But Mr Houchen in­sisted: ‘We need to of­fi­cially pro­tect the prove­nance of this lo­cal del­i­cacy and must make it abun­dantly clear that the gen­uine ar­ti­cle is only from Teesside.’

The Parmo is served in take­aways and is on the menu at restau­rants in the re­gion. But Miche­lin-starred chef Michael O’Hare, who comes from Mid­dles­brough and runs the trendy Man Be­hind The Cur­tain in Leeds, has de­scribed them as ‘dis­gust­ing’ and says he’d never serve one.

Sam­ple: Mayor Mr Houchen

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