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Sunday, Sep. 25, 2011
Humble pie notably absent from the food fancies of worthies and others
Special to The Japan Times
Food is a staple fare of the media, whether in the form of recipes, restaurant reviews or photographs of meals to die for. Food is health; food is economics; food is culture; but food is also politics.
"Dis-moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai ce qui tu es," intoned cheesy French gastronome Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1755-1826). "Tell me what you eat, I will tell you what you are."
The philosopher Ludwig Andreas Feuerbach (1804-72) truncated the bon mot when he gave German tongue to this: "Der Mensch ist, was er isst" — "You are what you eat."
Yes, we definitely are what we eat. Judging by the look of some of my friends, I can vouch for that.
I was reminded of this cutting truth when I read recently that dojō karinto — loach-shaped deep-fried biscuits — came onto the market only days after new Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda announced to the world that he was like a "mud-crawling bottom-feeding loach" — which is actually a fitting description of more than a few politicians.
Considering the high turnover of prime ministers in Japan (Noda is the sixth in the last five years), the company making such sweets might be advised to replace "best before" with "not much good after."
Nonetheless, fueled by these various gastronomic inspirations, I decided to contact politicians and people of influence around the world to find out if they were planning to market any items of food or personal recipes. I am happy to report to the readers of Counterpoint that I received a veritable hotpot of amazing replies.
The first to fire off a response was, believe it or not, former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney.
"I'm about to launch 'Dick Cheney's Guantanamo Doughnuts.' They're great for dunking," he claimed. "Just immerse them until they're so full of liquid they fall apart."
Assuring me that bagels work just as well, the former vice did, however, caution that "they just take a little longer to soften."
Then came a hand-delivered, embossed letter from the White House. I had heard about President Barack Obama's promised range of "Yes We Can" soups, but the missive's message was sorely disappointing: "The president regrets to inform you that his extensive range of improved soups will not be on the market again this year."
I was, though, uplifted by its closing words: "In 2012, be sure to look for the president's new range of products marketed under the slogan, 'Yes We Could Have.' "
Meanwhile, Alaskan moose-hotshot Sarah Palin was good enough to write back about her "Tea Party-Brand Bible Cookies."
"Enjoy cookies baked in the shape of your favorite Bible story!" went the blurb. Just above this was their slogan, burnt into the box in fiery red letters: "They Taste Like Heaven."
I immediately sent in my order for her recommended Fox News Judas of Iscariot Chocolate Chip Cookies ("There's a chip in every cookie") and Noah's Ark Rainbow Cookies ("Eat 'em and send in the real truth about evolution in 25 words or less to win a free copy of the bestseller by S. Palin, M. Bachmann and R. Perry, 'Why the World has been Getting Cooler Since it was Created 6,000 Years Ago' ").
But replies to my survey didn't just come from the New World.
Silvio Berlusconi sent me his recipe for "Bunga Bunga Ravioli," bearing the Italian prime minister's own motto: "You can stuff all of the ravioli some of the time and some of the ravioli all of the time."
Even Israel's prime minister was kind enough to take time out of his busy occupation to courier me a jar of "Benjamin Netanyahu's Promised Land Kosher Pickled Jerusalem Artichokes" — based, so an accompanying scroll attested, on a 2,000-year-old recipe, and "suitable for eating in other people's homes."
I was especially struck by the motto written in flowing light-blue lettering on the jar's label: "You can never get enough of anything."
But the most impressive message from a world leader came from Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
"Try Vladimir Putin's Homebrand Frozen Minced Tiger Pirozhki," it said in bold-face type on the box sent directly to me from the factory in Yakutsk, Siberia. "They're Finger-Breakin' Good!" I did, however, notice the following in small print at the bottom: May contain traces of journalist.
And the world's most humble Australian- American media mogul, Rupert Murdoch — always one to think far outside the box — stunned me when Rupert's Own Shredded Wheat, together with a list of all of the mobile phone calls I have made in the past 10 years, suddenly appeared on my kitchen table.
The great thing about Rupert's Own Shredded Wheat is that, as I discovered, it comes with a mini-shredder in the box, allowing you to eliminate all evidence of the product's existence. The box also carries a persuasive message: "I would be caught dead without Rupert's Own. David Cameron, PM."
Then, rather tardily, it has to be said, I received a joint reply from Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy — for New Improved Tossed Greek Salad.
"Thank you for your enquiry about our new recipe. Just send in €400 billion and we will send you not only the recipe, but we'll toss in the country as well. And don't miss our recipe for Bank of Ireland Irish Mist, now going for a song and a dance."
But then it was with trepidation, I must admit, that I opened a letter sent to me personally by President of Syria, Bashar al-Assad.
However, I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw that all it contained was an invitation to visit Damascus next year on the occasion of the president's birthday on Sept. 11 for a live demonstration. I had heard about demonstrations in Syria, but this one was about how to make hummus.
"This powerful Assad family recipe has been handed down from father to son. It is made with secret ingredients that many people are dying for. Assad hummus is suitable for eating in the Arab Summer, the Arab Autumn and the Arab Winter — but not in the Arab Spring."
And, dear reader, there are so many other recipes I pine to share with you, though the dictates of space allow me to serve up only two more morsels.
There was, for one, Dear Leader Kim Jong Il of North Korea, who sent me his secret family recipe for hermit crabs, as well as one for Red Hot Kimchi for Parties Up to Six.
And finally, even that busy world traveler and former chief of the IMF, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, was generous enough to reveal to me his potent recipe for Hotel-quality French Toast — "Grab a box wherever you go," he urged. "Comes with its own syrup."
I want to thank all the world leaders who sent me their secret recipes and self-marketed foodstuffs. They have helped me to realize that we are not only what we eat, but also what we are fed.
I guess the only way we can avoid being as full of it as those who feed us is to devise our own recipes for what we consume.
Look around the world today and you will, more than ever, realize the truth of that old saying: Hunger is the best sauce.