The Hari Putar Dialogues - 13
(The Independent, 8th July, Hokaido:
World leaders are not renowned for their modest wine selections or reticence at the G8 summit's cheese board. True to form, discussing the global food crisis was clearly hungry work that left their stomachs rumbling. The global food shortage was not evident. As the champagne flowed, the couples enjoyed 18 'higher-quality ingredients', beginning with amuse-bouche of corn stuffed with caviar, smoked salmon and sea urchin pain-surprise-style, hot onion tart and winter lily bulbs.)
Putar: According to a story in The Independent today the world leaders present at the G 8 summit in Hokaido wined and dined in style while discussing the global food crisis.
Hari: That's not surprising, putar. The world leaders need food for thought.
Putar: It is said that Britain spent 65 million pounds on the Gleneagles summit three years ago.
Hari: Not difficult to believe, putar.
Putar: But in terms of hosting a grand event with lavish dining the Japanese have upstaged the Brits at the Summit. The total cost of staging the event on Japan's northern island of Hokkaido is estimated at 285 million pounds. That is more than three times the amount spent at Gleneagles.
Hari: That is correct, putar. Given the present low value of the US dollar that would amount to more than half a billion dollars.
Putar: If things continue in this fashion the next summit could conceivably involve an expense of a billion dollars. In India, two or even three people can share a good meal for just a dollar. A billion dollars could provide a meal for three billion people. In other words roughly half the worlds population could enjoy a good Indian curry for that kind of money.
Hari: But don't forget, putar, that the world leaders are not only addressing the food crisis. There are so many other pressing global problems weighing on their minds, such as issues concerning health.
Putar: According to some estimates the money spent by the Japanese is enough to buy 100 million mosquito nets.
Hari: If a mosquito net costs between five to six dollars, that should be a fair calculation.
Putar: And so many millions of mosquito nets would help reduce deaths from malaria. That would address health issues, wouldn't it?
Hari: That's true, putar. But it's not only food and health they are concerned about. At the summit, the Japanese have spoken of the need to combat climate change and desertification.
Putar: If it costs five dollars to buy a mosquito net, it probably costs much less to plant a sapling. For half a billion dollars, at half a dollar a piece, a billion trees could have been planted. That would have helped combat climate change and desertification.
Hari: That's true, but what do you want the world leaders to do? Starve?
Putar: They could have missed a meal out of solidarity for the people affected by the food crisis.
Hari: Missed a meal and continued to eat exotic food such as caviar and sea urchin the rest of the time.
Putar: I hear that the British Prime Minister was very upset to learn that a British family on average throws away thousands of pounds of food every year. That concern didn't stop him though from joining his fellow G8 premiers and their wives for an eight-course Marie Antoinette-style 'Blessings of the Earth and the Sea Social Dinner', courtesy of the Japanese government.
Hari: I wonder what kind of food was served?
Putar: (reads) A folding fan-modeled tray decorated with bamboo grasses carried eight delicacies: kelp-flavored cold Kyoto beef shabu-shabu, with asparagus dressed with sesame cream; diced fatty flesh of tuna fish, with avocado and jellied soy sauce and the Japanese herb shiso; boiled clam, tomato and shiso in jellied clear soup of clam; water shield and pink conger dressed with a vinegary soy sauce; boiled prawn with jellied tosazu-vinegar; grilled eel rolled around burdock strip; sweet potato; and fried and seasoned goby with soy sauce and sugar'And of course there is much more that followed.
Hari: That sounds delicious.
Putar: I don't suppose any whale food was provided. Can't see any mention of it.
Hari: No, of course not. Japanese only hunt whales for scientific purposes.
Putar: Even if they catch a thousand whales a year. That's a lot of whale.
Hari: That's a lot of science.
Putar: The spread before the G 8 sounds like a lot of food for thought, Papaji. Apparently, sixty chefs were flown in for the occasion, foremost among them the Michelin-starred Katsuhiro Nakamura.
Hari: I'm sure the G 8 will come up with lots of good suggestions, putar.
Putar: Such as people should eat less and not waste food.
Hari: That is a good suggestion, putar.
Putar: Tell me something, Papaji?
Hari: Bol, putar?
Putar: What does the G in G 8 stand for?
Hari: I think it stands for Group of 8 countries, putar.
Putar: Or could it be that the G in G 8 stands for the Generous 8?
Hari: I don't think so, putar. Don't forget that they reneged on aid promises given at Gleneagles?
Putar: Could it be then that the G in G 8 stands for the Gastronomic 8?
Hari: I don't know, putar.