Monday, May 26, 2008

Paddy likes eating fruit bat and has eaten After Eight mints with the paper still on

...all part of some fascinating revelations on Food and politicians in this week's Observer Food monthly.

Nick Clegg is in there too, talking about his love of Mediterranean food. Also featured are Clare Short, Theresa May and David Blunkett.

But it is Paddy who provides the most interesting culiniary information:

'I was sent off to fight in a little war in Borneo in the Sixties. I had to learn about how to survive in the jungle, which meant eating all sorts of strange things. You couldn't use your weapons, because you had to keep very quiet - that's what jungle warfare's about - so we used to set traps and eat monkeys and fruit bats. We made fires and roasted them.'

What does monkey taste like, I ask innocently. A mischievous twinkle from beneath the bushy Ashdown eyebrows. 'A bit like cat. Or so I'm told.' And the fruit bats? 'They looked disgusting but were delicious. The flesh doesn't taste like anything else I've tasted. Except squirrel, perhaps.' Another Borneo delicacy was 'a giant puffy grub with a reddish head' called a kulat. 'You fry them up until they pop, and then make a soup out of them. That's very good.'

Food got a little better after that - life as a diplomat in Switzerland and, much more recently, as the UN's High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, saw to that; even the infamous 'rubber-chicken circuit' imposed on politicians proved relatively harmless in comparison to what went before.

Though there are pitfalls, even outside the jungle: after a dinner for some important Chinese diplomats at their home in Geneva in the mid-1970s, his wife Jane made the mistake of offering After Eight mints. Unfortunately, their guests assumed that the chocolates were wrapped in rice paper. 'And they picked up their After Eights in the paper, ate the lot and declared them to be delicious. What was even worse was that we had to do the same.'

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