Addis Ababa, May 24: The diverse — and often picky — dietary habits of African heads of state pooped Prime Minister Manmohan Singhs luncheon party this afternoon.
Singh was keen to host a classical Indian lunch for them at his five-star suite following the opening of the second Africa-India Forum summit. But as elaborate preparations got underway — this was planned weeks in advance and hotel chefs guaranteed they were up to cooking a multi-course Indian meal — it became clear to the Indian managers that what the Prime Minister was planning as a treat could actually lead to trouble.
Several heads of state demanded their own kind of food, the kind a five-star hotel is not equipped to dish out. A couple of leaders also sent messages that they only eat meals cooked by their wives, they would work in the summit kitchens as their husbands attended to matters of state. And not too many were keen on an Indian meal. The whole thing was a huge mess and had to be rescued, an Indian official told The Telegraph. We were planning one kind of meal and suddenly we had as many cooks in the kitchen as heads of state, he said.
It took all the diplomatic dexterity of Indian officials to get the guests to agree to a common minimum meal — ajwaini fish tikka or tandoori paneer for starters, grilled supreme of chicken with spicy potato and peas pulao and something called pepper and ginger reduction as the non-veg meal and baked tandoori cauliflower with spicy potato and peas pulao as the vegetarian main course. Grilled pineapples with chaat masala and ginger, vanilla ice cream and deluxe cat fruits brought up the end.
Even so, some African heads insisted on deviating from the fixed menu and filling their plates with their favoured delicacies. What their wives cooked remains a state secret.