Blair's mushrooms for the Mahatma - What British ex-PM will cook for his 'hero'

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By AMIT ROY in London
  • Published 27.06.09
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London, June 27: Tony Blair has revealed his hero is Mahatma Gandhi for whom he would personally cook “a light lunch of stuffed flat field mushrooms with a tomato and tarragon sauce”.

The former British Prime Minister’s choice is listed in a cookbook formally released today for a good cause — raising funds for wounded British servicemen and women.

Hardly a day seems to pass when a British soldier is not killed or wounded in Afghanistan. Some are scarcely out of their teens.

A total of 100 people, including celebrities and war veterans, were invited to contribute to The Help for Heroes Cookbook: What would you feed your Hero? with proceeds from the sale of the £14.99 book earmarked for the charity.

Blair’s successor, Gordon Brown, said he would make “a hearty Chequers steak pie” for Eric Liddell, the Scottish athlete portrayed in the film Chariots of Fire.

Brown’s choice says something about the man — solid, worthy and dull. No wonder the Labour Party misses Blair.

The head of the armed forces, Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, said he would make a “quintessentially British” Pickwick pie for his hero, Roman emperor Julius Caesar.

Author Andy McNab, formerly with Britain’s elite Special Air Services, would love to cook dinner for intrepid South Pole explorer Ernest Shackleton: “I reckon I would cook him the world’s hottest chicken curry.”

Most British MPs have shown they are adept at cooking — cooking their expenses, that is.

However, Conservative leader David Cameron has chosen to cook a slow roast shoulder of lamb for Lance-Corporal Johnson Beharry, who received the Victoria Cross for his outstanding bravery in Iraq.

His Liberal Democrat counterpart, Nick Clegg, would serve mint lamb chops with roasted shallots and spinach mash to Victorian engineering genius Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

Blair, as always, has been best at explaining his choice, writing under My Hero: “Einstein said of Gandhi, ‘Future generations will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth.’

“Of course, Gandhi made misjudgements and mistakes. But he has endured as one of those iconic individuals who shape how we think about society and about ourselves. A Hindu and deeply rooted within the culture of India, he nonetheless transcended boundaries of racial and religious identity.

“Gandhi taught that the greatest risk to humanity lay within what he identified as the Seven Social Sins: ‘Wealth without Work, Worship without Sacrifice, Politics without Principle, Pleasure without Conscience, Knowledge without Character, Commerce without Morality and Science without Humanity.’

“Within these elegant and sparing mantras, I believe, we can find timeless guidance, whatever our own faith or lack of it. Through his teaching, and his life, Gandhi embodied his creed that ‘we must become the change we want to see in the world’.

“He embodied these beliefs throughout his life, resisting discrimination in South Africa, renouncing his life of material comfort and refusing to renounce his respect for all the great faiths, treating all faiths equally.

“In an increasingly globalised world, we all need to develop greater respect for those who differ from us, and find what unites us in terms of common values. Gandhi’s Seven Social Sins point to values around which people of any faith or of none can unite. He believed that we are all children of God, and preached tolerance for all men, an ideal which makes him my personal hero.”

The former Prime Minister has set up an interfaith charity, The Tony Blair Faith Foundation, to promote understanding between world religions. In 2007, Blair left the Anglican Church to become a Roman Catholic, which his wife, Cherie, and four children, already are.

Blair, who is now also a West Asia peace envoy, said he had prayed to God when deciding whether or not to send UK troops into Iraq. Many in Britain would say he got the wrong answer probably from a call centre in India.

Blair clearly has a guilty conscience over Iraq which the Mahatma might well have been able to ease over a light lunch of stuffed mushrooms.