Monday, July 7, 2008

G8 leaders feast at world's top table

After a day spent discussing food shortages, the world's most powerful leaders sat down to a lavish eight course meal

As the food crisis began to bite, the rumblings of discontent grew louder - and finally, after a day of discussing food shortages and soaring prices, the famished stomachs of the G8 leaders could bear it no longer.

The most powerful stomachs in the world were today compelled to stave off the great Hokkaido Hunger by lining themselves with an eight course dinner prepared by 25 chefs.

This multi-pronged attack on global leadership pangs was launched only hours after a not inconsiderable lunch - four courses, washed down with Chateau Grillet 2005 — which had clearly fully failed to quell appetites possibly enlarged by agonising over the starving citizens of the world.

The G8 gathering has been described by some as a "world food shortages summit" as leaders seek to combat spiralling prices of basic foodstuffs in the developed world and starvation in the developing world.

But perhaps not since Marie Antoinette was supposed to have leaned from a Versailles palace window and suggested that her breadless peasants eat cake can leaders have demonstrated such insensitivity to daily hardship than at the luxury Windsor Hotel on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido.

Gordon Brown, who had earlier called on Britons to waste less food, had been spending the day talking about the famine in Africa, among other subjects.

He then joined the other politicians, and five of their spouses, at the social dinner, which began with four bite-sized amuse bouche, featuring corn stuffed with caviar, smoked salmon and sea urchin, hot onion tart and winter lily bulb.

Guests at the summit, which is costing £238m, were then able to pick items from a tray modelled on a folding fan and decorated with bamboo grasses, including diced fatty flesh of tuna fish, avocado and jellied soy sauce and Japanese herb "shisho".

Hairy crab Kegani bisque-style soup was another treat in a meal prepared by the Michelin starred chef Katsuhiro Nakamura, the grand chef at Hotel Metropolitan Edmont in Tokyo, alongside salt-grilled bighand thornyhead, a small, red Pacific fish, with a vinegary water pepper sauce.

The leaders have told their people to tighten their belts for lean times ahead, but you feared for presidential and prime ministerial girdles after the chance to tuck into further dishes including milk-fed lamb, roasted lamb with c├Ępes and black truffle with something called emulsion sauce.

Finally, there was a "fantasy" dessert, a special cheese selection accompanied by lavender honey and caramelised nuts, while coffee came with candied fruits and vegetables.

The leaders, also troubled by global water shortages, could choose from five different wines and liqueurs, including two brought from France.

Earlier, lunch had included asparagus and truffle soup, crab and supreme of chicken served with nuts and beetroot foam, followed by a special cheese selection, peach compote milk ice cream and coffee served with petits fours.

"The G8 have made a bad start to their summit, with excessive cost and lavish consumption," Andrew Mitchell, the shadow secretary of state for international development, said.

"Surely it is not unreasonable for each leader to give a guarantee that they will stand by their solemn pledges of three years ago ... to help the world's poor. All of us are watching, waiting and listening."

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