Thursday, June 23, 2005

Food fight

A quick (subjective) quiz... Name the capital cities of European haute cuisine. Paris? Sure. San Sebastian? Si! Parma? Certo! Helsinki? Huh?

Like you, the EU decided the Finns just don't stack up against the powerhouses of Continental Europe when it comes to food. And, so, after much deliberation the Italian city of Parma (known of course for its famous hams and cheeses) was designated, appropriately so, the center for its new food standards agency. The runner-up was Helsinki, home presumably to herring and deviled eggs for breakfast, (which, it must be said, is an improvement over the Muscovite tradition of preserved meats in jelly).

Nothing more need be said. Right?

Well, this week at the ribbon-cutting ceremony Prime Minister bocca grande turned an innocuous event into yet another international incident. Berlusconi informed reporters that Italy scored the honour because Berlusconi himself (the old dog still has teeth, apparently) charmed Finnish President Tarja Halonen out of the running.

"I had to use all my playboy tactics," the 68-year-old billionaire prime minister said in a statement filled with nudges and winks .

The comment has landed Berlusconi in the doghouse yet again. The Italian ambassador for Finland (in what's becoming familiar duty for Berlusconi's boys abroad) was called into the Foreign Ministry Office in Helsinki to endure yet another lecture about appropriate behavior between heads of state. If you are scoring from home, Berlusconi's quips and antics have now insulted the Spanish, Danes, Germans and Finns -- on average, one per year.

At least he's having fun at the top.

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