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I have a certain amount of sympathy with all heads of state/sovereigns/presidents, you name them. Because they must have to eat a lot of not very good food.

How so, I hear you ask?

Think about it. You’re at a state banquet where you (imagine yourself as Queen Elizabeth) are guest of honour. There are forty or so invited dignitaries. The menu consists of, say, quails’ eggs with caviar, roast swan stuffed with a whole peacock stuffed with truffles and foie gras, and guava sorbet with champagne and pomegranate reduction.

What you really want is to be curled up on the sofa in Buck House, slobbing about in your dressing gown, and eating beans on toast while watching Downton Abbey. It is not to be. You’ve already had to shake several dozen hands, you know there will be several tedious speeches, there may even be yet another (the 10,000th?) display of traditional folk dancing. You can’t get drunk to tide you over; it’s just not done. And to top it all, the food will be indifferent.

The logistics in the kitchen defy description. They have to serve 40 people simultaneously. Even simple plating up for that number, even if you work with Gordon Ramsay like speed, will take at least 15 to 20 man-minutes, so you’re going to need a lot of hands on deck to make it all happen. But the food cannot be freshly cooked can it? You need some time to assemble things, so the kitchen will have to prepare a  lot of it in advance, and keep any hot food hot. So it’s not going to be freshly done is it? It can’t be.

This problem must be even worse in the US, where $10,000 a head fundraisers are attended by several hundred people. The logistics are overwhelming.

For the moment, forget about the big occasions. Think of the small stuff. You go to Australia, you’re expected to eat wichiti grubs and look as if you aren’t gagging. Tour a school, and you end up sitting down to school dinners. How many home made cakes, however delicious, can you consume when you visit a branch of the WRVS? Just don’t get roped into visiting a petfood factory. [1]


[1] (A little known fact is that people who develop products for Pedigree Petfoods are expected to taste them, as are members of the advertising agency they’re using, and tasting is part of the QA process. That’s a job for heroes.)

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