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COOKING WITH THE AMBASSADORS

Diplomats need to eat too

SHARING traditional dishes, the foods that come from our hometowns, regions, or countries, is a way of sharing ourselves. I have been to countless potluck dinners where each of us brought something special - something made the way we made it at home. And those were some of the best evenings I have ever spent. The food was not only delicious, but it was a conversation starter: "How did you make this?", "Where did you get this ingredient?", "Can I have the recipe?"


DIPLOMATICALLY bilingual.
photo: Courtesy of Ikar

SHARING traditional dishes, the foods that come from our hometowns, regions, or countries, is a way of sharing ourselves. I have been to countless potluck dinners where each of us brought something special - something made the way we made it at home. And those were some of the best evenings I have ever spent. The food was not only delicious, but it was a conversation starter: "How did you make this?", "Where did you get this ingredient?", "Can I have the recipe?" Phone numbers and email addresses are exchanged, friendships are formed, perhaps a little too much wine is consumed, and everyone goes home with a warm feeling and a full stomach.

This must have been the sort of meal that led to the creation of Cooking with the Ambassadors, a bilingual cookbook written by female ambassadors to Slovakia and the wives of the male ambassadors living in Bratislava. In January 2003, these women attended a lunch where everyone brought a traditional dish from her homeland that she prepared herself. Impressed by the wide range of culinary skills, they realised that they had on the tables before them a wonderful way to do a little informal diplomatic work and some significant charitable fundraising.

Kudos to Kyra Parker del Balzo, wife of the Italian ambassador, who led the team of 19 contributors.


THERE is nothing like good food to encourage cordial relations.
photo: Kyra Parker del Balzo

The 264-page book, in Slovak and in English, includes a short introduction to each country, full-colour photographs of actual dishes the women prepared themselves (and which Ms Parker del Balzo and her son photographed), and delightful pen-and-ink illustrations on every page, skilfully rendered by Odilia Stokvis, the wife of the Dutch ambassador. Real food may be difficult to photograph, but these dishes look good enough to eat.

The contributors were obviously asked to share recipes for dishes that are typical of their countries (the French section includes a recipe for soufflé, the Americans share how to barbeque spare ribs, and the Russians offer blinis). The ingredients are not too exotic, nor do the instructions require a degree from the Cordon Bleu. Many recipes include wine recommendations and cultural notes about the dish. There is no index of recipes, which is inconvenient: I have had to page through the book looking for "that recipe with red peppers" because I could not remember what country it came from. But that is another chance to discover something else to make for dinner.


AT the Indonesian table.
photo: Kyra Parker del Balzo

Proceeds from the sale of the book go to the Little Owl Foundation to benefit children with eye defects in Levoča and autistic and mentally disabled children attending the special Bratislava school on Hálkova Street. Zdenka Kukanová, the wife of Slovakia's foreign affairs minister, contributed not only the recipes for the Slovak chapter, but also guidance in finding appropriate charitable recipients here in Slovakia.

If you can't boil water but want to eat like a diplomat, Mezzo Mezzo restaurant, Rybárska Brána 9, will be offering a selection of dishes from the cookbook during the week of May 17 and will contribute a portion of the proceeds to the foundation as well. For more information about the menu or to make a reservation, contact them at 02/5441-4342 or at mezzo@mezzo.sk.

Cooking with the Ambassadors was published by Ikar. The book is available in most bookstores for Sk499 (€12.5).

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