June 26, 2004
The Biggest Foodie in Asia is not Kaga
The LA Times and The Atlantic have articles about Kim Jong Il's personal cooks who have published books about their service under the food-loving North Korean dictator. The man was sending people all over the world to buy rare ingredients for him and ordering servants to pick over his grains of rice.
Excerpts from Kim Jong Il's Chef via The Atlantic:
Kim Jong Il has an exceptionally discriminating palate. There is an episode I remember well that demonstrates this. I was preparing sushi in the Number 8 Banquet Hall. All of a sudden Kim Jong Il said, "Fujimoto, today's sushi tastes a little different."
He had had a lot to drink that evening before the meal, and I suggested that maybe that was the reason.
He replied, "Maybe..." He seemed doubtful, but didn't pursue it any further.
However, when I returned to the kitchen, I checked the seasoning used that day and found that the sugar was ten grams less than usual! Kim Jong Il was the only one who had noticed. Even I was astonished at this.
With respect to rice, before cooking it a waiter and a kitchen staff member would inspect it grain by grain. Chipped and defective grains were extracted; only those with perfect form were presented.
And from The LA Times:
So insistent is Kim on eating the best of everything that he sends trusted couriers on shopping missions around the world. His sushi-chef-turned-author, who writes under the pseudonym Kenji Fujimoto, revealed that he made trips to Iran and Uzbekistan to buy caviar, to Denmark to buy pork, to western China to buy grapes and to Thailand for mangos and papayas.
Kim insists that his rice be cooked over a wood fire using trees cut from Mt. Paektu, a legendary peak on the Chinese border, according to a memoir written by a nephew of Kim's first wife. He has his own private source of spring water. Female workers inspect each grain of rice to ensure that they meet the leader's standards.
Now I can appreciate pickiness when it comes to food, but this guy is way out of my league and ridiculously eccentric. The LA Times article goes into explaining he psychology behind his fickleness with food:
Jerrold M. Post, a psychiatrist who founded and was the longtime director of the CIA's Center for the Analysis of Personality and Political Behavior, says Kim's obsession with eating the best food comes from being the son of North Korean founder Kim Il Sung, revered by the propaganda machine as a god-like figure. Post diagnosed the younger Kim as a malign narcissist in large part based on information about his eating habits.
"This is how you prepare food and water for a god. Nothing remotely imperfect should cross his lips. He has this special sense of self so that there is no contradiction between the exquisite care that goes into his own cuisine and the fact that half his population is starving," said Post, who also has profiled such figures as Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden.
Jo Yung Hwan, a South Korean scholar, says Kim's preoccupation with food grew after the death of his mother when he was 7. Jo was particularly struck by an account of a Japanese waitress who claimed that Kim as an adult liked to have food put in his mouth as if he were a child.
"That kind of behavior comes from lack of motherly love," Jo wrote in a 1996 psychological study of Kim.
I wonder if The Iron Chef's Chairman, Kaga Takeshi was loved by his mother.
[via Boing Boing]Posted by yi at June 26, 2004 7:25 PM