The Axis of Evil Cookbook by Gill Partington

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Reviewed by Mary McConville

Annabel Crabb is not the only person who is interested in what politicians eat. Many politicians or their friends have published cookbooks to share their best recipes with the electorate. There is our own Don Dunstan, who was an open-minded eater, and politician.

The once-was American President Jimmy Carter and his clan published a cookbook with a lot of Deep South home cooking – and peanuts. There is a Christmas menu in their book that is really just a list of American culinary clichés – turkey, corn, sweet potatoes, pecans and the infamous aspic salad. Aspic salad is a sort of sweet and savoury jelly with embedded fruit and vegetables with sometimes cream or mayonnaise and then marshmallows.

Also infamous was the food served at the White House when Eleanor and Franklin Delano Roosevelt were in power. It was supposed to be an example to the country on how to make tasty, thrifty and local dishes during the difficult financial times. No one would want to claim some of the dishes served at the White House. Among other dishes there was a blancmange made from prunes and flour and a relish of grated carrot and vinegar. One theory was that Eleanor was punishing her husband for his infidelity.

The most unusual political cookbook might be The Axis of Evil Cookbook. Published in 2007 by both American and English Publishers, perhaps partially reflecting the political co-operation of the time. It contains recipes from Iran, Iraq, Lybia, Syria, Cuba, North Korea – and America. Most of the recipes are ordinary, traditional dishes and pleasant enough to make and eat at home – except perhaps the dog stew from North Korea and the sheep’s testicles from Iran. Amongst all the “evil” recipes is one, patriotic American recipe for a Stars and Stripes Salad.

The political comments and the mildly surreal illustrations give the impression that the author didn’t think much of George W. Bush. This was a common attitude at the time. For the record most of the people depicted in these pages are not flattered. But then again, homicidal dictators often get a bad press.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been the best part of a decade since this book came out. That decade has been an action packed one. The power balance has shifted – just a little. Relations with Cuba have improved and there have been official visits and careful diplomacy with Cuba’s Leaders. Syria is still a serious problem and George W. Bush has gone from the power that he never held very well.

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