Afghanistan ambassador food blog leaves bad taste

The Norwegian ambassador to Afghanistan has stirred up a storm of controversy by writing in a Foreign Ministry blog about his efforts to train his cook in Kabul to make him fancy French food. Tore Hattrem attracted a record number of comments to his online article, which described his need for good food while on duty in the war-torn country.

Referring to his interactions with his cook, Abdul, Hattrem wrote: “Every morning we draft the day’s menu for lunch and dinner, regardless of whether (the meals) will be with or without guests.” He later reported how he had taught Abdul to cook Coq au Vin, adding that the Afghan could not taste the dish because it contains alcohol.

Hattrem went on to add: “If I don’t get good food, I lose weight. I simply eat too little. During a former posting, I lost five kilos in three months because the cook didn’t make good food. My wife had to step in and give the cook a strict learning plan.”

The blog was picked up and shared on a social networking site by Aslak Nore, a journalist, author and former member of the Norwegian Battalion who has served in Afghanistan. The piece was then bombarded with almost exclusively-negative comments, including: “embarrassing”, “disgustingly elitist” and “arrogant”.

Hattrem was accused of completely misunderstanding his role as ambassador in a country where food is scarce, with one of the harshest comments of all coming from a user indentified as Erik. “I didn’t serve in Afghanistan so that you could eat Coq au Vin made by your own cook. I lost a comrade, you lost five kilos. You should be ashamed of yourself,” he wrote, according to New and Views from Norway.

Hattrem has since said that he understands the strong reaction the piece caused, but pointed out that he had written earlier about the more pressing issues of the Taliban and terrorism. He was also supported by one commentator, Eirik Bergesen, who said Hattrem is “one of Norway’s best and youngest ambassadors who, despite his desire to eat well, makes a strong contribution … in one of the world’s most difficult areas”.