Tributes are dished up in diverse forms—statues, monuments, speeches, biographies, films. They’re not always high art, as the 13-ft Jimmy Carter peanut statue on a highway in Georgia, US—put up as a testament to the 39th US president’s love for the legume—can attest. But still, they do the job. Unless, the old saying is right, and the best way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. In that case, naming a dish or drink after the one you seek to honour could be the fastest shortcut off the homage highway.
It’s definitely a time-tested recipe for sucking up: a Viennese baker created ‘Kaiser rolls’ for Emperor Frederick III in 1487. America has been at it for a while, creating puddings and pies, and burgers and bagels to venerate leaders—both on political and entertainment front. Consider the Washington Pie, named for the country’s first president. Or the Bill Clinton Burger, served at a blues bar in Washington DC.
Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009 saw a surge of foods being named for the first-ever African-American president. If the Obama Burger, Obama Fish Sandwich and Obama Cones weren’t enough, Ben and Jerry’s introduced an ice-cream flavour called “Yes, Pecan”, in a hat tip to the speech made by the man after winning the South Carolina primary. It’s not all POTUS-pop Jell-O shots though. Fine-dining gets a look in too, with the Hawaiian Onaga Obama Snapper, accompanied by snap-pea risotto and ginger sesame pea tendrils, and the Obama-tini Cocktail, made with vodka, passion fruit liqueur and a float of Blue Curaçao.
Food fame has also been earned by entertainment commanders-in-chief like Woody Allen, who appears on the menu of a New York deli in the shape of corned beef and pastrami. After earning their chops, Lady Gaga and Robert Pattinson have won themselves sushi rolls as colourful as their personalities. Al Pacino has a sandwich named after him in Brooklyn, as does MASH’s Alan Alda. David Bowie has inspired bartenders to whip up cocktails with Ziggy Stardust, while Ernest Hemingway, Stephen King, Jack Kerouac and JK Rowling have got drinks named after themselves and characters.
India’s got into the F&B act a little late, but maybe we just didn’t have a stomach for such frivolities earlier. Now that we’ve modified our preferences, Harry’s Bar in the capital has introduced NaMo Thunder. The Bossman may only total his teas, but this cocktail is made with orange vodka, lime and mint. Harry’s also offers a Kejrinator which, unwittingly, pays tribute to the man in the cage with mango syrup, iced vodka and mint. The accurately-named RaGa Snoozer is, ironically, the only mocktail in the bunch and has to be content with khus, ginger, lychee and lime.
The Cha Bar, run by Apeejay Surrendra, is more politically correct. It has introduced a NaMo Chai in celebration of India’s new leader, and pre-empted a surge of the beverage’s popularity with the public by offering it on a 1+1 scheme. Modesty blazes through the presentation, with the drink being served in a truckwala teapot carrying the leader’s picture and ‘cutting chai’ glasses.
That’s it then: the best homage is paid not by putting someone’s name up on the billboard, but by putting it down in a menu. Sucking up becomes much easier.