Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Diplopundit on cookie pushing on the Diplomatic Cocktail Circuit

Diplopundit has an interesting commentary on the term "cookie pusher" and what it is like to have to go to Diplomatic receptions. You can read the entire post here.

I’m not sure which is more annoying to me, the “cookie-pusher” or the askewed presumption that our diplomats lived in a perpetual happy hour in the service of this nation; or for that matter, lived in one unending banquet of Kobe beef, Belons oyster and the 1959 Château Mouton Rothschild.

So here’s the skinny on this for those not in the know: It is true that our diplomats do have to give dinner parties and attend dinner parties and cocktail receptions as part of their jobs. The more senior you are and the more important the portfolio you have, the more demanding is the social obligations. Attendance to these official functions is usually done after hours and could be as often as three times a week or as little as once or twice a month (which also means you don’t get to see your kids at bedtime 3x a week, as they’re asleep by the time you get home).


I can imagine you nodding your head as you read this and thinking, that’s not such a bad way to end one’s work day - good food and fine wine three times a week. What’s so bad about that? The qualifying words are “good” and “fine.” Let me explain. In the United States, if you visit the western region, you could get served prairie oysters, fried pork rinds or blood-rare steak; in the southern region, you could get grits, crawfish, hog maws and snouts, but - you could always decline to partake and no one would be offended if you walk away.

It’s a different matter when you are the representative of the United States overseas. You have no control over what’s on the menu (unless you’re giving the party) and walking away and throwing up on somebody's lap or carpet is not an option. Declining your host’s offer could be viewed as “undiplomatic,” or worse, an insult with possible repercussions to personal and bilateral relations. I do think that a good FSO needs a carbon steel type stomach, especially these days when they are expected to serve in “expeditionary assignments,” wherever that may be.

We can be grateful that we don’t have a U.S. Mission in Sardinia; at least we don’t have to politely decline an offer of casu marzu (aka: maggot cheese). But here’s a sample of some other interesting offerings: pacha (sheep’s head with eyeballs), haggis (stuffed sheep's stomach), crispy grasshoppers, fried scorpions, yak meat, blood pudding, and roast pigeon brains. And least I forget - for drinks, there’s tea with yak butter, kumiss (fermented mare's milk), kvass (beer-like beverage made by fermenting old bread in water), and palm wine (created from sap of various palm trees) to name a few.

No, I'm not doing a cheese and whine here. This is just something to consider the next time you hear about the “cookie-pushers living cushy lives” - it’s not always as easy as it looks; and it’s not always as fun as its sounds.

I have to agree with her, as I am sure most diplomats do. Going to receptions is pretty high on my list of things I dislike most about a diplomat. And highest on my list of receptions I dislike is the Fourth of July reception.

I am proud of serving my country. And I like celebrating its birth. But standing around in the heat in a business suits making small talk with "contacts" (read, people I have to talk to for work) while eating salmon parts wrapped in fried egg (at least, that is what it looked like...) and being rewarded for that by losing a day off (no comp time or overtime if you are mid-level) is not my idea of how to celebrate my country's birth. Give me hamburgers, hotdogs and fireworks, thank you.


Anonymous said...

Well put. If you get to Tokyo we actually have Kobe beef at some of the receptions (not the ones the U.S. pays for!) 4th of July is always on Saturday and dogs and burgers are the standard.

Smart move taking your photo down.

Iris said...

You have a very interesting blog here. I've bookmarked it and all that jazz.
I'm going to end up repeating myself, but very very fascinating and interesting.

Consul-At-Arms said...

I've quoted you and linked to you here:

Anonymous said...

What if someone is a vegetarian?

Also, is male-female flirting at these functions allowed/frowned upon?