Southeast Asia: Ivan the Terrible Salesman

When the gypsy music stopped, the host rose from the table and began to tell his guests of the virtues of squid with mayonnaise. "It exerts a favorable influence on metabolism," he said, "and is prescribed for persons with heart problems." The setting was Kuala Lumpur's Hotel Mirama, and the host was a man from Prodintorg, the Soviet agency in charge of food exports. He was promoting Russian seafood, but the sales luncheon was neither a gastronomic nor a commercial success. Oily sardines were served with Georgian brandy so medicinal-tasting that it...

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