Gourmet Cuisine in the Time of Swine Flu

“Please accept my profuse apologies for the horrendous inconvenience. You have earned tremendous respect from us Hong Kong people, and we would like to say thank you, from the bottom of our heart.”

The card was signed by York Chow, Hong Kong’s secretary for food and health.

It was sent to each room at the Metropark hotel in Hong Kong, together with a box of Godiva chocolates.

The inconvenience in question is a seven-day-long involuntary confinement in the hotel.

Recipients of the chocolate had the bad luck to share the same residence as a 25-year-old Mexican guest who tested positive for the H1N1 flu virus. The confirmation prompted authorities last Friday to quarantine more than 300 guests and staff at the four-star hotel in Wanchai.

The Mexican flu victim has since been moved to an isolation ward at a hospital.

The Mexican government thinks that Hong Kong is overreacting. But one must understand Hong Kong’s experience in 2003 with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, which killed 299 people in the territory and sickened 1,755.

The SARS outbreak was ultimately traced back to a single infectious guest from China who stayed at a Hong Kong hotel. Six years later, the confined occupants of the Wanchai Metropark have fallen victim to Hong Kong’s paranoia.

You really can’t blame anyone for being wary of Mexico.

Almost anyone who’s been to Mexico is familiar with Montezuma’s revenge.

I was in Acapulco for a meeting once and more than half of the participants got sick from food poisoning, including yours truly. People were dropping like flies. Some had to be hospitalized. Thanks goodness, Yin, who was with me, was fine.

So I don’t think the Mexicans themselves should overreact.

Some of those confined managed to remain cheerful.

One masked hotel guest was seen holding a handwritten sign that read: “Will exchange information for beer and food and cigarettes.”

Food was provided to those confined; a woman was heard complaining on CNN that the food wasn’t all that appetizing.

Come on, what do you expect? Gourmet cuisine?

French guests were luckier.  Their consulate has arranged for French dishes like poulet à la moutarde to be delivered.

The Danes had cheese and sausages sent to them, courtesy of their consulate.

Love in the time of cholera and gourmet cuisine in the time of swine flu?

Why not?

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