Egg tarts, and the leaders who love them
The humble egg tart has become a political symbol.
When Wang Guangya was in Hong Kong this week, one of the most memorable photos was of him sinking his teeth into the sweet treat and giving his culinary approval.
Then, when Beijing's point man on Hong Kong went to Macau, he made it a point to visit a local eatery selling - you guessed it - egg tarts. In his opinion, the Macau shop's were superior to the ones he ate in our city.
That had sinologists and Hong Kong pundits speculating whether it was a cryptic remark signalling his ranking of the Macau administration above the leadership of Hong Kong.
Ironically, it was Beijing nemesis Chris Patten - branded variously as 'a prostitute', 'a sinner of 1,000 years' and 'a tango dancer' - who started the tradition. Known affectionately to locals as fei pang or 'fatty Patten', the last governor had no fear of the artery-choking dessert. Patten still makes a point of visiting his own egg tart haunt when he occasionally visits the city.
Given its Patten patina, it's puzzling why mainland officials have picked up on the political habit. Well, for one, egg tarts, like egg waffles, are authentic Hong Kong-style food. Cheap and readily available on the street, they are associated with the grass roots. All politicians, whether from Hong Kong or the mainland, must make a show of caring about livelihood issues.
Interestingly, while egg tarts have become a favourite of officialdom, egg waffles have become something of a symbol for political agitation ever since Ng Yuk-fai, an elderly hawker who sells the waffles, was repeatedly harassed by anti-hawker squads; he now faces prosecution for claiming social welfare.
Maybe Wang should try egg waffles next time he is here.