Alcohol hurting the relationship: France cancels lunch with Iran
Alcohol use can cause problems in any relationship, even those of the diplomatic kind.
This week French President François Hollande canceled lunch with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani for asking that wine not be served during the meal. The action calls into question how one provides hospitality and relates to the proverbial "other."
It is worth noting that the Iranian leader also asked for halal food, similar to kosher, and what President Netanyahu asks for when in town.
Adam Gopnik writes in The New Yorker the food request was acceptable. Without halal prepared meat, Rouhani would not be able to enjoy the fare at the Palais de l'Élysée, With the bordeaux, however, he could have waved his hand at the waiter and asked for more water. Rouhani could have drawn a red line with his basic requirements but accommodated a practice the French, and other Europeans, still hold dear. He would not have had trouble in the United States, with boozy lunches relegated to Mad Men reruns. (Perhaps that is one more reason America does better with integration?)
The war, in other words, is not between wine and water, but between respect for the Other and asking the Other to show a little respect for us—since we are from their point of view also an Other, worth respecting for our other Otherness.
He could have stated that Shiraz, one of Iran's largest cities, claimed fame for wine, literature and flowers, not unlike another certain city in the springtime.
But not likely.
When I visited Shiraz it was easy to see this heritage underfoot. We had pulled into the city at twilight via intercity bus from Isfahan. The downtown gardens for which the city is famous had closed. So my Catalonian travel companions and I headed to the grave of Saidi. Iranian teenagers and twenty-somethings, in same-sex cliques, huddled the orange trees to read Saidi's poetry--and check each other out of course. It was a scene, not unlike American junior high students at the mall. The next day we headed to Persepolis, the famous Persian monumental city outside of town. We passed grapes on the vine growing in the hills, not unlike those of Sonoma. With the revolution the Iranian regime forbade wineries, but farmers still grow grapes for raisin and juice.
Overall we received cordial hospitality during our tour. Government minders called my hotel room only once when we traveled from Kashan to Isfahan, fishing for whether we had sought out any of the Islamic Republic's--now defunct--nuclear facilities. We had not. In Tehran my towheaded Norwegian friend enjoyed the affections of a university girl who asked him out for a Valentine's dinner when passing him on the street. The hospitality offered by one's average citizen may differ from that of the state.