Last week in Tehran, cooks assembled the largest ostrich meat sandwich in history. BBC reports
About 1,500 cooks used 1,000kg (2,200lbs) of ostrich meat to make the 1,500m (4,920ft) long sandwich.
The organisers hope those world-beating dimensions will be enough to earn a place in the Guinness Book of Records for the largest ostrich sandwich ever.
The intent was to promote Iran’s ostrich farming industry, here’s the video
Fair enough, but North Korea – under the explicit instructions of film auteur Kim Jong-il – has also taken a crack at husbanding the big-money bird.
Here is a picture of Osama bin Laden aide-de-camp Wadih el-Hage riding an ostrich during an al-Qaeda foray into flightless bird wrangling.
So what is the attraction of these massive non-avian avians to the axis of evil. I don’t recall Dr. No having a phalanx of these beasts nor can I think of a WMD application for them (although, observed closely they do look like some bizarre mutatated rooster). Another evil character, George Costanza on Seinfeld was very proud of having eaten an ostrich burger. So have I – it’s pretty good (red meat though, not white), I’d eat it again, but I keep kosher now and ostriches are specifically ruled out in Leviticus. So perhaps an obsession with propagating ostrich meat reflects anti-Semitism. During the Spanish Inquisition, Jews who publicly acted Catholic but privately remained Jewish were known as marranos. Marrano means pig in Spanish. This was because, to prove their conversion, these hidden Jews would eat pork, forbidden under Jewish law, in public.
Since Muslim law also forbids the consumption of pork, perhaps ostrich is an alternative prohibited meat to force on future conversos. Presumably these hidden Jews would be known as ostrichos or perhaps struthios (for their genus.)
(Remember the pork industry’s slogan a few years ago, “Pork, the other white meat.” I always thought promoting it based on health was the wrong way to go – no one is intrigued by healthy food. A catchier slogan would have been “Pork, the forbidden meat.” Make pork eating seem subversive, something the man doesn’t want you to know about – now that’s marketing!)
The obvious metaphor between ostriches sticking their heads in sand, and dictators having their heads in the sand suggests itself. But, ostriches apparently don’t actually do this – they eat sand and pebbles to aid their digestion. The truth is, ignoring danger isn’t much of a survival strategy and ostriches, which can run nearly 45 mph and kick like Jean Claude Van Damme, have some pretty good options in the face of danger. Dictators too, don’t survive with their heads in the sand. They build enormous intelligence agencies and quash – immediately – any threats to their authority.
As I write this I am at a meeting (for my day job) about different efforts to model terrorist organization behavior. Some models focus on causality, others on correlation. The reasons for weird dictator-types to get into ostrich farming may not be evident. But state-sponsored ostrich ranching seems like a solid datapoint for correlation with WMD-seeking behavior.