Suspenseful Meals | Culture| Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany | DW | 02.02.2003
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Suspenseful Meals

Ever wonder how spies stomach the local cuisine on their secret missions? The German intelligence service's cookbook offers some spicy tidbits from around the world.


We may never know what Mata Hari liked to eat on her missions. But a new cookbook reveals the favorites of today's spies.

We all know the favorite drink of the world's most famous spy: Martini, shaken not stirred. But what do spies eat when they're out on a secret mission?

Espionage takes to the kitchen in the newest publication by the German federal intelligence service Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND): a cookbook.

Top(f) Secret -- a play on the German word "Topf" or pot -- is a combination of recipes, geographical notes and anecdotes that was put together by BND employees worldwide.

Over two dozen recipes from in part exotic missions grace the pages. The food ranges from the Bavarian cheese specialty "obatzdn" to the central African fish and vegetable stew "dongo-dongo."

But the book also includes such delicacies as the Scottish stuffed sheep's stomach "haggis" or the extremely spicy "ala" of Nigeria. This peppery fish soup only tastes authentic "if it's so spicy that you can't tell whether it's boiling hot or lukewarm," a BND snoop notes.

A sticky matter

The recipes have been spiced up with geographical descriptions of the different regions the food comes from and spy anecdotes.

While the pots are simmering, you can read up on how the German intelligence chief in Nigeria sought help in battling voodoo, or how a surveillance mission in Turkey became a sticky matter after the specially-constructed camera fell into a pot of honey.

The human touch With Top(f) Secret at least some of the BND's policies on secrecy appear to have changed.

"We want to make people curious so that they don't see us with such anxiety anymore," says BND press spokeswoman Claudia Nitz. Just a few years ago the press department would have only provided information under a pseudonym.

At the end of the year, the BND even intends to bring out fan articles. The gift shop at the planned visitors' center in Berlin will include men's underwear with the imprint "Classified Document" or "For Official Use Only." The service will also sell T-shirts, scarves and ties.

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