Food, nationalism and internet voting

A poll organized by CNN International to select the world’s outstanding food dishes, which has turned into a slugging match between Thais and Indonesians. The Jakarta Post reports with pride that Indonesian dishes Rendang and Nasi Goreng have captured the top two spots, pushing sushi into third place – though Thai dishes occupy four of the top ten positions. Dim sum is #7, Ramen is #8 and Peking Duck is #9. The complete results for the top 50 dishes are listed here in reverse order.  In the first suggested list of top dishes that CNN published back in July, Neapolitan Pizza was ranked #2 and Mexico’s mole poblano #3. But Asian cuisine swept the board when viewers were invited to vote for their favorite dishes through Facebook. Some 35,000 people voted.

Meanwhile, elsewhere on the internet people are voting for their favorite natural wonders. Nova Scotians are logging on en masse to vote for the inclusion of the Bay of Fundy in a list of the Seven New Wonders of the World. Each internet user can only vote once in the poll, but voting by text messaging is unlimited – at a fee of 25 cents per message. You can track the voting trends among the 28 finalists here. The Bay of Fundy is holding its own in sixth place – ahead of Mount Vesuvius but behind the Dead Sea. South Korea’s Jeju Island currently holds the top position, followed by an underground river in the Philippines and the Great Barrier Reef.

The purpose of the project is to promote awareness of nature, and to encourage tourists to explore new sites, but clearly there is a risk that such voting can become overshadowed by nationalist pride. More than 100 million people voted in the first New Wonders project back in 2007, which named seven new man-made wonders of the world: the Taj Mahal, Rio’s Christ, Petra, Chichenitza pyramids, Rome’s Colosseum, the Great Wall of China and Machu Pichu. (The listing is random, they are not officially ranked.) There were surges of voting to promote sites in Latin America and the Middle East, but not all the voting was driven by nationalist pride. Organizer Bernard Weber reports that “More people from Korea and Japan voted for the Eiffel Tower than did people from France.” A last minute flood of votes narrowly failed to raise Mali’s Timbuktu to the final seven. The original seven wonders of the ancient world were chosen by Philon of Byzantium in Athens in 200 BCE.

The classic example of nationalism surfacing in internet polling was back in 2002 when the BBC World Service ran a poll to find the world’s top ten songs of all time. 150,000 listeners voted. The Beatles did not make the cut (although Cher’s ‘Believe’ came in at #8 and Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ at #9.) Top place went to the Irish nationalist ballad ‘A nation once again,’ recorded by the Wolfe Tones. India’s national song ‘Vande Mataram’ narrowly beat out a new pop hit ‘Dil Dil Pakistan’ for second place. Fourth place went to a Bollywood hit and fifth place to a song from a Tamil Tiger film ‘Mugungal.’ An Iraqi song by Kazem Al-Saher came in at #5.

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