JAKARTA, Indonesia — President Barack Obama's popularity may be taking a beating at home, but in Indonesia he'll always be a rock star – thanks to his love for the country's traditional spicy meatball soup.
His long-awaited return was the talk of the town Wednesday with taxi drivers and officer workers marveling that the boy fondly remembered here as "Barry" rose to become the leader of the most powerful country on the planet.
But most are less interested in his efforts to bridge divides between the West and the Islamic world than in his impeccable accent when he tosses out Indonesian phrases and recollections about the food he loved when he lived here as a child.
Especially the soup sold by street-side vendors called "bakso."
That was reflected on the front pages of newspapers.
The most widely read Kompas Tempo screamed out: "Obama's bakso diplomacy!" Others headlined with remarks at state dinner made in Indonesian, and with a huge smile: "Bakso, nasi goreng ... semuanya enak!" or "Meatball soup, fried rice ... it's all delicious!"
That cracked up Herry Putranto and his friends, flipping through papers as they shared breakfast at a street stall
"He even mentioned 'emping' and 'krupuk'!" the 31-year-old said, referring to a popular traditional cracker. "Only native Indonesians know that!"
His friend, 29-year-old Irvan Kurniawan, agreed, saying "this is much more interesting than anything he can say about politics ... that's just complicated and boring."