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Food Diplomacy: An Introduction

March is Nutrition month and along with healthy, flavorful foods being front and center this month, I am also introducing food diplomacy as a goal of my blog.  This idea spun off of the visit to my son’s school and also my experiences in cooking Moroccan food for friends and family.  It never fails that we end up talking about other issues beyond the food we’re eating.  The LA Times had started an editorial series in 2008 (although it seems it never made it off the ground) focusing on this very same question.  They write, “The Times’ editorial series on food diplomacy explores the possibility that the United States could improve its global image and enhance national security by launching “a high-profile food diplomacy initiative planned, funded and executed for the purpose of improving national security through humanitarian means.”

I truly believe that much of the misunderstanding that exists between peoples and cultures at both the macro and micro level can be dealt with through a shared meal.  I share my Midwestern hotdish and we end up discussing life, what do people do, why do they eat these kinds of food, what kind of history did this grow out of, and then what are our shared experiences.  Or as I share a Moroccan tajine or couscous with a friend we end up talking about why we eat with our right hand, how religion enters daily life, what are the food rituals that make Moroccan cuisine and culture unique.  Can you see how this is helpful?  Not only do you get to eat an arguably great meal but you share conversations that probably wouldn’t come up.

Today more than ever this approach is needed in our communities and in our world.  I just read this story today, about an Israeli food event in Spain canceled amid a terror threat and it made me more resolve in my push for more diplomacy through food.  I googled the term to see what was already going on and found out about this super secret food club that encourages the understanding of Indian Jain culture.  Also that the Korean first lady has made food diplomacy one of her pet projects this year.

There are a million different ways to make food diplomacy a part of our lives and I want to challenge all of my readers to do this. Even sharing a food from your childhood with a friend from a different part of the country (or world) is all a part of food diplomacy.  I am working on a really awesome new project with Laura from The Spiced Life called World Kitchen.  I will be sharing more details as we hash them out – but I think you all are going to be really excited!

So what are your thoughts and ideas or stories and successes?  I’d love to hear what you think about this idea and how others can implement these ideas in their lives.  Plan to see future posts focusing on this topic and giving ideas for you to get involved!

Comments

  1. Holly S. Warah says:

    Amanda ~
    I love the concept of Food Diplomacy as the goal of your blog. Also, the project World Kitchen sounds like an exciting one. I’m looking forward to following your ideas here.

    I just attended the Festival of literature in Dubai & I had the great opportunity to see cooking demos by Madhur Jaffrey & Susan Husseini. They are both Food Ambassadors, so passionate about the food they teach. I was truly inspired.

    Have you seen the film Gran Torino? It’s a Clint Eastwood film that beautifully illustrates this concept of food diplomacy between cultures. (The film has many themes, but food is one of them.)

    Best of luck with your project!
    Holly @Dubai_Words

    • Anonymous says:

      Thank you for the feedback Holly! I am very excited about the world kitchen and hope you’ll be able to join us although I know the time difference is significant! The festival of literature sounds heavenly! Books AND food what could be better!?? I have not seen that film but now I am going to go see if I can get it on Netflix!

  2. Angeliqua says:

    This is an awesome concept. When I was in kindergarten my teacher made us baklava and that was my first taste of “foreign” food. I was in love with anything I could get my hands on from other cultures from that day forward. This lead to a love a people, foods, places and geography. Who would have known one food could hold such a power. I also loved your post about sharing tagine and the potato with your son’s class. It is amazing at how something so basic can seem so bizarre to kids. I look forward to more ideas in this department.

    • Anonymous says:

      Thank you so much for sharing your story and stopping by! I was truly amazed at the power of food after that little classroom visit and it lead to a lot of reflection on my part. I’ve been able to share a lot of the food of my childhood with my in-laws and it has lead to them understanding me and my family better (I think!) and vice versa. I think it’s a nice simple way to start sharing with each other and seeing our commonalities instead of always the differences.

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