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!