Would people have a more empathetic understanding of the Middle East if
they ate more delicious honey, nut, and cinnamon flavored baclava
? Could kubideh
provide some enlightenment about Iran?
A group of artists who started the Conflict Kitchen
a restaurant in Pittsburgh, take that question seriously. "We're using
food as an entry point to help people explore cultures that aren't
talked about in the mainstream media," Jon Rubin, an assistant professor
of art at Carnegie Mellon University explains in a story in Salon
The Conflict Kitchen serves only food from countries Americans think of
as enemies. Rubin and colleagues aren't after controversy or a
political agenda. They think food can help us look beyond politics and
government policies to the human interests and values we share.
Salon story repots that the Conflict Kitchen recently held a meal
simultaneously in Pittsburgh and Tehran , with diners, joined by web
cams, eating the same food and conversing with each other by way of
microphones and speakers. Discussion that began with food, buying it and
growing it, veered into edgier issuessuch as dating, social customs
and job hunting.
Right next door to the Conflict Kitchen is the Waffle Shop
another project by Rubin and friends, that features home made waffles
and lets diners participate in a talk show broadcast over the Internet.
Digestive diplomacy can foster interesting questions and explorations
among people whose cultures differ starkly. Diners soothed by comfort
food included a young black man and an elderly Jewish woman who engaged
in a frank discussion about race.
An NPR interview by Robert Smith
expands on the idea. He chats with Chris Fair, author of the book Cuisines of the Axis of Evil: A Dinner Party Approach to International Relations
Fair is a foreign policy analyst and former political affairs officer
for the United Nations.She is also a self-described food nut, who
thinks food is one of the most interesting symbols of nationalism.
Smith calls it "a kind of Martha Stewart meets Henry Kissinger"
approach.Fair, who is serious about food and diplomacy, has made a
practice of sampling food and collecting recipes in every country she