Conflict Kitchen: Dialogue Through Food

This is a very interesting TED talk about “gastrodiplomacy,” cultural diplomacy through a country’s culinary delights. Among the several gastrodiplomacy examples she raised during the lecture, I’d like to focus here on “Conflict Kitchen.”

Conflict Kitchen is a takeout restaurant in Pittsburg, which only serves food from countries that the United Stated is in conflict with. Previously, they served food from Cuba, Afghanistan, Iran, and Venezuela, and now they are serving North Korean food.
What is appealing about this project is how they prepare and serve the food. They worked collaboratively with North Korean defectors to create the menu and to develop the recipes. And the food is served packaged in wrappers, which include interviews with North Korean people on the food, culture, and politics of their country. Each interview section includes multiple perspectives and sometime they contradict to each other; it also includes criticisms about their government. That is, the customers not only get a tasty meal from little-known countries but a chance to get a broader view about the country “outside of the polarizing rhetoric of governmental politics and the narrow lens of media headlines,” and to start discussion.

Both their planning process and the way the food is served involve interactive activities. Although they rotate the menus every few months in relation to current geopolitical events, the project itself seems to have no or very little governments’ involvement.
Distant from political control and interactive structure are the two characteristics described in Gienow-Hecht’s argument about successful cultural diplomacy.


4 thoughts on “Conflict Kitchen: Dialogue Through Food”

  1. Thank you for this post. I had heard the term “Conflict Kitchen” before, but I never knew what it was–much less the fact that it’s an actual restaurant!

    I am especially surprised of the location of Conflict Kitchen. I don’t want to make sweeping generalizations about Pittsburg, but it doesn’t strike me as as a place that would embark on this type of endeavor. However, I think that this is a good move for the city. Assuming that larger metropolitan cities such as NYC, Miami, DC, etc are more culturally diverse and internationally aware, the impact of a “conflict kitchen” may not be as large, although welcomed. In Pittsburg, they are able to create a dialogue around countries and issues that aren’t necessarily on the radar of citizens in surrounding communities.

    The thinkers and makers behind “Conflict Kitchen” are engaging in many different PD efforts –cultural diplomacy, gastrodiplomacy, etc. As a customer, not only are you going to enjoy a tasty meal, you are engaging in dialogue on very sensitive, yet relevant international topics. When I first read the descriptions of the “wrappers,” I didn’t like the fact that some of the interviews were contradictory. However, it further proves the fact that all Afghans are not the same or all Iranians don’t feel the same way about their government. The diversity of experiences and opinions is proof that although people are united by their nationalities, their views and opinions sometimes vary.

    I’ll have to make a visit next time I’m in that area.

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