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.