Salon 27 Gastrodiplomacy

In 1970, in the midst of the Cold War, American statesman and diplomat Henry Kissinger famously remarked that “[when you] control food, you control the people.“ Even though Kissinger was referring to the management of global food supplies, his statement holds true also in the case of person-to-person interactions. Sharing a meal can help people transcend boundaries in a way that nothing else can. At the same time, as an important marker of cultural identity, food can become a driver of conflicts, too. In this salon, we embarked on a culinary journey into the politics of food. Our goal was to get closer to understanding how what we put in our plates functions as a tool of soft power.

Some of the questions we strived to answer: What is the nexus between food and politics? Is the kitchen the new political forum? How does our culinary past reflect our values, culture and set of beliefs? In which ways does world politics infiltrate into the jigsaw of restaurants that inform the culinary landscape of our cities? Is it useful to look at food through the lens of cultural diplomacy? What are the implications of having countries ‘represented’ by their culinary traditions? What are the limits of gastrodiplomacy programs? And how to quantify their success? When does food function as a conduit for lasting changes, building peace and cultural awareness? When, instead, does it become a terrain of conflict and confrontation? Where shall we draw the line between the protection of a country’s culinary heritage and gastro-nationalism? And when spreading culinary traditions become gastro-propaganda? Which state and non-state actors are emerging as champions of this type of diplomacy? And how can we, as citizens, contribute to make gastrodiplomacy an effective tool of conflict resolution?

This salon took place on September 11th, 2018 and was dedicated to Anthony Bourdain.


Video Contributors

Reading Resources

Johnson, Geoff, The great nutrient collapse, Politico (09.13.2017)

Latson, Jennifer, The Kitchen Debate: When Khrushchev Said No to Pepsi but Yes to Peace, Time (07.24.2015)