But until now, food hasn’t been taught alongside international relations in the classroom. That’s because of past resistance to bringing food into other academic fields, says Sam Chapple-Sokol, a culinary diplomacy scholar who helps Mendelson Forman teach her class.
“People think it’s trivial or frivolous, that food is just something that goes into our bodies to keep us alive,” he says, adding that while many international relations programs do focus on food security, none has really dug into the “cuisine” aspect of food.
But that thinking is changing, especially among the public. In a recent study in Public Diplomacy Magazine, more than half of the 140 people surveyed said that eating a country’s cuisine led them to think more positively about that country. And more than two-thirds felt that countries in a state of conflict could benefit from gastrodiplomacy programs.
As the saying goes, “The easiest way to win hearts and minds is through the stomach.” It certainly seems that the class has won over the students so far — all 19 spots filled up quickly, with dozens more students on the waiting list.
“Must have been the food,” Mendelson Forman jokes.
For citizen diplomats you can always try this approach, thanks to Travel By Stove’s Becki Robins, a mother of four from California who aims to cook a dish from not just every official UN member nation-state but also culinary regions and areas from Abkhazia to Zimbabwe.