Foodies, Culture, and Gastrodiplomacy

Foodie culture is now part of foreign policy — It's Gastrodiplomacy” — Quartz, 2019, 7:53

Gastrodiplomacy is essentially diplomacy through cultural cuisine. Every nation and culture has unique dishes, ingredients, and styles of cooking/eating, so why not use these as a means to promote one’s identity abroad? This video elaborates on this practice with a focus on Thai restaurateurs and Somali refugees. We learn how the Thai government sponsors authentic restaurants in foreign countries and how this has helped raise the profile of Thailand. We also learn how food can be a gateway to acceptance by reducing social distance experienced by immigrants and refugees. A program in Pennsylvania encourages citizens to dine at the homes of Somali refugees so the two groups can develop social bonds over dinner. Each of these examples are connected to the growth of foodie culture.

How else might food or foodways be used as tools for politics or social justice? If the United States were to formally engage in gastrodiplomacy, which foods do you think should be promoted overseas?

From the video’s description: Thai restaurants are abundant and popular in many parts of the world. This has a lot to do with the Thai government actively promoting Thai food overseas for more than a decade. The strategy has been so successful that it inspired a new trend in foreign policy: gastrodiplomacy. And food isn’t just a diplomatic tool for governments. There’s a new kind of gastrodiplomacy on the rise, one that’s led by people who have left their governments behind. Quartz News went to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the refugee capital of America, to visit a 25-year-old gastrodiplomat who fled war in Somalia, rebuilt his life, and connects neighbors through his mouthwatering Somali samosas.