Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Street Food Diplomacy in Pittsburgh

I recently added a new item to my admittedly very short list of things to do or see the next time I'm in Pittsburgh (most of the rest of the list can be found here. That addition? Visit the Conflict Kitchen

Photo courtesy of www.conflictkitchen.org

The idea behind the restaurant is simply amazing and amazingly simple: serve food from countries that the United States is in conflict with to help build bridges of understanding. Every six months, the owners select a new country that is on less-than-friendly terms with the United States and develops a menu from that country. Past national cuisines include Iranian, Venezuelan, Cuban (pictured above), and Afghan. North Korean cuisine is in the development stages. 

I think this is a brilliant idea, but my favorite part is that most of the menu is based on traditional street food. Regular readers of my blog know that I believe street food to be a great way of sharing one's culture and learning about another one. Learning what locals put into their stomachs can be a gateway to learning what they put in their hearts and minds. There is no food more local than street food. 

In addition to the menu options, Conflict Kitchen also arranges speakers, Skype conversations with locals in the countries they are focused on, and performances.

I'm a believer in citizen diplomacy--the idea that a normal citizen is the best ambassador that a country can offer--and its corollary, street food diplomacy. Dialogue is the key to lasting international peace, and I'm glad to have learned about the steps the Conflict Kitchen is taking to promote that sort of dialogue about difficult issues. 

For further reading, you might look at this recent article from the Los Angeles Times. If any readers of this blog have been to Conflict Kitchen, please feel free to comment below--I'd love to hear your impressions! In the meantime, I'll look forward to trying it myself soon.


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