Eating at a Meeting Podcast Episode 34

Johanna Mendelson Forman Woman in a turquoise sweat set. gastrodiplomacy

Food has become a central utensil in diplomatic toolkits across the world. Culinary diplomacy — or gastrodiplomacy — is today in the academic world what we call soft power — a tool of persuasion. Countries are branding their cuisines or their unique foods as a way to track business and tourism.

Johanna Mendelson Forman is a leading voice in the field of gastrodiplomacy and a leader in the Social Gastronomy Movement. She brings to the table years of experience as a policy maker on global conflicts and as an expert on making the connection between food and wars.

What do safe, inclusive & sustainable food and beverage experiences look like to you?

The planet faces an existential crisis of climate change that threatens global food security and sustainability. Safe, inclusive and sustainable food experiences involve using what is local, and challenging those who prepare and consume are food to prevent waste. As one diplomat says, unless we make peace with nature we will not have food experiences by the end of this century.

What do you wish people knew about what you do?

Food is a great equalizer even when we live in times of so much division. Coming around the table, the ancient practice of commensality, is something I believe helps lead to a more inclusive society. I study the connection between food and war because even in the 21st century food is the cheapest weapon of war.

What is a best practice you use/or have seen to create safe and inclusive F&B experiences?

Using food as a means for creating social inclusive and integration is an important part of the evolution of the way we think about food. That is what social gastronomy is all about. Specifically, I have been impressed with programs that help teach refugees about ways to use food to create new lives, or programs where prisoners who are nearing the end of the terms learn to cook to prepare them for productive lives, such as The Clink program in the UK.


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