I appeared recently on The Public Diplomat, a quickly growing website dedicated to “explain[ing] public diplomacy by providing a multi-media platform to ideas, research and events that catalyze the engaging of different cultures.” Edited by the talented Michael Ardaiolo and supported by Syracuse University’s Public Diplomacy Program, the site features articles, podcasts, and videos on myriad diplomacies: public, cultural, culinary, sports, science, digital, etc. etc. etc.
I spoke with Michael for a podcast on culinary diplomacy, which you can listen to here, and published an article on the upcoming World Expo in Milan. Here’s an excerpt from the piece.
Next year will bring Expo 2015, which is set to take place in Milan, Italy with the theme “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life.” It is an important and timely topic around which to center the Expo, in part due to the current social popularity of food—see for example the explosion of television, social media, and publications devoted to the topic—and more importantly, due to the heightened attention paid worldwide to issues of nutrition, agriculture, and food sovereignty. Countries and companies are going into high gear to prepare for the Expo, anticipating the opportunity to show off on a global stage. 142 nations and regions, representing 88% of humanity, plan to be there.
The theme and location make Expo 2015 a site ripe for culinary diplomacy. I’ve defined it as “the use of food and cuisine as an instrument to create cross-cultural understanding in the hopes of improving interactions and cooperation,” or more colloquially as “breaking bread to win hearts and minds.” Every nation and region with a pavilion is being given an extraordinary chance to showcase its unique contribution to the world’s cuisine, as well as its own approach to solving global hunger. From Switzerland’s towers of non-replenishing Swiss food products showing the effects of consumption on supply to China’s focus on “super rice,” each pavilion will reflect its nation’s culinary heritage while also focusing on the theme of “feeding the planet.”
The United States, for its part, has submitted a proposal for its pavilion, “American Food 2.0.” A partnership between the James Beard Foundation, The International Culinary Center, and the American Chamber of Commerce in Italy, the pavilion will be built on the pillars of diversity and responsibility. Its stated goal, according to a White House Press Release, is to “use state-of-the-art digital media and other novel approaches to showcase American leadership and innovation in global food security, agriculture, and cuisine and lay the seeds for enhanced trade and investment between the United States and Italy.” The pavilion itself will take the form of an iconic American farm building—a granary—and will lead visitors around the 50 states on a journey “from farm to table,” to discover “the rich cultural, scientific, and culinary tapestry” that makes America America. There will also be food trucks, central to the new American culinary landscape, traveling throughout Milan to increase the range of the pavilion.