Today’s Special: Gastrodiplomacy
Can food be really part of Diplomacy? Well, it appears that even though the terminology is relatively new, the concept dates back to roman times. Gastrodiplomacy is believed by some to be very important. As Palmerston once stated “Dining is the soul of diplomacy.”
Nowadays there many different examples of the effectiveness of gastrodiplomacy, the cases of South Korea, Taiwan and Turkey are to name just a few.
The case of South Korea and kimchi is indeed an interesting one. Kimchi is a Korean side dish made with fermented cabbage. However, in 2005 there was a trade dispute between Korea and China because of confusion as to which country the cabbage originated from. The dispute was resolved in 2012 when “South Korea successfully lobbied the UN Codex Alimentarius Commission to change the English name for “Chinese cabbage” to “kimchi cabbage””. This shows how food can influence international relations. Of course on the other hand, food can have a positive impact by bringing together people and enforcing warm and friendly relations. The example of South Korea highlights the fact that gastrodiplomacy is not limited to national boundaries.
Another fascinating example of gastrodiplomacy is that of Taiwan. According to ‘The Guardian’ newspaper:
“Taiwan’s consulate in London is hoping to make dishes such as “stinky tofu” and oyster omelette the stars of a diplomatic drive to differentiate the country from its giant and sometimes antagonistic neighbour, China, and to end the perception that Taiwan is little more than the mass-production workshop of the world.”
As seen Taiwan knows the importance of gastrodiplomacy and is eagerly investing in order to ensure its success.
Turkey is well known for its delicious Turkish delight; however, this country has much more to offer. One of the latest trends to promote Turkish cuisine is the ‘Turkayfe’ project in America. Turkayfe is famous with its Turkish coffee truck which aims to contribute to Turkey’s branding attempts. They even have their own website Turkayfe.org which is very educational and entertaining. It is indeed very interesting and fun way to promote Turkey.
However, lately the centre of attention is the new gastrodiplomacy course available in the American University in Washington DC. As a consequence there are new issues arising such as: Is it right to have gastrodiplomacy courses in universities? Is there any possible future for such field of studies? or Should gastrodiplomacy remain an addition to the actual diplomacy course?
Actually, the gastrodiplomacy course seems to be very interesting and educational. The students from the course look at the history of war and peace, pre-9/11 e.g. the wars in Afghanistan and Vietnam. Parallel with this they get to know the specificity of the cuisine of the corresponding country. This part of the educational process includes visits to restaurants where only traditional food is served. Furthermore, the students of gastro-diplomacy learn how national food can be used as means of communication and influence.
The world and everything in it is constantly changing, consequently new relations and new ways of thinking emerge, and therefore new disciplines such as gastrodiplomacy appear and become more and more important. In the Journal of International Service(2013), Mary Pham concludes that gastrodiplomacy as “the practice of exporting a country’s culinary heritage in an effort to raise national brand awareness, encourage economic investment and trade, and engage on a cultural and personal level with everyday diners, is a potentially lucrative communication tool for nations seeking to distinguish their cultural and culinary assets for future boosts in exports, tourism, and nation brand awareness.” Another person who emphasises on the significance of gastrodiplomacy is Leah Selim, the founder of Global Kitchen, who gave a brilliant TED talk related to this topic.
Gastrodiplomacy is innovative, important and limitless. It is essential to understand its significance and appreciate it.
S. Soffer,The Courtiers of Civilization – study of Diplomacy, State University of New York, 20013, P.87
 Mary Pham, Foods as communication, Journal of International Service (volume 22, November, 2013), p. 3
R. Booth, Taiwan launches ‘gastro-diplomacy’ drive, The Guardian, published Sunday 8 August 2010, accessed 22.04.15 http://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/aug/08/taiwan-launches-gasto-diplomacy-drive
 Mary Pham, Foods as communication, Journal of International Service (volume 22, November, 2013), p.ii