“The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.”
There’s hardly any disputing this old maxim, and we should consider that the stomach is also an important route for connecting cultures.
When I was more or less a citizen of the world for five and a half years, I always made it a point to eat the same food the locals ate – with only a few exceptions. I had learned quickly that to refuse to eat what was offered at my host’s table was to offend him or her, because what we eat is a big part of who we are.
Periodic celebrations in my adult ESL classes always include proudly displayed, student-made dishes from a wide variety of cultures. We’re all proud of our culinary fare and heritage, whether as a nation, a region, an ethnicity or a family.
We can begin to learn about and appreciate other cultural groups partially through experiencing some of their food and drink – whether we are physically present with them or only enjoying food of another culture in a restaurant or at home. We can savor people as our palates taste their cultures.
In cities today we have a wide range of cuisine choices available – from Thai, Japanese, or Brazilian to French, Creole, and soul food. We ship crab cakes and king cakes from one side of the country to another. These gastronomical experiences can be doorways to discover more about the people who produce them. At the very least we can, without prejudice, open ourselves to trying foods that are different from ours.
Without question, food is a convener and unifier. So when I was listening to The Splendid Table on New Orleans public radio station WWNO, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that there is a growing international movement of Culinary Diplomacy, with food ambassadors using cuisine as an instrument to create cross-cultural understanding and cooperation. You can find the transcript and hear more about it at
Food can make us all kin in cahoots. Felafel anyone?