Food Diplomacy

It’s been said that food is the way to a man’s heart. We’ve also heard that an army travels on its stomach. We know that food is important in any celebration or gathering. But can food lead to international peace and understanding?

Maybe. At least the U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, thinks it’s a good idea. This week, more than 80 of the nation’s top chefs are being drafted into the first-ever American Chef Corps.┬áThese food experts could help the State Department prepare meals for visiting dignitaries, travel to U.S. embassies abroad for educational programs with foreign audiences or host culinary experts from around the world in their U.S. kitchens. Later this month, the State Department will be leading a group of food experts and chefs from 25 other countries on a culinary tour of the U.S.

The new Diplomatic Culinary Partnership is part of Clinton’s “smart power” philosophy of using “every diplomatic tool at our disposal,” said U.S. Chief of Protocol Capricia Penavic Marshall, in a written response to questions from The Associated Press.

Clinton’s focus on the role of food in person-to-person diplomacy began when she was first lady and Marshall served as White House social secretary.

At a February luncheon for Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, Marshall called on Chinese-American chef Ming Tsai, who owns the Wellesley, Mass., restaurant Blue Ginger. He created a special menu fusing Chinese and American cultures that included an “eight treasured rice packet” with a variety of flavors and gingered Swiss chard.

To feed British Prime Minister David Cameron in March, diplomats chose Chef April Bloomfield, owner of New York’s Spotted Pig, who was born in Britain. The menu included slow-cooked Atlantic salmon, herbed lentils, roasted fennel, cauliflower and petite carrots.

“By showcasing the best of American cuisine and creativity, we can show our guests a bit about ourselves,” Marshall said. “Likewise, by incorporating elements of our visitor’s culture, we can demonstrate respect and a desire to connect and engage.”

Ah, the power of food. Maybe we can all eat our way to peace and prosperity around the world.