Friday, April 23, 2010

BBQ Diplomacy?

I can't decide if I'm further intrigued about this as a case of food diplomacy, or if Reuters just used the catchy title to hook us into what is ultimately a story about one guy's friendship with North Korean diplomats.

Restaurateur wages BBQ diplomacy with N. Korea

I also can't decide if this guy presents an interesting model for citizen diplomacy, or if he just had grandiose visions of being some kind of Cold War-esque spy.

Finally, and I'm only being slightly facetious here, was it the BBQ? And if so, are we talking Texas-style, Carolina mustard, Memphis dry rub, KC Masterpiece, or perhaps some kind of nouveau fashioning (my dad once made some delicious ribs with a blueberry based glaze...)? Or could he just as effectively waged peace with, I don't know... pancakes or pizza or tacos?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Global foodies unite!

Look, another one!

Great Dining Deals in Paris

I'm actually feeling okay about just posting this link without saying much about it because it pretty much captures most of my thoughts on food and the culture of fine dining in itself. I have yet to read any of David Lebovitz's books, but I visit his blog almost every day for the beautiful pictures, witty self-deprecations, and glimpse into the (sweet) life of an American transplant in Paris.

Coincidentally, I also ran across this interview with "celebrity" chef Thomas Keller, in which he asserts that diners across the country (like NYC vs. Napa valley) don't really differ from one another, "because when you're dealing at that high-end level, it's the same type of client. It's the person that appreciates the quality."

Thomas Keller on Running a Culinary Empire
(you may have to register to read the whole interview)

Which all, I think, speaks to a culture of fine dining and haute cuisine specifically, as well as a culture of foodie-ism more generally, that transcends geographical locations and even national cultures. Keller's empire doesn't yet extend outside the United States, and I'd be intrigued to see if his theory about high-end diners might change once it did. But even though national cultures might value food differently, I think he's onto something. Perhaps we can start thinking of foodies around the world as their own diaspora (can you have a diaspora without an originating homeland?), united in the imagined nation-state of deliciousness.

But only if our (imagined) national dish can be the strawberry ice cream with peanut brittle and brownie from Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc, the cookbook for which I, also coincidentally, just received as an early birthday gift yesterday.


*Full disclosure: Thomas Keller has yet to pay me to eat at Ad Hoc, but should he do so one day, I would accept in a heartbeat.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Know Thyself

When the idea of keeping a blog to track my own explorations of the ways in which food and culture and diplomacy intersect each other (with some identity, branding, and critical analysis thrown in) first germinated in my mind, I knew the biggest challenge was going to be myself. Specifically the part of me that can barely write a one-paragraph e-mail without rewriting each sentence 5+ times, without stopping after a few words to reread the whole thing to make sure the tone and flow are what I want it to be, without typing, then deleting, then retyping the same word several times before finally deciding that that is indeed the word I want to use. You know the idea of "dashing off" an e-mail or a blog post or even a quick text message? Yeah, doesn't happen with me.*

Add to that my desire to live up to the great writing, analysis, and wit of some of my favorite blogs, as well as the intense intimidation of knowing that at least a few of my colleagues who, with the same amount (if not more) of work and commitments and social lives, make this whole blogging thing look incredibly easy are, indeed, reading my blog, and perhaps you can sympathize with the psychological barriers that prevent me from actually, well... blogging.

That said, I also hate to fall into the "starts a blog, posts somewhat regularly for a few weeks, and then falls off the face of the earth" camp. So, here is my compromise: in an attempt to at least keep this blog train going at some sort of speed, I'm going to resign myself to only posting links from time to time, without the full-blown analysis that I would love to accompany said links. I'm still hoping, of course, that some analysis and original thoughts and ruminations can accompany these things from time to time, but if I spread some of these things and leave it up to you to come to your own conclusions (which I'm sure will be brilliant with or without my accompanying commentary), at least I don't have to sacrifice entirely the notion of blogging -- which I still aspire to embody in the full sense of the term at some point in the future.

With that, I would be incredibly remiss not to at least repost this recent blog by Paul Rockower on South Korea's missed opportunity in harnessing the power of the Kogi Taco Truck to further its gastrodiplomacy aims. (And thanks for following me now, Paul!). It would seem that something about LA is particularly conducive to these types of culinary fusions of cultures. The LA Times recently did a piece on the multitude of cultural appropriations of "pizza" on offer in the city of Angels, and while these specimens hardly come close to meeting DOC requirements**, my tastebuds aren't about to quibble with "authenticity". (For Paul's more timely assessment of these offerings, see here).

*Actually, it does happen sometimes, but it often involves me having to talk aloud as I write. Somehow saying things aloud curbs the revisionist in me...

**Link leads to my fave pizza place in DC, which offers both DOC and and non-DOC pizzas, both of which are crazy delicious.