Culinary Diplomacy in Berlin
International Food and GastrodiplomacyNovember 14th, 2019
A visit to Berlin cannot be complete without sampling the city’s huge variety of international foods, we sat down with Kristin to sample some underappreciated cuisine and talk Gastrodiplomacy
I sat down with Kristin Heusinkveld-Gerlach , the founder of a group called “Gastro-Diplomacy Berlin”, where we sampled a variety of foods from Andorra, Greenland, Liberia, Tuvalu and a North Korean inspired Chai, and began to talk about how sampling a worldwide variety of food can act as a force for cultural exchange.
(A full ingredient list for the meal can be found at the end of the article)
What is your own perception of “Gastrodiplomacy" what does it mean, and how it can be a force for change/cultural exchange?
I first heard the word Gastrodiplomacy in the YouTube video here: https://youtu.be/CUaZ5IGL3AY. However, the concept of cultural exchange through food is ancient. One can learn much from the cuisine of a country, not only what ingredients are native but also the cultural symbolism behind certain flavours and combinations. It is a great conversation starter, because food is a neutral ground in the sense that everybody eats. There are even old tales that "love comes through the stomach," and if that's true I wish that my dinner guests would fall in love with the diversity of the world like I have!
What is your mission? How did your passion for world cuisine develop, and what are you doing to encourage even more local appreciation and understanding of culinary diplomacy?
My parents are US diplomats so I have been travelling the world from a young age, and formed and life goal early on to visit every country. As I grew older, I realise that visiting every country in the world would be very expensive, time consuming and stressful. So instead I decided to taste the cuisine of every country instead. I still plan to visit every country in the continent of Europe, Africa and Asia. The other continents I will have to taste by plate. The name of the group I formed on Meetup and Facebook is called Gastro-Diplomacy Berlin. I decided to share my goal of tasting every food from around the world with locals, because sharing success is tastier. Since Germany is the largest country in Europe and Berlin is arguably the centre of European politics, it is very important that our locals are familiarised with and welcoming to the rest of the world. In many ways, Berlin sets the tone for Europe's relationships around the globe and I want them to be deep, rich and positive.
Finally, what is the process you go through to find interesting, and perhaps less well-known recipes worldwide?
I spare no expense in fighting bias and propaganda, so my selections are generally randomised but I lean towards small, isolated, or low-profile countries which don't have a presence in the Berlin restaurant scene. On that note, Berlin is one of the best cities in the world regarding diversity of international cuisine. I did a full check, and it turns out that about 130 of the 200 recognised countries in the world are represented in Berlin gastronomy. That is truly amazing and something to be proud of! I downloaded a list of every country in the world and started planning my dinner menus. Every dinner event should offer one food from each continent if possible. Regarding recipes, I tried to choose dishes with interesting, exotic or memorable ingredients. For example, Brunei's national dish is an exquisitely unique starch goo called "Ambuyet." Or a Greenlandish dessert featuring exotic "Crowberries." Or a Norwegian national specialty "Lutfisk" involving rotten fish, that tastes surprisingly much better than it smells. I try to be authentic, I do not try to pander to the German or local palate, because I feel like somehow that would be disrespectful to the authenticity of the cuisine. Of course, every recipe may not be a crowd pleaser, so I offer a money-back guarantee if my guests simply cannot swallow!
Kristin is developing her concept alongside her business partner Melanie Gerlach, and is beginning to plan international food events in Berlin.
If you wish to cook up a tasty international meal from the comfort of your own home, below are some delicious recipes to start you off!
Tuvalu: creamy chicken and mushroom stew https://manaui.com/mothers-cooking-everyone-has-a-favourite-dish/
North Korea: pomegranate tea with pine nuts garnish https://www.maangchi.com/recipe/seoklyu-cha
Andorra: cabbage whipped potatoes with bacon crown
Greenland: Crowberry and coconut butter cake http://travelbystove.palfreymedia.com/greenland_recipes_chefs_dream_cake.asp?m=1
Liberia: shrimp and chicken tomato stew https://www.africanbites.com/liberian-chicken-gravy/ with check spinach rice pilaf https://www.africanbites.com/spinach-rice-check-rice/