Eating Our Way to World Peace: Russian Buckwheat Pancakes (Blinis)


Photo by Kellie of Food to Glow. Visit her site for a trio of blini toppings and inspiring international flavors with a British twist.

Ahhhh, food. You are so many things: life giver, health sustainer, joy bringer…but peacemaker? Come on! But before you scoff, skeptical reader, consider for a moment how effective food can be in bringing peaceful resolutions to many of our everyday squabbles and skirmishes. Need to stop a baby from crying? Feed it! Need to halt a pack of vicious dogs? Throw ’em a bone! Seriously, just try to stay mad at someone after they’ve made you soup. But could the pacifying powers of food be brought to bear on relations between nations?

As it turns out, there are many who think they can. Guided by the belief that the best way to people’s hearts and minds is through their stomachs, thinkers such as Paul Rockower and Sam Chapple-Sokol are pioneering a new (and more delicious) brand of peacemaking—culinary diplomacy. The idea is pretty simple: the stronger the cultural relations that exist between nations, the less willing they will be to make war and the more willing they will be to make peace. And what better way to bring everyone to the table—figuratively and literally—than with some delicious food?

“consider for a moment how effective food can be in bringing peaceful resolutions”

But even though food is very often the easiest access point to the culture of another people, it should not be the sum of our knowledge or interest in that culture—especially when our respective governments are at odds. This is the motivation behind Pittsburgh’s Conflict Kitchen, a cafe that builds its menu around the cuisine of whichever country the U.S. happens to be in conflict with at the moment. The current cuisine is Afghani, but past menus have focused on the food of Iran, Venezuela, and North Korea. Once they have lured you in with tasty arepas or kebabs, they seek to provide a richer understanding of the culture and politics of the focus country than that typically provided by traditional media or political rhetoric. Their goal is not to be subversive or edgy. They simply understand that even if our countries are at war, it is imperative to acknowledge and respect the humanity of others. And what could be more humanizing than food?

Following their lead, I’ve chosen a recipe from Russia, the focus of our conflict du jour. Regardless of whether or not Russia’s recent actions are justifiable, it cannot be denied that there is much work to be done in the department of cross-cultural understanding between our two nations. So, let’s begin with pancakes! Just be sure to invite some friends—or better yet enemies—over to enjoy it.