If there is a one statement that all my International friends in the US have agreed many times on, it is that US American food is not tasty. Some American friends would argue and say “But have you tried the Soul food*? It’s the best.” But my International ones will stick to their taste.

A fun fact about my first day in the US, is that my first dinner was at Chipotle in China town in other words, Mexican flavor in Asian-“named” neighborhood. My first reaction was “Where is the US American food” and I didn’t want to hear anyone showing me McDonalds.

My experience here was unexpectedly most of the time about food and around food. In fact, thanks to my very International fellow community I could eat food from Pakistan, Nicaragua, Chile, Mexico, Italy, Sudan, South Sudan, Tunisia, China, South Korea, India and Uganda. I had spent so much time with my friends here talking about ingredients; describing rituals of eating a certain meal, convincing my Pakistani roommate to not put too much chili in his Biryani and even witnessed my Italian friend hiding chili pepper from him, because we Mediterranean don’t put that much of it in our food, I was very supportive to her every time.

I personally don’t like cooking, I think only 1 or 2 people tasted my Moroccan food here, maybe because I am not confident to show my skills in this art or I am skeptical to misrepresent Moroccan cuisine that kept owning awards Internationally and that I realized isn’t that easy due to the cooking process sometimes complex, that I didn’t dare to experiment. I have never thought to even write about cooking or food.

At my host organization, Meridian International Center, food is definitely at the heart of the International exchange programs we run. Actually I will always recall my Economics course in high school talking about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and think how food evolved from being the first and most basic need after breathing to becoming an important element in Cultural and Public Diplomacy. In fact Culinary-diplomacy is experienced and present at each program at Meridian International Center

The basic principle of Culinary Diplomacy is that “the easiest way to win hearts and minds is through the stomach.” In fact, I had Afghan food many times that I feel like if the stereotypes about this country known of wars and terrorism have been dropped off. I feel that eating Afghan food helped me to be more open to learn about another side of Afghanistan. I had the chance to discover other cuisines from Vietnam to Ethiopia, countries honestly I would have never visited.

The US has succeeded thanks to the diversity of its population, to gather all kind of International cuisine …

Going back to US American food, I personally had a different experience and changed my perception a lot when I tasted some very good meals. At Labor day, I went to Annapolis, the capital of Maryland State and I ate a new dish: Chicken and Waffle. Trust, that’s the best.

Did I tell you anything about Donuts, Bagels and cinnamon Pretzel nuggets? … That’s another sweet story ☺

*Soul food: is a variety of cuisine popular in African-American culture. It is closely related to the cuisine of the Southern United States. The term may have originated in the mid-1960s, when soul was a common word used to describe African-American culture (for example, soul music). (Source: Wikipedia)


Safa Hajjaj

International Cuisine Amateur Fellow 🙂