Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Conflict Kitchen: Update

NPR covers Conflict Kitchen:
Conflict is defined as anything from armed dispute to embargos. The creators chose Iran because they knew people there — and Iranians in Pittsburgh.

Weleski says opening the restaurant added a layer of cultural diversity to the city — it's the only Iranian restaurant around. At the same time though, the Kitchen crew didn't want to alienate Pittsburghers.

"We wanted to chose a food that was sort of an everyman's food, a food that you would find on the streets of Tehran," she says. "And everyone understands a sandwich. It's something you can take with you, there’s a little girl running by right now, skipping and eating her kubidah sandwich at the same time and a lot of people have said they feel like it's a Persian hamburger."

The entire experience is meant to spark conversation. The Conflict Kitchen's colorful exterior boasts Farsi words. The sandwich comes in a wrapper covered with information and perspectives from interviews with Iranians on everything from film to nuclear power to the green movement.


In a few months, the grant-funded restaurant will switch countries — and cuisines. In September, it will serve food from Afghanistan. After that, maybe Venezuela or North Korea.
Odds they found out about the restaurant from Marginal Revolution, who found it here?

Awesome idea for a grant; I'd like to know more about who's funding it. I'd also be curious to know whether familiarity with a country's cuisine has any effect on individual views about that country - there's an obvious selection bias problem. You'd either need time series data on individuals' views along with their eating habits, or change in average views by zip code and the number of different restaurants that have opened in the zip code in the interval.

I'd suggest that a good way of testing this would be to think of some country about which most folks here in New Zealand have fairly neutral views - say, Ethiopia. Run a question in our GSS about views of Ethiopia. Then, pay people, ideally new migrant chefs from Ethiopia, to open Ethiopean restaurants in a few randomly chosen neighbourhoods. For statistical reasons I won't get into here, one of those should be somewhere along the New Brighton Mall near the pier. Don't tell anybody the restaurants are subsidized or that would contaminate the experiment. Then, see whether there have been changes in views over time that correlate with being near one of the randomly opened restaurants. The Marsden Fund has funded goofier things.

HT for the NPR story: @TheNBR, who previously reckoned blogs were parasitic on mainstream media for their stories. At least we bloggers tip our hats....

1 comment:

  1. It seems to me that this is all about humanising a hitherto unknown culture/people. It is relatively easy to support a war against a bunch of dehumanised (excuse the language here) rag-heads, dune-coons or camel-jockeys. When the realisation comes that these are humans like ourselves, with their own langauge, food, etc. maybe, just maybe, some folk may balk a little at killing them, or at least question the motivation behind the war.

    And for I'm guessing similar "statistical" reasons I'd also support an eatery of this nature if one opened in Rolleston :)