Food Tank spoke with Dr. Johanna Mendelson Forman, Creator of Conflict Cuisine, which is one of the sponsors of this year’s Food Tank Summit in Washington, D.C.
Johanna Mendelson Forman is an Adjunct Professor at American University’s School of International Service where she teaches Conflict Cuisine®: An Introduction to War and Peace around the Dinner Table. Connecting war and food is something that came from her recognition that in Washington you could tell where there were wars by the number of new ethnic restaurants that opened here. This inspired her recent work on conflict cuisines as tool for teaching how food is a form of Smart Power but also a driver of conflict. It has linked two subjects, food and conflict, in a new interdisciplinary way that makes it easier to understand why in zones of conflict food becomes central to both survival and resilience. Her course has been cited two years in a row as an example of innovation in college offerings. An expert on post-conflict transition and democratization issues, she has regional expertise in the Americas, with a special focus on the Caribbean, Central America, and Brazil. She also has had extensive field experience in the U.S. government, the United Nations, and the World Bank on transition initiatives in Haiti, Iraq, and Sub-Saharan Africa. She is a Senior Advisor with the Managing Across Boundaries Program at the Stimson Center where she works on security and development issues with a focus on food. She has appeared frequently in the media on National Public Radio, CNN, and Univision. Her writing about food and conflict, and topics related to Latin America appear in many journals including the Americas Quarterly and World Politics Review, and has been cited in NPR’s The Salt, LeFigaro, Salon, and Italia Oggi, and This Week. . She has lectured on food related topics at the Smithsonian Resident Associates Program, the Johns Hopkins University Bologna Campus, New York University’s Washington Program, and at the United States Pavilion at the 2015 Food Expo in Milan, Italy. She also writes a column on conflict cuisines for the DCist, a local Washington blog post. Mendelson Forman is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She holds a J.D. from Washington College of Law at American University, a Ph.D. in Latin American history from Washington University, St. Louis, and a Master’s of International Affairs with a certificate of Latin America studies from Columbia University in New York. She is a passionate collector of Latin America folk art, and shares her passion for food of the Americas with friends and family. Her husband, David Forman, is an attorney, and is the mother of the lead guitarist in the punk rock group, Priests.