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Hari Pulapaka, Ph.D., C.E.C. Headshot

From The Ivory Tower Kitchen: Local Food for Global Thought

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The first time I used the phrase "I am a citizen of the world" publicly, it was as a junior faculty member during a somewhat heated academic debate following the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States. I recall a former college dean ridiculing me for being naive, unpatriotic, and even nonsensical. At the time, I stood my ground because it all made sense to me. The phrase resonates even strongly with me today. Global citizenship in no way takes away from one's allegiance to state or country. To be a champion of all things local has as much to do with an awareness of how the global marketplace works as it has to do with celebrating and supporting local and regional enterprises to the fullest extent possible. As an example, much of this country's seafood is imported. For the puritan locavore, this is an unthinkable proposition and perhaps rightfully so. However, perhaps what's more crucial is that we respect and protect the planet's resources just as we would within our own backyard. In other words, being globally thoughtful naturally translates to a stronger sense of community. Of course, we are more engaged within the neighborhoods we call home. But, when that engagement is insulated from consideration of a larger landscape, we lose the potential for significant impact of our day-to-day existence. Today, information travels across the globe in such a way that local action invariably influences global thought and vice-versa.

Nowadays, many restaurant menus exhibit influences from all over the world. So, when chefs support local farmers by purchasing their ingredients or host farm dinners (as we do at Cress), they are also connecting them to other parts of the world through the universal language of food. And the chefs who are most successful at this are dare I say "citizens of the world." And frankly, there is no country in the world that is doing a better job of this than the United States. From its birth, it has been a nation of immigrants who have learned to prepare the available (often local) bounty using techniques and flavors of "home." We are at the crossroads of a major culinary revolution in this country. It is no longer just about supporting local enterprises for the sake of community. But, additionally, we are potentially shaping the world, one neighborhood at a time. So, just as one might be proud of being a citizen of one's country, it is equally important that we embrace our global citizenship. The food just tastes better if we do.

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