On a busy street in downtown Pittsburgh, nestled between classic architecture is a colourful storefront, usually with signage in Persian or a similar unfamiliar language. You're at the Conflict Kitchen, a restaurant that only serves food from countries that are in conflict with the United States, rotating the countries once every few months. The Conflict Kitchen started in 2010 as a project by Joh Rubin and Dawn Weleski, with a Persian storefront and a one-item Iranian menu. Within just a few weeks, thanks to the local press, it became the go-to place for discussions on Iranian culture and politics. The objective of the restaurant is to start off discussions on the culture of the countries that many people see in only a one-dimensional way. To ease in the discussion, each food wrapper contains text on the cultural background of the country where it came from.
And though it smells suspiciously like a conceptual-but-hardly effective art project, the creators insists that it is the opposite. According to them "We are very popular with the local Iranian community, as there are no Persian restaurants in the city, and many of the local Iranians are sympathetic to the way the project introduces locals to a more nuanced view of Iranian culture and daily life. Conversations have taken place between Iranians living in Pittsburgh and Pittsburghers who have never left the city, as well as everyone in between."
Along with the conversations, came recommendations for which other countries it could feature. Soon, the storefront and menu changed to Afghan food, followed by its current avatar as a Venezuelan Kitchen. With the USA's history in these matters, it seems likely that there are a lot more countries waiting in the wings. Apparently, it is likely that the next country on the list could be North Korea - though what they will serve is baffling me. Empty plates, perhaps?