Johanna Mendelson Forman

Johanna Mendelson Forman

Adjunct Professor in International Affairs

https://www.conflictcuisine.com/about/johanna-mendelson-forman
Johanna Mendelson Forman is an Adjunct Professor at American University’s School of International Service and a Distinguished Fellow at the Stimson Center where she leads the Food Security Program Through her wide-ranging career in international affairs, Johanna Mendelson Forman has built a reputation for addressing longstanding issues with new perspectives and innovative ideas. Her frontline experience as a policy maker on conflict and stabilization efforts drove her interest in connecting the role of food in conflict, resulting in the creation of Conflict Cuisine®: An Introduction to War and Peace Around the Dinner Table, an interdisciplinary course she teaches at the School of International Service at American University in Washington, DC. In establishing this link between food and conflict, Johanna developed a new interdisciplinary platform examining why food is central to survival and resilience in conflict zones. Today her research focuses on the study of gastrodiplomacy and the emergence of social gastronomy, the use of food as a means of social impact and investment to communities at risk. She is one of the leading voices in the global Social Gastronomy Network, a movement that is helping a new generation of chefs and food activists address a wide range of issues including climate change, food waste, and ending global hunger. In 2017 she helped launch the Livelihoods In Food Entrepreneurship Project (LIFE), a consortium of organizations under the Center for Private and International Enterprise. This program, supported by the State Department, has supported Syrian refugees and Turks who are using food entrepreneurship as a tool for social integration. She recently co-edited a cookbook The Cuisines of Life: Recipes and Stories of the New Food Entrepreneurs in Turkey, published in December 2019. It features recipes by refugee food entrepreneurs and essays about the way food creates community. 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. Mendelson Forman is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She is also a member of Les Dames d ’Escoffier.

Johanna's collections

The Cuisine of Life. Ramadan Recipes, Johanna Mendelson Forman, Alaa Alarori

Ramadan is observed every year during the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. Taking place for approximately 30 days – depending on the sighting of the new moon – it marks the month that the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad in AD 610. Celebrated by millions of Muslims across the globe, Islam requires that all able-bodied Muslims mark this holy month by fasting from sunrise to sunset. The month also features prayers and acts of charity. The rituals vary from country to country. The LIFE Project in Turkey trained Turkish and Syrian women in food entrepreneurship. It also carried with it another benefit – a cross-cultural sharing of recipes from the Muslim world that often featured special dishes designated as ones used at the Iftar feasts, the traditional break-fasts at sundown. I was also able to learn more about the Suhoor, or pre-sunrise meal that fortifies a person throughout the day. In Istanbul, one of the cities where the food training took place, there is still a tradition dating from the Ottoman times of having drummers march through the streets to awaken sleepers so they can partake of the Suhoor. Drumming usually starts at 2:30am! My co-editor, Alaa Alarori," in Ramadan since we often prepare multiple dishes on Iftar, home cooks usually go through the entire menu, I mean they probably prepare every dish they know. So normally cooks tend to prepare stews and soups to compensate for the dehydration during the day, and dishes with high protein and vegetables to get the maximum nutrients out of those ingredients and some sweets after the meal to balance the blood sugar. Dishes with high carbs and less protein and fibers are usually not preferred to avoid weight gain. Also, since Ramadan is the season of eating together and big family gatherings dishes with lots of meat are served to show hospitality." So my dishes of choice would be, Shurbet Khudra w Dajaj, Vegetable soup with chicken 56, Makluobeh, an upside-down rice with eggplant and lamb 90, Fattoush, a bread salad 124, Shakriyeh, a lamb stew with yogurt 128, Tabbouleh, a fine grain bulghur salad 146, Shish Barak, dumplings cooked in yogurt sauce 152, Fakhdet Lahmeh, leg of lamb 156, Salatet Jarjeer, an arugula salad 158, Kunae Nabulsieh, a kunafe from Nablus 168, Mansaf, lamb cooked in yogurt 172, Safarjaliyeh, quince and lamb stew 214, Ris el Freekeeh, freekeh with rice and lamb 216, and Kibbeh el Ris, rice kibbeh 228. We are pleased to share with you some of our favorite dishes featured in the cookbook that are part of this larger volume that memorializes the food of women and men who have connected to their homes through the kitchen. Enjoy these dishes no matter whether or not you celebrate this holy month. They are delicious!

Johanna Mendelson Forman

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Features & Stories

What is gastrodiplomacy?

What is gastrodiplomacy?

Johanna Mendelson Forman is a Distinguished Fellow at the Stimson Center in Washington D.C., where she leads the food security program. In her guest post, she talks about the importance of food as ‘soft power’ and its usefulness as a diplomatic tool for drawing people and societies together.

Johanna's favorite cookbooks

The New York Times Cook Book

The New York Times Cook Book

By Craig Claiborne

This cookbook is one of two books I used when I was first married and in graduate school when I was learning to cook. Claiborne provided good instructions. The recipes had an international flair, yet were not too complex for a beginner.

The Elegant But Easy Cookbook

The Elegant But Easy Cookbook

By Lois Levine and Marion Burros

When I first moved to Washington, D.C. in 1971 a co-worker decided to help me improve my cooking skills. She bought me this great little paperback which remains an important go-to for specific recipes. The fruit torte is one of the easiest and tastiest cakes for all seasons. While other recipes may be dated, I remain devoted to this little book and keep it on my kitchen bookshelf.

Available on ckbk now
The Silver Palate Cookbook

The Silver Palate Cookbook

By Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins

How can anyone not like the Silver Palate Cookbook? I remember their retail store in New York City. Their famous Chicken Marbella recipe became the standard for those interested in the new flavors of modern American cuisine. Even Ottolenghi has adapted this recipe using dates and credits these two women for inventing a classic on American tables.

Jerusalem

Jerusalem

By Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

This beautiful cookbook contains some of the tastiest recipes reflecting the borderless nature of cuisine in the Middle East. Of all of Ottolenghi’s cookbooks, this volume has a depth of wisdom, a plethora of good and easy recipes, and a deep sense of place. It is my go-to for such dishes as chicken with clementines!

King Solomon’s Table

King Solomon’s Table

By Joan Nathan

A recent addition to my kitchen library, this cookbook is more than a series of recipes, but a global exploration of how diasporas spread their cuisines and adopt them to the new location. Recipes are clear, and some of the cakes and cookies, but especially the Ethiopian challah are worth the price of the book.

Available on ckbk now
The Georgian Feast

The Georgian Feast

By Darra Goldstein

Georgian food was once considered the only edible cuisine available during the dark days of the Soviet Union. Goldstein, a food scholar and former editor of Gastronomica, has written a cookbook about one of the most interesting cuisines that take you way beyond katchapuri that is often associated with Georgian cuisine. The anniversary edition updates the text and adds some new recipes.

Soup for Syria

Soup for Syria

This cookbook was created at the height of the Syrian conflict when thousands of people fled the country in one of the most devastating civil wars. The book contains an assortment of recipes from chefs around the world. Proceeds from the sale went to charities supporting the Syrian refugees.

My Mexico City Kitchen

My Mexico City Kitchen

By Gabriela Cámara

I first cut my teeth on the food south of the border as a high school student in Mexico City. Gabriela Camara, a successful chef and restauranteur, has created a very enjoyable and most important, an accessible book to the excellent foods of the city – nothing fancy, but just delicious. Her Mexican shrimp cocktail recipe is one of the best and easiest to prepare.

Bread is Gold

Bread is Gold

By Massimo Bottura

In 2015 during the Milan Food Expo, Boturra wanted a way to use the food waste from the Expo to help feed the homeless of that city. With the collaboration of a local Catholic parish, and with the blessing of the Pope, Boturra opened the first Refettorio. He invited some of the greatest chefs in the world to come and cook in the church’s refettorio kitchen to repurpose food waste and create what I consider to be the beginning of the social gastronomy movement. The book is a testament to how food has become a means of connecting and also a way to create social integration. Today there are Refettorio dining rooms in London, Paris and Rio de Janeiro with another planned for New York City.

Cuisines of the Axis of Evil and Other Irritating States

Cuisines of the Axis of Evil and Other Irritating States

By Chris Fair

The kitchen is the new venue of foreign policy, and this cookbook takes that to heart. In a very clever book of recipes that follow what was in 2003 called the Axis of Evil by the George Bush administration, Fair takes on the cuisines of countries that were named to be part of this cabal – from Cuba, to Iran, she also adds her own take on bad actors that have fascinating cuisines. A true “conflict cuisine” cookbook.