Food Diplomacy & Wally’s Falafel
President Obama’s recent trip to the Middle East got me thinking about the intertwined relationship between food and international politics, in particular the role food plays in diplomacy. I am not the only one thinking about this, either. In 2012 the U.S. State Department launched an initiative called the Diplomatic Culinary Partnership, which was intended to “elevate the role of culinary engagement in America’s formal and public diplomacy efforts.” Essentially the program recruited “80 food professionals who may be deployed to travel abroad as ‘chef ambassadors,’ cook for visiting dignitaries, speak to groups, write articles, blog, tweet or find other ways to extol the virtues of American cooking and food products.” You are read more about the initiative here. Instead of delving deeper into the virtues of food diplomacy (I will save that for a later post), with the Middle East on my mind, I want to tell you why I love the falafels from Wally’s Falafel and Hummus (423 14th Ave, Minneapolis, 55414) in Dinkeytown and why you should too. Owned by Wally Shakallah and managed by Bader Jaber, both from Palestine, Wally’s Falafel and Hummus has an extensive menu from shawarmas to kabobs to tabouli. While Middle Eastern food is rife with these rich and savory meats, the food I crave most often is the protein and fiber rich falafel made from chickpeas and or fava beans. When I visited Wally’s on a late Monday afternoon the place was fairly empty—only four other customers. Luckily, in my opinion, this is when Wally’s really shines. In this emptiness, you can fully take in the sounds of Arabic music playing prominently, admire the stone arches that decorate the walls, and observe the coming and goings of passersby. So, why are Wally’s falafels top notch in my opinion? Simply, they have everything I look for in a falafel, slightly crunchy on the outside, smooth, green and herby on the inside. To top it off, when you order the deluxe sandwich you are graced with the flavors of fried cauliflower, eggplant, and fries, beyond the standard lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, tahini and hot sauce. A Google search for Wally’s Falafel and Hummus doesn’t immediately produce any big name reviews from Twin Cities bloggers. Despite the crunchy soft perfection of Wally’s falafels, this little piece of Palestine in the Twin Cities doesn’t get the recognition I think in deserves. Maybe it is politics, maybe it is location, maybe it is missed opportunities, either way, a visit to Wally’s Falafel and Hummus is a worthwhile adventure in food diplomacy.