Culinary diplomacy counts as one of the more interesting trends that has emerged in food history of late. It basically encourages peoples and nations to work out their differences over a traditional Irish soda bread recipe. Or a plate of Korean tacos. Or whatever. Given the challenges the world faces, I can imagine a whole slew of conflict kitchens springing up to help the people of the world work out their differences.
Other Bread and Cake Recipes
- Divergent Cake: How to Connect with your Inner Tris in the Kitchen
- Sweet Pumpkin Bread Recipes (Includes Nutella Recipe)
- Braided Italian Easter Bread
As a lover of food and culture, I don’t doubt the power of food. A whole new industry of food tourism has emerged in part because of this important development.
I bring this fact up, because the act of breaking bread with someone has been, throughout the history of bread, a symbolic act of peace. Among other things. Of the five factions of Divergent, Amity relies on food to keep the peace, but in ways not quite imagined among those who would use food diplomacy or culinary tourism to create a more peaceful world.
For those who are not yet fans of Divergent by Veronica Roth, the Amity faction in some ways is like the biblical Garden of Eden story. Only in reverse. It isn’t only their brightly-colored Amity outfits that sets them apart it turns out. Instead of using food as a tool to cause sin, food, more specifically, the Amity bread recipe, becomes a tool to prevent sin and mayhem in that faction.
Divergent Book Quotes for Book Clubs and Foodies
Of the Insurgent quotes, I find this Divergent excerpt among some of the best for revealing the true nature of life in post-apocalyptic Chicago, where Roth’s book takes place.
“It is for the sake of peace that we remain uninvolved–” Johanna begins.
“Peace.” Tobias almost spits the word. “Yes, I’m sure it will be very peaceful when we are all either dead or cowering in submission under the threat of mind control or stuck in an endless simulation.”
Johanna’s face contorts, and I mimic her, to see what it feels like to have my face that way. It doesn’t feel very good. I’m not sure why she did it to begin with.
She says slowly, “The decision was not mine to make. If it was, perhaps we would be having a different conversation right now.”
“Are you saying you disagree with them?”
“I am saying,” she says, “that it isn’t my place to disagree with my faction publicly, but I might, in the privacy of my own heart.”
“Tris and I will be gone in two days,” says Tobias. “I hope your faction doesn’t change their decision to make this compound a safe house.”
“Our decisions are not easily unmade. What about Peter?”
“You’ll have to deal with him separately,” he says. “Because he won’t be coming with us.”
Tobias takes my hand, and his skin feels nice against mine, though it’s not smooth or soft. I smile apologetically at Johanna, and her expression remains unchanged.
“Four,” she says. “If you and your friends would like to remain…untouched by our serum, you may want to avoid the bread.”
Bread Symbolism in Literature and History
Bread history and food culture just took a less wholesome turn.
This brings me to my next point about the bread symbolism in Divergent or symbols in literature in general. Writers use symbols as kind of a metaphoric shorthand that tells you something about the characters or the themes of the book. According to eNotes.com,
in the New Testament, bread is associated with miracles, as when Jesus fed the multitudes with loaves and fishes. The symbolism here is that of God’s grace.
The bread or more specifically, the Divergent serum here is indeed a miracle worker. But this food in literature moment makes me wonder just how accurate the Divergent faction aptitude test is in light of the use of truth and happy serums. Where bread in the former case inspired peace, in the latter case, it forced it.
I mean, let’s face it. Even the best traditional Irish soda bread recipe won’t keep you from speaking your piece when you’re angry, unless A) your mouth is stuffed with said soda bread recipe or B) you’ve been drugged.
Indeed, Amity is a good choice to bring this issue to light. The development of bread came with the development of civilization and the cultivation of wheat. Once people could grow wheat, they could ground it up and make bread.
Food as cultural history was born, although it would be thousands of years before any scholars would come along and document this sort of thing as really important on the academic level.
But I digress.
The serum-infused bread does bring peace, but it’s a false sense of peace, not sustainable without the use of the drug, just as the factions in Divergent aren’t sustainable without a great deal of, eh hem, help.
Tips for Book Clubs and Discussion Groups
Now, it isn’t that bread has never been used as a weapon. After all, the Imperial Romans hucked small loaves of bread at the Gauls during an ancient conflict. The conclusion, whether erroneous or not, was that the Romans were so wealthy that they could afford to just throw away food. The Gauls left them alone. The Romans deemed bread important. Well, yeah…
But the weapon here is more subtle, and given the way the farming community is described in the book, one would be forgiven for thinking that Amity looks and sounds more like a commercial for one of the city’s many farm to table restaurants. (Chicago, of course, has some of the best farm to table dining in the country, but that’s another story.)
When discussing the cultural foods in the books, it might be helpful to remember how bread is often portrayed in literature and how Divergent plays with this.
Why I Chose a Buttermilk Soda Bread
Because I wanted to make this post something that was not only interesting (I hope), but also useful to foodies, book clubs, and educators, who might make a recipe together when they meet to discuss the book, I kept the history of Chicago’s different food cultures in mind as I selected the recipe.
According to Wikipedia, the city is one of America’s great immigrant cities, with early populations consisting of Italians, Irish, Germans, and Polish to name a few.
(And ironically, given that this is a study of food in literature and culture, I should mention that Chicago’s name means “wild garlic.”)
I wanted to stick with cultural foods like I did in the first installment of this look at food in Divergent. In my first post, I dealt with Dauntless cake. In this one, I highlight bread, but I wanted my recipe selection to reflect at least one of the historical populations of the city.
Therefore, I chose several Irish soda bread recipes, the one you see that’s included in the video at the top of the screen. And a spiked recipe for soda bread in case you really want to get into the spirit of this Divergent quote.
The Irish soda bread recipe with buttermilk in the video speaks a bit of the spiritual/ religious aspect of the bread, with the “X” on top, which is fitting given the themes of this post.
The list of ingredients for this traditional Irish soda bread recipe are below. Watch the video at the top of the screen to see how to bake the bread once you get the ingredients out.
Ingredients for a Traditional Irish Soda Bread With Butter Milk:
- 3 c. all-purpose flour
- 1 c. bran flour
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 2 1/2 tsp. coarse salt
- 4 TBSP unsalted butter
- 1 2/3 c. buttermilk
- A sprinkle of flour to dust the top
Tips for better classic Irish soda bread:
- For a real classic Irish soda bread use cake flour instead of all-purpose flour.
- Serve with honey butter for a sweet Irish soda bread recipe.
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