Sharing an affinity for a certain type of regional food or dish can be a simple yet positive thing for different people and countries--gastrodiplomacy has been utilized by many states to share their cuisines with the world, giving contemporary as well as historical context to local diets, economies, and traditions. But beyond the delicious, I often wonder about what tangible developments can occur after everyone clears their plates and leaves the table.
Currently, India and Bangladesh share a problem in the dwindling population of the hilsa, a traditional special occasion delicacy that has been severely overfished in the Bay of Bengal. Since both countries have high stakes--both culturally as well as economically-- in reviving the hilsa population, their citizens' tastebuds have actually incentivized more progressive environmental policies that may eventually pave the way towards optimal approaches in dealing with climate change.
Alarmed scientists have been warning the public about the hilsa issue recently, prompting stricter regulations in the two states regarding juvenile and brood fishing as well as more strategic dam construction that won't interfere with the hilsas' migration patterns (they go from seawater to freshwater to breed, similar to salmon). Besides the logical fishing and construction restrictions, hilsa sanctuaries are also cropping up in the region as well, paving the way for more research on not only the locale's fish but also the bill of health in the surrounding waters.
While the hilsa population issue is a daunting one, the context is a perfect example of how managing mutual culinary predilections can pave the way towards appreciable consequences of a larger scale. Sharing a love for food (or music, art, sports, etc.) is wonderful in that it can instantly bond people, but sometimes a convenient "common enemy" can also be just as compelling--and perhaps even address real world problems that often lie unnoticed under the aromas and sheen of fun cultural exchange.