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2020 Online Commentary finalist

Fork the System

About the Project

Fork the System, a brand new Al Jazeera English series, is not your average food show. It’s about upending the way we think about food and culture, gathering people around a dinner table, and having a conversation about today’s most important issues.

Food is deeply personal. What we eat, how we eat, who we eat with — all are lessons in understanding who we are and the world we live in. Food and culture are topics relatively new to Al Jazeera English, and Fork the System was a new venture to expand into different digital spaces. Co-producers and co-presenters HyoJin Park and Joi Lee created the show as a way to engage new audiences in different ways, while still asking the hard-hitting questions crucial to the core Al Jazeera DNA.

In Fork the System episodes, around 17-24 minutes in length, we explore topics like conflict, politics and identity through the common language of food.

In our pilot season, we visit three Asian countries.

In the first episode, we look at the conflict in the Korean peninsula. After almost seven decades of division, a group of people who have shared roots have become total strangers to each other. We cook with three North Korean defectors who give us a taste of life up North, beyond the typical stories we hear about. Through sharing a meal, we ask whether food can be bridge that we use to explore our common roots.

In the Philippines, we go to Mindanao where the Muslim minority have historically been marginalized to look at how representation (or lack of) of culture has real consequences. We ask, what does it mean for your culture’s food to be excluded from the national conversation?

In Vietnam, we look at how modernization is rapidly transforming a socialist country, and the importance of women in preserving cultural traditions in the face of change. We sit down with four women who, whether in the streets, in their homes, or in restaurants, are keeping the flavours of Hanoi alive.

We believe that food has the power to unite. So as part of the vision of the show, we’re always inviting the participation of our audience to join us in the storytelling process. Across platforms, from Twitter to YouTube to Instagram and Facebook, we interact with our audiences, from asking what stories they’re interested in hearing, from showing them a live play-by-play behind-the-scenes of our shoots, from getting their input on different topics, to simply having conversations with them.