We are grateful for the honor to provide a foreword for the Third Edition of the STREETS cook book. We had the privilege to learn about STREETS just before we arrived in Hanoi for Ted’s assignment as the sixth United States Ambassador to Vietnam (2014-2017). A STREETS champion and then board member, Jacqueline Lundquist, reached out to us before we left Washington, DC, and told us about the work of the enterprise to improve the lives of disadvantaged young people, an effort that is wholly consistent with our shared values. That the enterprise was an American-Vietnamese collaboration made STREETS all the more compelling to us, as bringing together the United States and Vietnam for the purpose of understanding each other better and pursuing shared interests for mutual and even wider benefit was and remains one of our key aspirations.
While our two governments reconciled 25 years ago, we believe that there are meaningful opportunities for the people of both countries to continue to reconcile. So we especially admire the work of founders Neal Bermas and Sondra Stewart in creating such an opportunity through STREETS. We were pleased to support CNN’s decision to honor Neal with the 2018 Hero award. We hoped it would bring positive recognition to the work of STREETS, and it seems that it did!
And what better way of bringing people and cultures together than through food! Then-President Barack Obama, during his historic visit to Vietnam in 2016, spoke about how the United States and Vietnam were connected hundreds of years ago through food. President Obama explained that over “200 years ago, when our Founding Father, Thomas Jefferson, sought rice for his farm, he looked to the rice of Vietnam, which he said had ‘the reputation of being whitest to the eye, best flavored to the taste, and most productive.’” Of course, during President Obama’s visit, he and the late Anthony Bourdain famously enjoyed Bún Chả in Hanoi’s Old Quarter.
Ted fell in love with Vietnam more than 20 years ago, when he first served at the U.S. diplomatic mission, both in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. As he continued to develop his Vietnamese language skills, he learned more and more about the country, its people and customs. He came to appreciate how important food is in Vietnamese culture. The great care in bringing together fresh ingredients and subtle spices makes every Vietnamese meal special, whether it is a quick bánh mì or phở, or a several-course meal. Ted delights that good food has such importance in Vietnamese tradition that a common wish is to "ngu ngon," or have a delicious sleep.
We have both enjoyed many wonderful meals over the years, throughout Vietnam, especially at STREETS, where we consider the experience to be dining virtuously - enjoying great meals while supporting the work of a meaningful program. Although we no longer live in Vietnam, we continue to enjoy returning to the country, for work and tourism. On our most recent visit, we brought a group from Children of Vietnam, on whose board Clayton serves, and all enjoyed the Hoi An tasting menu. We are pleased to have the recipes in this cook book so that our children and their dads can continue to enjoy the dishes of STREETS at home.
And we continue to encourage our friends from all over the world who plan to visit Hoi An and Da Nang to have a meal at STREETS, where they can learn more about Vietnam and its culture while improving lives. They are never disappointed.
We continue to be inspired by the successes of STREETS, especially when we meet STREETS alumni working at many of Hoi An and Da Nang’s most stunning restaurants and resorts. Some of their moving stories are chronicled in this beautiful cook book.
And now you get to join in contributing to STREETS’ success in improving lives and bringing together cultures, by purchasing this book, eating at STREETS, and using its recipes.
Wishing you a delicious experience,
Clayton Bond and Ted Osius
Singapore, January 2020