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Eric Maddox breaks bread – and barriers – one virtual dinner at a time

Eric Maddox created the Virtual Dinner Guest Project to bring people from different cultures together over a meal through a video link.

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Eric Maddox, founder of the Virtual Dinner Guest Project, sits at a table at the Epazote Restaurant in Santa Fe, N.M. Mr. Maddox hosted a virtual dinner here with diners in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, in the fall via Skype. He and others have also held a dinner/breakfast meeting with a group in Karachi, Pakistan.

Kerry Sherck/Special to The Christian Science Monitor

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It's dinnertime in Santa Fe, N.M., and six people gather around a long black table, waiting to dig into a meal of grilled chicken and shredded squash. At the far end, from a large TV screen, the rest of the guests look on – from a living room in Karachi, Pakistan.

Over the next hour or so, between forkfuls of chicken and cholay, a chickpea dish popular in Pakistan, the two groups of dinner/breakfast guests (it's 8 a.m. in Pakistan) will discuss a range of topics, from last spring's drone missile attacks to the impact of the "Occupy Wall Street" movement to Imran Khan, a Pakistani cricket player-turned-politician.

This sharing of food and views across the globe is the inspiration of Eric Maddox, founder and director of the Virtual Dinner Guest Project, based in Santa Fe.

"Consume knowledge" is the project's slogan. "Talk with your mind full."

The idea behind the year-old project, Mr. Maddox says, is to bring together everyday people from different countries – most often, the United States and countries it is in conflict with – to share a meal in the hopes of breaking down cultural barriers and misconceptions.

"It's harder to ignore people, vilify people, or harm people that you've broken bread with," Maddox says over a shared bowl of brown rice and vegetables at the Flying Star Cafe in Santa Fe.

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