Wednesday, February 10, 2010

carelessly exoticize and "other" food

This is a guest post by Johanna, who blogs at Vegans of Color: "This blog was started (by me, Johanna, with the encouragement of some friends) to give a voice to vegans of color. Many vegan spaces seem to be assumed (consciously or not) to be white by default, with the dialogue within often coming from a place of white privilege. We’re not single-issue here. All oppressions are connected."

Vegan Cookbooks: Helping Folks Eat the Other

I’ve written before about exotification in discussions around vegan food, but it’s something I’m always thinking about & that has come up a lot lately. This year I’ve set myself a goal to cook at least one recipe from the many cookbooks I own. Hence I’ve been scouring them more than usual.

Has anyone else noticed that a staple of many a vegan cookbook is a recipe for African Peanut Stew or African Yam Stew or something similar? I’ve also seen (though less frequently) recipes for, say, Asian-Style Tofu or whatever. I cannot recall ever seeing a cookbook featuring anything like European Bean Soup. Is it because to most vegan cookbook authors/food bloggers, it would be preposterous to assume that there is anything universal or overarching about the many countries that make up Europe, or their cuisines? And yet we don’t often see the same distinction granted to countries in Africa.

"African" stew? Is the recipe from Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa? Is that tofu done Chinese-style, Japanese, Filipino? Never mind the many variations even within those categories (just to preclude comments along the lines of “But hey, lots of countries in Africa do that kind of stew / lots of Asian countries use tofu!”).

Another thing I’ve seen not infrequently in vegan cookbooks & food blogs is the following construction:

“[Non-English ingredient or recipe name] must be [non-English language] for ‘delicious’!”

I also spotted this recently at Food Fight, who guess that "Mahalo is Hawaiian for ‘fake Almond Joy."

Oh, how cutesy. How patronizing. We don’t know what those funny foreign languages mean but we sure do love their grub!

The obsession with authenticity is another thing. This, like all the food othering in this post, is not limited to vegans, of course. My white boss (a one-time vegetarian turned omnivore due to happy meat, I might add) once praised my lunchtime curry because it “smelled really authentic.” She then went on to bemoan how she couldn’t manage to cook Indian food “authentically.” I squirmed, & said something about how surely what mattered most was whether she liked what she cooked. This only served to encourage her to rattle on about how important it was to get food “authentic.”

Anyway, there are countless examples of vegan recipes that stress their authentic nature. One I stumbled upon recently was in The Urban Vegan, in a recipe for “Blue Mosque Ayran,” which apparently is a drink you can find “at any cafe or from any street vendor in Istanbul.” I’ve never been to Istanbul, so perhaps I’m missing something in how this drink would be connected specifically to mosques (whose architecture are often held up as images of the exotic & dangerously foreign, I note), much less how the recipe in the cookbook is “so refreshingly good that the imam would definitely approve.” I dunno — has anyone ever seen an Italian recipe touted as being so delicious that the priest would approve?

I did some Googling & found that a common Turkish recipe is Imam Bayildi — which apparently means “The imam fainted” (when he tasted the recipe). I didn’t really see any other references to the imam having a lock on what is authentic Turkish food or not, but if someone knows differently, please let me know. I wonder if the Urban Vegan knew of this particular recipe & made a deliberate reference to it, or if it was just an example of throwing in something seen as “exotic.”

On the same page of that cookbook, by the way, is a recipe for “Political Biscotti.” The recipe notes that cafe culture frequently features both biscotti and political discussion. The biscotti are political because they contain both carob & chocolate, two flavors about which “people tend to be very ‘either/or’”:

They are always considered separately, as two distinctive flavors that were never meant to come together, sort of like Palestine and Israel. … The dates [in the recipe] act as a sort of sticky-sweet peacemaker, a culinary UN if you will.

Yeah. She went there. The bloody oppression of Palestinians reduced to a clever comment about biscotti.


  1. OH YES! OH. My. GOODNESS. YES! I am Jamaican and have been living in the US approximately 16 years now. And I can not tell you how many times Jamaican food has been exoticized in front of me (and by default they exoticize myself) and the level of energy and care individuals have put in to TRYING to appropriate the food. If ONE MORE white American ohs and ahs about Jerk to me, I might have to flip. What hurt the most was when some white individual tried to feed me their crazy take on it. I nearly had a fit. Thing was foul. And this individual felt the right to be indignant! when I told her that it was not good. Apparently,she had served it at a dinner party and people who had been to the island thought that it was quite authentic. Authentic my ass! Have mercy! How dare a citizen of Jamaica tell her otherwise! I must be wrong! I must not know what I'm talking about! But of course its only certain foods they want to "take." They twist up them face when they hear about mannish water, chicken foot soup, or ackee and salt fish. THEN we are overstepping the bounds of culinary decency. Whatever that is.

    Please excuse my bitter ramblings. :-/

  2. @KAT: That's so FUCKING annoying when someone tells me that they "know" authentic Viet food better than I do. I completely feel you here.

    Also, second your view about "acceptable" foods.

    Acceptable: Egg rolls, spring rolls, pho anything that looks like food they have sort of seen before

    NOT acceptable: dishes we eat on a regular basis, like red beet soups or caramelized fish and young bamboo shoots

    Some white people will make judgments about foods from different countries just based on appearance alone. Their noses crinkle up or they even go so far as to say "EW!" or "gross!" at a dish which doesn't conform to their notions of edibility.

    Fuckin' drives me nuts. Food is an integral part of my culture, of any culture. If you're insulting my food, you're insulting my culture and ME. What if I came to your house and when you bought out a messy dish of Mac and Cheese I wrinkled my nose? Beyond rude. But it's okay to do to me, cause my food's so "exotic" and it's expected that people will recoil.

  3. I'm glad to see this post. I'm a WW and vegan and have found a frightening lack of diversity in vegan publications available. The only vegan book I've managed to find from a non-white author is Vegan Freak by Bob and Jenna Torres, and while the text is hip and funny in dealing with contemporary arguments about an "abolitionist" approach to eating animal products (which has some racial tensions of its own), I didn't find race and food choices being treated in any meaningful way. I do need to look harder for vegan texts written by non-white folks, but they're definitely not on the publicized front of the movement.

    This generally paints the vegan movement as being something only white people can afford/choose to do, when that's untrue. Vegan is not just something white people do, but in the vegan world, it always appears that way.

    I'm not sure if this deters from the original tack of the post (so feel free to delete/adjust me as needed) but I've seen more than one vegan publication talk about defending the rights of non-human animals in tandem with ending slavery. Instead of weaving a complex narrative of how oppression is interrelated, you get more of a "we don't enslave black people, so why should we enslave animals" kind of argument, which only communicates co-optation and exoticization to me.

  4. I lived in Turkey for six years and can vouch that ayran is a standard drink there (along with strong black tea, Turkish coffee, and all the usual soft drinks and juices you might find anywhere these days), though I know of no affiliation with imams or the Blue Mosque (which just happens to be a well-known mosque in the touristy part of Istanbul). Ayran is basically a yogurt drink, thinned with a bit of water then frothed and served with a pinch of salt. It's is very refreshing in summer and keeps your intestinal flora in fabulous shape. It's kind of in the same family as a lassi.

    As for the rest of the article, yes, everything you wrote. Yay! Well said.

  5. I just reread the bit about the ayran and how it was from the Urban Vegan cookbook-- how on earth could they produce a recipe that is both authentic and vegan at the same time? It's a yogurt drink!

  6. There's a great essay "Model Minorities Can Cook" in a book called East Main Street about Asian fusion food. The main points were that Asian chefs who were marketed as making Asian fusion usually had culinary school backgrounds in Euro cooking and a more casual/learned it at home background for the Asian cooking - as though you can pick up Asian expert culinary skills in an offhand manner. A person from any Asian country could be marketed as cooking from her heritage when cooking a dish from any other Asian country - Asia as a monolith. Asian fusion food is primarily Euro food with an Asian accent - which corresponds to the model minority myth of Asian assimilation. Asian food fused with the food of another minority group like Chinese Puerto Rican food is seen as low class and sold in cheap places. Only Asian food fused with Euro food is gourmet.

    My family is POC and a white friend of the older generation of my family would often eat a food traditional to us that other white people find as gross at a time when most whites weren't friends with POCs. Both the family and the friend were proud that the friend liked this food and linked that to his solidarity with our culture and his political beliefs as well as his connection to our family and the distance between him - an ally- and white people who weren't allies.

  7. As a WM, I can definitely say that I have been party to the argument of "authenticity". I feel like the whole "foreign food" fascination feeds alot of racist compulsions. Sorry for the bad pun.

    I think its pretty safe to say that people from any culture will like food from other cultures. Food is so universal, and its definitely an exciting prospect to try something you've never had before.

    I think though, that this can lead racist whites to feel as though they are more worldly and "in" with the culture of which the food originates. ESPECIALLY if said white diner goes to an "authentic" source.

    Imagine, you walk into the restaurant, and its got an exotic and foreign atmosphere, matching your preconceived notion of what "insert culture/cuisine here" restaurant should look like. A quiet, respectful waiter or subservient waitress seats you and takes your order, serving drinks, surprise baskets of pre-meal food, politely smiling and laughing at your jokes about the ridiculous foreign words staring up at you from the menu, which you, as a white person, clearly can't be expected to correctly pronounce. Within a mere 30 minutes of sitting down, the culinary soul of a culture, based on traditions which took generations to develop, is literally SERVED TO YOU ON A PLATTER. All you have to do is read the menu (with english subtitles, for your convenience), and send your command via servant to the chef. Only then, when you have absorbed the full measure of hospitality, of being catered to and almost spoon fed, can you be considered an expert on the exploitation, I mean enjoyment, of this quaint little culture's undoubtedly "tasty but too spicy" cuisine.

    Many whites who claim to be "well traveled" do this. Chances are they have some very informative opinions on where to get the most authentic foods, even if they only had a 3 hour layover.

    To have the privilege of experiencing one of the most pleasurable aspects of any culture, while at the same time being able completely dismiss the people by which it comes, AND to be able to brag about your sophistication for having done so. Its a great ego boost with little to no effort, and you even get a good meal out of it.

  8. I'm not ashamed to admit I'm a foodie, and damn, the mention of "caramelized fish and young bamboo shoots" has me positively swooning. <3

    I've noticed this phenomenon in my own cookbooks. I'm not vegan (I love meat with a fierce burning passion) but this happens a lot in non-vegan cookbooks too. There's the "Moroccan stews" (basically anything that has cinnamon and raisins added), the "Indian curries" (any curry), and a zillion different varieties of "African [dish]". I never really questioned it until recently when I read an article about the whole "Africa = not a country!" thing and then I noticed all the recipes tagged as African. But oddly, until reading this post, it didn't occur to me to extend that to other "ethnic" labels like Indian, etc. (I've started using quotes any time I use "ethnic", because it always seems to be a normalized-whiteness term - there's normal, and then there's ethnic!)

    @CuteRedHood: I couldn't agree more. Especially stuff like PETA's stupid tactics like dressing up as KKK members. How hard is it to grasp the principle that "black person =/= non-human animal", and it's an offensive comparison?

  9. re: bounds of culinary decency, i hope it's ok to pimp my blog:

    re: the original post, though the concept of authenticity is ambiguous, i believe that interest in authenticity is better than the opposite. if someone prefers lettuce and sour cream and refried beans in their taco, fine, but i can't abide by them saying that tacos made another way (i.e., the 'authentic' way) are 'wrong' or 'suck'.

  10. Bingo said:

    >> "The main points were that Asian chefs who were marketed as making Asian fusion usually had culinary school backgrounds in Euro cooking and a more casual/learned it at home background for the Asian cooking - as though you can pick up Asian expert culinary skills in an offhand manner."

    I haven't read the essay, so a question:
    Does the author connect this at all to the Western, rational-scientific / 'Asian' holistic-emotional (false) dichotomy? It seems to me as though the difference in learning--methodical versus intuitive--falls squarely into that duality, and I am curious if the essay's author touched on it at all.

    [Thanks for the return to the old comment format, BTW. Copy-paste function much appreciated.]

  11. @Willow - the author, who was Asian, didn't posit that dichotomy. It was more like European food is a real discipline that demands rigorous study and Asian food isn't a real discipline so you can casually hang around your grandmother's kitchen and become a master. What it reminded me of in a twisted way is how scholars of European cultures must speak European langauges but scholars of Africa aren't required to be fluent in African langauges.

  12. "... or ackee and salt fish."

    What?!? That's my one of my favorites!

    My parents are from Jamaica, so I'm used to going to the Caribbean stores with my mom to get what we need if she wants to make a Jamaican meal. I know more West Indian kids now that I'm in college, so I'm not dealing with as many people who think that's "weird".

    I've been abroad in Italy since August, and I remember our teacher asking us what the craziest foods we've ever had were. This one kid says "Oxtail!". *Sigh*.

    As for authenticity. I understand why the OP squirmed. It's like the boss was saying that there's some magical Indian gene that'll make the curry authentic. But I agree with Tyler also. I remember my mom and aunt were pissed off when this Jamaican restaurant in our city started serving curry goat with "mixed veggies" instead of rice and beans. They were blatantly trying to make the dish more "American". The sad thing is that we saw something like that in a Jamaican restaurant in Jamaica, too. Trying to change the meals for tourists...

  13. Authenticity is impossible. I remember being a kid, and doing what I do to this day- which is play with words and see how far I could stretch meanings. I eventually came to the conclusion that if an Arab makes French onion soup- it's Arabic food. If a Japanese person makes curry, it's Japanese. Unless the Arab makes the French Onion soup in the US- in which case it could also be American.

    I came to this logic by starting from the position that food is food. Food has no essential differentiating identity beyond such categories as animal, vegetable, etc. Therefore it can either be defined by the style of preparation, or its composition. (Whipped cream, turkey on rye) An "Indian curry" is nonsensical on an essential level- the food may or may not have been grown in India, but what does adding salt from the non-territorial sea make it- and no one can be sure of where ingredients are from these days even if we cared? In other words, there's no real point to defining it that way. So such a descriptor is ultimately contrived- but from where? A curry is only curry by preparation, and the technique most likely originated in India. So to reference the source of the technique is simply redundant in many cases and dishonest in others- where the technique is warped as an adaptation or re-imagining. "Curry" should suffice- unless we're looking to describe a broad category of food like in "Indian restaurant" or "Japanese cooking." Ultimately, "Indian curry" can only logically refer to either the person who prepared it or the place it was made to have any objectively useful meaning whatsoever- if you consider it useful. QED.

    "Authentic" should simply substitute for "traditionally prepared" in the most vulgar sense. Most cookbooks rarely present traditionally prepared dishes unless they're from Europe. They're always fusions and medleys and re-imaginings of what most Americans/dominant culture haven't typically adapted a palette for.

    I think the appeal of the exotic in and of itself isn't a bad thing. What is exotic is merely the unfamiliar. It's the "carelessly" part that's the problem and the turning of exotic into a verb. Suddenly everything about the food is at arm's length- and this comes with all the ignorance and disrespect of failing to see people from other parts of the world as mere mortals like yourself- who can grab a burger from a nearby McDonald's without obsessing over how American it is.

  14. @Tyler and Pajamas

    I become aggravated when white Americans speak of "authenticity" in regards to food because that is MY (applies to other peoples cultures as well) food. It's MY people. It's MY history. It's MY memories of home, of comfort and I am NOT ashamed of any of it. Especially the food they deem disgusting. I love it. It is part of who I am. And for them to come and dip their fingers all in my business is infuriating. Which leads me to my next point:


    "They were blatantly trying to make the dish more "American". The sad thing is that we saw something like that in a Jamaican restaurant in Jamaica, too. Trying to change the meals for tourists..."

    We (Jamaica) have been reduced to nothing but a tourist based economy, unable to produce wares to sustain ourselves because of US Gov/IMF involvement/Contractual obligations (A WHOLE OTHER SWPD topic) and NOW we have to cater our whole food culture to the tourists ie. the US. That is where my hurt comes from. Now I have a FOREIGNER telling ME what MY food should taste like. What is left that can be claimed as OURS?

  15. @ The Chemist, I guess I see what you are saying, but maybe the term "curry" is a bad example, because there are different styles of curries associated with different cultures. For example, different regions in India make different styles of curries. Thai-style curries are definitely different from different regional Indian style curries (there are probably regional differentiation in Thai curries as well, but I am not as familiar with Thai cuisine), which are all also very different from each other. Pakistani "curries" are different, although Pakistanis don't usually use the word "curry" instead in Urdu the word is "salan" (pardon if the transliteration is bad, I'm notoriously bad with transliterating Urdu), which more closely translates as a "gravy" but which most people in English would call a curry. Within Pakistan there are regional differences in the food and "curries" as well. So adding a descriptor as to the style of a type of food can be helpful to knowing what's going to come on your plate, usually a regional descriptor. But in general, just the word "Indian" isn't specific enough to do that, and is incorrect to boot, by implying that India is a homogenous land where everyone eats the same kind of food everywhere.

    When I talk about cooking "Pakistani food," which is about 60% of the time at our house, I always preface, with the disclaimer that I fully acknowledge that the way I cook Pakistani food is quite different from people from Pakistan and that I am definitely not an expert or make the claim that my food is "authentic." It's more that I am cooking "Husain family" food. My own weird American-trying-to-cook-Pakistani-food that my husband seems to like usually, or at least is able to eat ;)

  16. "Now I have a FOREIGNER telling ME what MY food should taste like."

    Exactly. This reminds me (kind of) of the period before classes began when my friends and I traveled a bit through southern Italy. My one friend made it a point, after almost every meal, to say how "unimpressed" she was with the food. Even after having a Neapolitan pizza, she had to remark, "I'm not that impressed". As if here standards were so high and the Italians just couldn't get it right.

  17. I'm not much of a cookbook user/reader, but every time I pick one up from here on out, I'll probably always remember this post and never look at a cookbook quite the same way. This has never even crossed my mind before. I have found myself cringing at the "authenticity" comments in everyday conversation, yet not really knowing why.

  18. What a great topic and all the comments so far!

    I have to share about a recent exchange I had with someone who wrote that "Chinese food" sucks. I wrote to this person explaining how this is offensive and they (WM) told me (POC-AAM) that they had had all the Chinese food in NYC and it was all fried or useless carbs. They further explained that they had dated an Asian POC woman whose family had upscale Chinese restaurants and he still wasn't impressed. When I pressed further about whether he's had Chinese food in China, he said no but he's still not impressed.

    WTF is wrong with people?! How the hell do they draw these conclusions from their limited experiences and friggin' dump all over "Chinese" food when they ain't know scheit?!

    Food is especially near and dear to me so I really hate it when it becomes essentialized and dumped on without any regard to what is really going on behind the scenes.

  19. Ah, YES!

    Do you watch "Top Chef"? Do you remember Hung, the winner from a couple of seasons ago, the Asian-American chef trained in classical French cooking being chided for his dishes not showing enough "heart" or being "authenic" enough? One judge wanted more fish sauce in his cooking...

    And don't get me started on Rick Bayles, whiter than white on rice, as the consumate expert on all foods Mexican. From the bio on his webpage:

    Rick is fourth generation in an Oklahoma family of restaurateurs and grocers. From 1980 to 1986, after studying Spanish and Latin American Studies as an undergraduate, and doing doctoral work in Anthropological Linguistics at the University of Michigan, Rick lived in Mexico with his wife, Deann, writing his now-classic Authentic Mexican: Regional Cooking From The Heart of Mexico (William Morrow, 1987). The New York Times’s legendary Craig Claiborne hailed this work as the "greatest contribution to the Mexican table imaginable."

    Ay yi yi.

  20. Hmmm, I am a white foodie. I spend a lot of time on food oriented websites. Being a person trying to develop against racism, I find myself catching a lot of white privilege issues on these websites, both in terms of self-analysis and seeing white trends. I could say a lot about it, but I'll pick one for brevity: I read in anti-racist literature about "ethnic" as a bad term. Well, in North American conceptualizations of food, you see a prime example of what is wrong with this term. "I feel like eating something 'ethnic'"...etc. Well, on the food sites it is "it is so hard to communicate with people in 'ethnic' restos" and "didn't this happen in X ethnic resto because of X culture?" and " the treat diners with children so nicely in 'ethnic' restos." Basically by the N. American definition would be kosher deslis, El Salvadorean pupusa stands, Viet pho houses, and so on ALL lumped together because obviously the "ethnics" are all alike. I have brought it up before in my participation on my fave site about the expression "ethnic food" or "ethnic resto." Sometimes site users pay attention, sometimes not. My fave site has a large diverse pool of users, so definately not all users are white, but still...

  21. I admit I wouldn't have the nerve to serve region X cooked food to region X immigrant and make a big deal of it. Then again, I have no delusions of chefhood.

    Most foodies like as much detail as possible - Goan v. Andhra Pradesh v. Kashmiri ingredients and styles, rather than "Indian, not otherwise specified".

    The whole point of going to a restaurant is having someone else prepare and present food. Restaurants look for niches, "novelties" in the local market, and want any and all customers, even the ignorant hayseeds who can't pronounce the names of the dishes.

    As for disgust, there are food taboos in all cultures. In the U.S. Anglo culture there seems to be an aversion to organ meats, tongue, trotters, eels, most invertebrates, all insects. I used to love organ meats, tongue, etc because my Swedish-descent mother had grown up eating these. Now I can't quite manage raw organ meat smell, so I don't cook it.

    "mannish water"? Interesting name.

    Chicken foot soup: what's so odd about using feet for chicken stock?
    As for preserved fish, it depends. To my mind, Swedish lye-cured fish (lutefisk) is unappealing, and I understand anyone turning up their nose at it. Or deep-fried Mars bar (yes, the candy), a Northern England item, I understand. Or deep fried turkey testicles, a Middle American Thanksgiving-related bar food. All of these are my "ethnic heritage foods". You are all invited to sneer away.

  22. Once again, too many thoughts!
    I often get the feeling from some WP that liking "really authentic foreign food" is like some kind of stunt. WP will (collectively) pick one or two dishes from a culture and go crazy on them (and take them home and ruin them) and everything else is "eww, gross!" (Pajamas noted this.) I almost feel like at some level, everything foreign is gross and/or weird, and being able to stomach one or two dishes has cachet: "as it turns out, I love jerk chicken! That says [something, I don't even know what] about me!"

    And BTW, what's so special about jerk anyway? It has come to identify JA. But why? I mean, I love it too, but we JA'ns eat a lot of other things just as often or more. Why do WP tweak out on just that one dish? And I see it with other cuisines too; for example, nobody talks about (or even seems to be aware of) Hawaii's love for macaroni salad— they eat the hell outta that stuff— instead it's all about poi (gross!), Spam (weird!) or pork+pineapple (awesome!!). It's like foreign foods can be either tasty or (and/or?) totally x-treme, but if they're neither, they don't stick in their memory.*

    As for lumping huge disparate groups together, when will we get it though our heads??! Everything about Europeans and their descendants is unique and special; everyone else is pretty much alike. [/sarcasm] Man, that pisses me off. These people can keep track of 4 different kinds of barbecue by state, but all of Asia is one bloc? WTF?

    *I once read a paper somewhere— I've been trying to find it again for years— that put forth the idea that this is how the concept of "soul food" was actually created, back in the 1960s: it's only the "weird" stuff. Self-exotification, essentially.

  23. About authenticity, I think authenticity is important and should be respected. If a cuisine has developed over centuries or over thousands of years even, that should be respected. I think the problem is that whites sometimes try to define authenticity without respecting how POC define and adapt their own various cuisines. It is hard to explain, but like some real life examples: white person being disappointed that a Vietnamese grandma seasons her food with chemical, modern Maggi Sauce instead of expensive distilled sauces like what is from Whole Foods or Trader Joe's. Disappointed that so and so's Chinese mom uses ketchup in her fried rice and omelettes instead of some special Oriental secrets. Stuff like that. 'Authentic' is not static, and white people must not think that we can control authenticity in other peoples' cuisines.

  24. Hm, I've noticed that to be more of an American tendency, rather than a just a White tendency, but even then, I've met Americans who are aware that the ethnic food in the US is adapted to their taste, it's not authentic.
    Pajamas - I heard the same thing said about Italian food, tourists are disappointed especially in the pizzas, because they are not a mindless mix of ingredients like in the US.
    What the hell is authentic, by the way? If someone asks me what my "authentic" cuisine (Romanian) is, I wouldn't know what to answer. Every Romanian family I know cooks food slightly differently than the others, there is no standard.
    And I have heard the term "European food" on more than one occasion, and have been asked if European food is as bland as they say (who is "they" - I don't know).
    Recoiling in disgust when you see food that is unusual to you is simply rude, there's no excuse for it. You don't like it, then don't eat it, but don't ruin it for everybody else.
    I would say it's rather dumb to start criticizing different cuisines like you're a food expert, just because you tried it once or twice. There are very few people out there who are actually well-informed about the food of various cultures - because it's kind of an expensive hobby, ya know? I don't even know my own cuisine perfectly, from all the regions and counties of my country, how could I say I know Mexican cuisine because I had a few tacos, for example?
    I don't believe you have to be part of an ethnic group in order to know/cook its cuisine very well, but, if you're gonna give a critical view of it, make sure you actually know your shit and can back it up with serious arguments (historical, geographical, economic, culinary, etc), not "I had it once when I was there and it was this and this".

  25. pretty much, WP see the world-the WHOLE WORLD and everything in it, not just food or material objects, but any and all traditions, spiritual modalities, philosophies, etc, etc...ALL of it, as appropriatable by them...assimilatable. they'll pay for it of course(the time of outright theft is mostly over), and they WILL respect(that's partly where the obsession w/authenticity comes in).

    but they don't like the idea that something somebody somewhere sometime developed might be totally closed off to them because they weren't born into that culture. just tell a certain type of white martial arts guy that a 'secret' kung fu tradition is NEVER, ever taught to Round Eyes, and he'll spend the next 30 years trying to track it down and master it.

    one might say that this is white privilege, racist assumptions of cultural superiority, etc, again...and to be sure it is. but that's not the whole deal.

    a whole cohort of middle-class WP, especially educated WIWL perhaps, feel that they have essentially no real culture; malls? tv shows? video games? pop music?...that's supposed to be it? that and maybe a lukewarm church tradition, a so-so, uninspired school system, vague, half-observed rites of passage(such as driving, losing virginity, trying alcohol/weed)...and so forth.

    none of it seems very Romantic or even interesting-and since theyve probably nevr known real deprivation or brutality, they take their material comforts as a given and don't get much deep satisfaction from just having them met adequately.

    what to do? well...cast around for cool stuff from Other cultures. stuff that seems more real and profound than your own does. so;

    -an 'eco-tour' to kenya vs. disney world.

    -a shamanic workshop vs. a methodist retreat weekend.

    -totally 100% ethiopian cooking(or northern mongolian, hmong, whatever, the more obscure and less adapted to western tastes the BETTER) vs. denny's.

    see what i mean?

  26. @ KAT- not bitter rambling. Perfectly valid points. I have always found it so unbelievably racist when people talk about how "disgusting" the find food from other cultures that they've never even tasted. Specifically, Asian, African and Caribbean food, as they don't ever seem to have a problem with European food. I was in charge of the international club when I was in high school and I once organized a dinner/potluck night. I asked my mother to prepare some sushi but didn't use any raw fish, as that would have been really, really expensive for a high school event, and there are plenty of types of sushi to make without using raw fish. Do you think anyone ate it? No one touched it. I was so disappointed and annoyed, especially with a group of people that is supposed to be interested in, you things. One girl specifically said she wouldn't eat it because of the seaweed, and I was like "You eat lettuce, don't you?"

    Once, I told a(n American) co-worker (in Shanghai) that my favorite Ghanaian dish is peanut butter soup (once again, as prepared by my mother). He said "ugh, that sounds disgusting." I was obviously offended and he could see it, but kept insisting that it sounded disgusting and he would never eat it. I mean, he comes from the land of peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches (a combination I DO NOT understand) but yeah, soup made with peanut butter is obviously something disgusting that only us primitive Africans would consider eating.

    @ karinova:

    I think "jerk" being synonymous with "Jamaican" is another thing that white people do. They pick one food and associate it with that culture. I mean, any time I ask someone if they like Japanese food I get an answer something like, "ugh, I can't stand raw fish." And I'm like...awesome, but I didn't ask if you liked raw fish, I asked if you like Japanese food. I think people are SERIOUSLY stupid enough to believe that an entire nation only eats one thing. And then they associate anyone and anything from that country with that food item, even if food is completely irrelevant to the discussion.

  27. Yeah. She went there. The bloody oppression of Palestinians reduced to a clever comment about biscotti.

    I have a vague recollection of this kind of shite happening with drink names too, but i can't recall a particular name (anyone?).

    There's something exotically "spicy" about even a "mai tai." Put a little umbrella in there, and as the alcohol and sugar and food colorings start coursing through your veins, you can sail away into a reverie about yourself on a sunny beach, with smiling dark natives pretending they respect you as they ask if there's anything else you'd like with that overpriced, entirely non-native relaxant.

  28. @Doreen - that's so surprising, I thought sushi was very popular in N America. Affordable sushi is one of the few things that keep me from hating my life Canada.
    If I bring something ethnic to a potluck, and there are people who find it unappetizing, I don't mind, as long as they don't start with "ewww, that's grooooss". Just say "no, thanks", and we're fine. Last Christmas my step-sister brought her Middle-Eastern boyfriend to Romania and we served, among others, a traditional dish made from polenta, cottage cheese and sour cream. He was obviously queasy, but he tried to be nice (despite our reassurance that we won't be offended if he doesn't eat it) and took a few bites. Then the poor guy threw up, lol.
    When I was in grade school, we had this American kid who studied with us for a few months, on an exchange program. He only ate McDonalds and only drank Coca-Cola and bottled water, his mother had taught him so, lest he should die of food poisoning on foreign land, lol. Now THAT I thought was rude and extreme, I understand if you don't want something that is unusual to you, but I imagine he must have seen steak and mashed potatoes before, or chicken and rice. But still he wouldn't eat anything locally made, because he probably thought we are a dirty, infected people.
    I don't think the "they have no problem with European food" statement is true though. A lot of people here would cringe at snails, frog legs, borscht, polenta, haggis, stuffed cabbage, aspic, kishka (there's the Jewish kind, and there's the Eastern European kind, made from pork), sour cherries, tripe soup, fish eggs (not caviar, the cheap fish eggs), leberwurst, etc. Fine by me, just don't act like your food is "normal" and mine is deviant.
    KAT - you made me crave chicken feet soup, with lots of noodles.

  29. This is a very interesting topic and a much needed post. People often forget sociology of food; different people can't afford certain types of food, have very small kitchens, their local groceries lack certain things.. I've noticed a lot of racism and class discrimination of upper class & upper middle class white people looking down on the way other people eat.

    I also hate every time any TV joke makes a joke out of "weird foreign cuisine", typically Asian cuisine, like a character refusing to eat it because it's ohmygod SO foreign OR a (white) character accidentally eating something that's sooo bizarre (but of course ordinary in that country and not really such a big deal). I really hate it when I say I enjoyed South-Korean food a lot when visiting a friend there, and they bring up eating dogs. Groan.

    Food is quite simple but food snobs, typically white, excotizing foreign kitchens and at the same time loudly complaining about lack of authenticity really need to examine their privilege. If it tastes good, who cares if it's "authentic"?

  30. @NancyP said :'"mannish water"? Interesting name.'

    I will admit. The "interesting name" bit rubbed me the wrong way. But I'll dismiss the feeling.

    Mannish water is essentially soup made from a goat's head (with other numerous ingredients of course).

    There is nothing wrong with making soup from chicken feet. That's the point. People recoil not only at the name but the meal itself. And we do serve it with the entire foot in the bowl mind you. Nothing wrong with that either.

    Sighs...Why do I feel as if I'm being patronized?

    @Karinova: TRUTH. Most of my breakfasts/or sunday dinners as a child were ackee and salt fish and fried dumpling. Or callaloo. Escovitch on the weekend with rice and peas. Talk about a staple! Rice and peas, man. I can eat that by itself no problem.

    @Marianne: It's one of my favorite comfort foods. Chicken foot soup during a bad cold. Now THAT will knock out the flu.

  31. @Kat

    Chicken feet are great. I'm Chinese (specifically Cantonese), so I eat it quite regularly.

    You should carry some around with you to throw at people that give you grief about it! Lol! (J/K, I don't advocate violence, though it's tempting at times...)

  32. Marianne-
    I don't think the "they have no problem with European food" statement is true though. A lot of people here would cringe at snails, frog legs, borscht, polenta, haggis, stuffed cabbage, aspic, kishka (there's the Jewish kind, and there's the Eastern European kind, made from pork), sour cherries, tripe soup, fish eggs (not caviar, the cheap fish eggs), leberwurst, etc. Fine by me, just don't act like your food is "normal" and mine is deviant.

    Point taken about how they may also recoil at some European foods that aren't necessarily all that popular in America (and I guess in the context of this statement "they" means white Americans). That said, I don't think I've ever heard a sentiment like "Europeans and their crazy food!" like I've heard about other places. But yeah, the your food is no more normal than mine is.

  33. @ KAT

    I will never understand the double-standards we white Americans have with which meats we eat and how we eat them. A while ago, I was explained what mannish water is by my boyfriend and his sister (from Ewarton) and I know they expected me to screw up my face and gag when they told me about it because they've received that response many times before. Once they got to the manly parts I'll admit I did raise an eyebrow and say "Really?!" But I immediately thought about how here we eat liver, gelatin which is from animal skin and bones, and we grind up the behinds of cows yet call them "burgers" - and ohmygoodness do people not know what is inside of a hotdog? So I really think white Americans should remember that before they make faces.

    I've never had anyone question me on my cuisine, other than "what the hell is this?" or "how did you make it?" I'm born and raised in south Florida so I've been eating Caribbean food from various countries my entire life. It has never occurred to me to tell someone else about the food they've shared with me. I cannot imagine someone eating - say, my mom's chicken noodle soup, and then telling her that it doesn't taste "authentic". How does that seem like anything less than rude? Like there aren't several million different ways to make chicken soup. Why wouldn't that be a possibility with any dish around the world? It amazes me how dense people can be. Just in one family I've had escovitch fish three different ways. Mother Nature herself has produced like what? 100 different types of mangoes, thousands of different types of apples. Do people ever wonder which of those is "authentic"? Probably not very often.

  34. @Victoria - slightly unrelated, but your comment reminds me of how I've heard other people bash the face paint of tribal peoples ignoring that lipstick is made from fish scales and many cosmetics are pigmented with cochineal - which is crushed beetles.

    In food, as in life, if we do it it's ok, if they do it it's backward.

  35. Something which bothers me is when people who care about "authenticity" dismiss food that is not "pure".

    I can't mention the topic of "chinese food" (a very very broad topic, I admit) without being told "Oh, that's not what the real Chinese food is like." As if though this food is inferior.

    But why should the food being made by Chinese immigrants in the US be any worse than the food eaten in China? It's a cuisine all its own. Why look at someone in disgust if they dare to eat it (even if they are, gasp, Chinese)?

    I'm Cuban, and we don't have anything considered "weird" or "foreign" as far as I know, so I guess we're lucky. Cuba is not exactly the land of culinary variety (Cuban food is basically "how many variations on 'rice + beans + meat' can you make") so our food is considered "normal".

  36. Marianne,

    The guy you described sounds like a lot of the people I studied abroad in Spain with last summer. People kept saying the cafeteria food was "gross", and I was scratching my head because it was really good and way fresher than American bulk-prepared food! I can understand personal preference and all that, but what I was confused about was that we ate mostly meat + potatoes + salad + soup + basic pasta (once in awhile)--there wasn't anything "strange" about it, though maybe that's what disappointed some people?

  37. I am Mexican-American, but lived in South Africa for a little bit, and generally find the country and cultures there incredibly interesting. I've adopted drinking rooibos tea, and while I know it is now available here in the States, I did wait until I visited again to replenish my supply. I just hate buying rooibos tea from American stores and American tea companies who decide to exoticize it- "African Mango Orange" (that's Celestial Seasonings) or "Red Wisdom." I mean, I get that sometimes they are tea mixes, but why can't you just call in Rooibos? I mean, that's its name. That's what its called. But no, you have to take it, give it a fancy name and exotic packaging instead.

    Seeing the many many many ways that Mexican food is exoticized/put down/othered etc etc has made me sensitive to my "adoption" of South African food goodies. I really really try to be sensitive to this and not do what white people here have done to my food and culture!

    Visiting Mexican restaurants in South Africa, however, was definitely an ...interesting ....experience. I guess everywhere has this problem.

  38. Being of mixed European ancestry, I have been privy to the "strange" foods of both the Germanic/Scandinavian set as well as the Mediterranean: pickled herring on black bread was a normal breakfast dish when I was growing up, and using things like hooves, tripe, and other sundry bits as ingredients for soups etc. never coaxed a single eyelash-batting. That being said, when I started dating a Chinese man (of Cantonese heritage), I certainly had an interesting foray into the culinary wonders of his culture. None of it was balked at or avoided (except for the shark's fin soup, for ethical reasons), so items like chicken foot stew, jellyfish salad, beef tendon, etc. were all marvelous explorations. Amusingly enough, the preconceptions and "racism" involved with these meanderings came more from those around me than from myself: upon getting together with his extended family, an aunt of his handed me a fork (since apparently white people don't know how to use chopsticks), and offered to order me something from the non-threatening menu, saying "white people like sweet and sour chicken balls, right? Would you like some of those?"
    So. It works both ways. ;)

  39. @Milady

    It feels like you are making it into a case of reverse discrimation, but I wonder if you take into account the reason behind Chinese people offering WP "safer" foods? Is it discrimination, or just being fed up with people raising their noses at Chinese food that Chinese people eat? Or trying to accommodate to make it easier for WP?

    Who is telling you that "that is not what *real* Chinese food is like"? The speaker in this case is very important, and also the point of view/reference they are taking/making...

  40. @Drowned Lotuses:

    "It feels like you are making it into a case of reverse discrimination, but I wonder if you take into account the reason behind Chinese people offering WP "safer" foods? Is it discrimination, or just being fed up with people raising their noses at Chinese food that Chinese people eat? Or trying to accommodate to make it easier for WP?"

    THANK YOU. Because I just read that post and rolled my eyes so hard I had a headache for an hour.

  41. @ Doreen

    It depends on where in Europe-haggis sounds pretty crazy to me. However, I am unsure if it's just not ok for white people to eat "ethnic" food or what? As far as I'm concerned, there's food I like and food I don't. There are certain types of cuisine I tend to more-and as a vegetarian, certain cuisines are more likely to have food I am likely to eat. I understand appropriation is odious, but at what point is it just liking food and not appropriation? I guess I am confused about the lines. I hope this doesn't come off as Racism 101.

  42. @Katherine

    Haggis is crazy, yes... so is Lutefisk ( ) and countless other Euro foods. That goes right along with Drowned Lotuses' comment about food that is "safe" for white folks - I've balked far more at things served at family get togethers than at any other "ethnic" fare, thanks.

    Ultimately, there is no such flavour as "White", and I think it's safe to say that in our multi-cultural world, it is no more a situation of cultural appropriation for an Irish guy to eat Bengali food than for a Caribbean guy to eat spaghetti and meatballs.

  43. @Kat
    You know...!

    You need Racism 101.

    I hope you don't listen to Milady's advice. She sounds like an addict to "multiculturalism" and "diversity".

    For one thing, notice how you specifically point to haggis and not to Scottish food in general, whereas the field opens much wider to other types of "cuisine". It's kind of like you specify for Euro-food, but can only open up "cuisine" in general for other places, as if all the cooking/food in another place can be encompassed in a few simple words.

    I think it's fine if you say you don't like haggis, but people don't talk about "ethnic" food in terms of I don't like Cantonese shrimp dumplings, they just say they don't like Cantonese food. Do you see the difference in the two?

    As far as calling haggis and lutefisk crazy (quoting milday), that's just wrong. It's a personal preference to not like them, but to call the food crazy automatically assumes the qualities of those people that might like those food items.

  44. ah, well-yes, i do specify the actual DISH i don't like rather than "chinese food." i do understand that most "ethnic" food has been watered for american tastes. for example, i make a dish loosely based on an indian regional dish called khichdi-however, i do understand that it's a poor imitation. i just make something i like that started out as an attempt to make ANOTHER dish called khushary. i just call it my porridge. i would NEVER try to pass my porridge off as khichdi OR khushary. but i liked them, so i made something like them. is that considered appropriation? and as far as lutefisk, i don't like fish at all-but hey, if you like it, go nuts. also i grew up out of the US, so i don't view other cultures as exotic-having lived in a couple. they just are.

  45. Can I ask a question (if this thread is still active at all...)?

    There's a sense I get from this post and especially from the comments that simply seeking out, eating, or attempting to cook a dish that is not "one's own" (a concept that is basically impossible to define within most American culinary culture), is an act of white privilege.

    But then I also get the sense in other parts of the post/thread that NOT eating/enjoying/having a significant familiarity with other cultures' cuisines is also an act of white privilege.

    So it's wrong to make a Goan fish curry if you're not Goan, but then it's also wrong to dislike Goan fish curry or to find it weird that Goans eat whole small bone-in fish in a "curry" style preparation.

    If I'm right in my perceptions (eating anything but Denny's is cultural appropriation, eating solely at Denny's is xenophobia), what's a well meaning white lady to do? What am I allowed to eat without being generally assumed to be a racist pig?

    Also, on another note, the notion of "authenticity" as cross referenced with vegan cookbooks cracks me up. Almost every single vegan recipe I have ever seen calls for the substitution of an animal product traditionally found in whatever dish. Punjabi mattar paneer is NEVER going to be "authentic" (whatever that even means) if you substitute tofu for the paneer, no matter whether you make it with curry powder or a hand-ground spice blend. So where do the Oh So Cultured vegans even get off?

  46. @Sara C, who said There's a sense I get from this post and especially from the comments that simply seeking out, eating, or attempting to cook a dish that is not "one's own" (a concept that is basically impossible to define within most American culinary culture), is an act of white privilege.:

    My understanding of it is this, although as a white woman I may be totally off-base: I don't think the issue is appreciating cuisine from other cultures, or even cooking it. The offensiveness lies in:
    1) when they try to claim it's authentic, and/or
    2) when they value their own perception of it above the perceptions of others who actually are from that culture, and/or
    3) they act disgusted at the mere idea that they would eat some types of foods, and/or
    4) they use inappropriate labeling (such as "African [something]", when Africa is a continent with a huge range of countries and regional cuisines), and/or
    5) they use liking a particular food as a way to try to get some sort of credibility.

    For an example of #5, it's the difference between someone saying, "Oh yeah, jerk chicken! I've had that, it was really good," and someone saying, "JAMAICAN FOOD IS SO AWESOME, I LOVE JERK CHICKEN!" Or worse yet, a white person going on to a Jamaican person about how much they [the white person] looooove jerk food, because they hope it will get them some sort of approval cookie from the Jamaican person.

    (But I could be totally off-base. If that's the case, hopefully someone will correct me.)

  47. "They are always considered separately, as two distinctive flavors that were never meant to come together, sort of like Palestine and Israel. … The dates [in the recipe] act as a sort of sticky-sweet peacemaker, a culinary UN if you will.

    Yeah. She went there. The bloody oppression of Palestinians reduced to a clever comment about biscotti."

    I'm not telling you anything you don't know by observing that a lot of people, like the blogger you're quoting here, don't see the Israel-Palestine conflict as one side oppressing the other but as a long-running intractable conflict in which blame is hard to assign. Obviously you don't need to share that view but it's hard for me to see how taking potshots at it has anything to do with the issues your post is devoted to.

  48. @Sara C,
    I just want to pipe up and strongly agree with Robin's reply to you. It is completely ON-BASE. Well actually, I'd tweak a couple things just a tiny bit. I'd change #1, to: "when they try to define what is authentic" and I'd change #3 to: " the mere idea that anyone would eat..."

    Oh, and I'd add #6: "when they assume that the one dish they're familiar with represents all of the foods of said country/region (ie: it's a primary/staple food)." It's a distinct variation of #4.

    BTW, I'm not really seeing either of the things you see here— what you summed up as "eating anything but Denny's is cultural appropriation, eating solely at Denny's is xenophobia." I suspect what you're interpreting as complaints about xenophobia (second part of quote) is actually offense at #3 and 6 (in their "eew!" incarnations), and what you're interpreting as complaints about appropriation (first part) are actually offense at #1, 2, 4, and 5, and the "positive" versions of #3 and 6.

    Can you see it that way?
    I certainly don't want WP to stay away from Jamaican food; much of it is delicious and unique, and I love to share! And if you don't like Dish X, that's cool too; there are JA'n foods I don't like. I just don't need non-JA'ns acting like they get to define all food— much less my own— to me or anyone else! And it's a real tendency among white Americans in particular, and not just with food, so it's especially grating when they do it. No one's personal taste/cultural context is the overarching authority on what is acceptable and what is "gross" or "bizarre." It's just offensive and rude to act like it is. A little humility goes a long freakin' way. (As does a lot of rudeness.)

  49. @ramalama,
    "it's hard for me to see how taking potshots at it has anything to do with the issues your post is devoted to."

    Really? Whatever your views on the conflict itself, don't you think "two distinctive flavors that were never meant to come together, sort of like Palestine and Israel" is kind of an odd statement to be appearing in a cookbook of all places? Honestly, what is it doing there at all?

    And can you see how it's rather reductive to casually, breezily imply that 1) the most salient thing about the situation is that the two nations "were never meant to come together," and 2) the violent, deadly clashes that sometimes occur between them are appropriately compared to the nonexistent strife between People For Chocolate and People For Carob?

    Personally, it's hard for me to see why, when the author wanted a bon mot of a reference to "strong feelings/separate camps," ze chose that particular conflict. I could think of a million other more appropriate (ie: lighthearted and/or food-related) comparisons. Why not hamburgers vs. hotdogs? Why not Manhattan clam chowder vs. New England? For the love of god, why not carob vs. chocolate??

  50. FFS, why can't WP just be MATURE and RESPECTFUL about other cultures' food? All of this "ewwing" and "ooh, it's so WEIRD-ing" is so 6th grade.

    I can barely choke down most of what people think of when they think of "American" food. It's just not interesting to my palate. In my spare time, I much prefer to cook simple Korean, Thai, Japanese, or West Indian food for myself, as well as some random mash-ups. Yes, I go out of my way to do things "authentically" and get all the proper ingredients (I live in a large city), though for most dishes there's really not one standard way to make them. I try to be open to ingredients and ways of cooking that I was not brought up with. There's nothing wrong with that and people shouldn't be restricted to cooking what their parents cooked, because that's boring.

    BUT! I sure as hell don't go up to people WHOSE HERITAGE THAT IS and tell them that I know so much better than them about their own culture, or that their version is 'doing it wrong', or make a random spicy vegetable stew with peanut butter and call it "African".

    Also, the emphasis on authenticity can go wrong in a different way. Keep in mind that a lot of immigrants to the US or other countries had to adapt their cooking to what they could find there, and would often be pressured and ridiculed because of what they ate in their native country. So, of course you're going to have some fusion or adapted recipes, like Chinese grandmothers using ketchup in their cooking. And that's valid and culturally important too, and lots of dishes have been invented by immigrant communities as part of this process.

    Culinary mixing is awesome. It's really cool to see what different food cultures come up with as they come into contact with each other and share ingredients and techniques. But do people have to be such assholes about it?

  51. This is an interesting topic, and outside of Indian people, veganism is considered a white middleclass thing. By poor whites, and ESPECIALLY being Appalachian and being from a very porkcentric palate( oh pig, I'll always love and worship you !) it seems, very class centric. Because in America, it's difficult to be poor and vegan. And especially when you've got strong cultural pressures. But this was an eye opener and one I can see in my own culture as black American and Appalachian American cultures both hold meat in the same regards.

  52. Hmmm, I took a look in my cookbook in response to this blog and saw the following

    Cowboy Caviar, Swiss Fondue, Buffallo Wings, Spanish Rice, Southern corn bread, Nun's puffs, English Muffin, Boston Brown Bread,Irish Stew,Farmer's Casserole,Veracruz-Style Snapper, Fish Creole, Jamaican Jerk rub, Fingerlickin' BBQ, Glazed country ribs, Tuscan Lamb, NE Boiled Dinner, Oriental Style glaze, Asian flavored rub, Medditerranean style, Greek style burgers, Trattoria style, SW roast. I also saw Mexican, Tex-Mex, Italian, French, Southern, ect a few times in the descriptions.

    This cookbook is the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook-which I guess is marketed to a different segment of the population than a Vegan cookbook may be.

    As for people hating certain ethnic foods. I don't see a problem with someone having food taboos. Everyone does. I won't eat insects I can see, even though I know logically insects and other little critters are ground into all of my processed food (even the vegan stuff). It is not racist to be disgusted by something unfamiliar.

  53. @Sad Pants: Indians (ie subcontinent Indians, of which I am one) tend to consider veganism a bit of a nutty trend, to be honest. Most parts of the country have cuisines that are quite vegentarian-friendly, but a LOT of recipes call for dairy products in one form or other, even when they exclude meat.

    My own childhood memories of food involve a lot of what I've now come to know as 'Indian Chinese' whenever my mum and I went out to eat. Sure, it's not what they cook in China, but that doesn't mean I love it any less. It's a form of cuisine that is looked down on by restauranteurs who think of themselves as high-end, but that doesn't devalue its place in the cuisine of Calcutta.

    Urp! "It is not racist to be disgusted by something unfamiliar".
    What about when that disgust comes from a position of white entitlement and maybe also white American culture? I'd say it probably, well, IS. So much of a person's culture is linked to what they eat, that rejecting their food amounts to a rejection of them, and of people like them, for eating differently or being different. You might not call it racism, but I still think it's nasty. I mean, I hate barbeques and burgers, but if I were to go to an American co-worker's house and he/she made something like that for dinner, I wouldn't make noises about how it's so weird. A little courtesy and some effort to educate oneself goes a long way, really.

  54. I'm sorry, but I just don't get what's wrong with wanting "authentic" food. What definition of authentic is implied here? For me, it means any food that's like what people from another culture or place actually eat. If you're, say, a Korean American who makes Americanized versions of your mom's recipes that certainly doesn't make it less "authentic", just less typically Korean. If, on the other hand, you try to pass of an Americanized version of a dish as representative of an entire culture or nation, that's annoyingly inauthentic. I guess I just don't see what's wrong with wanting to experience an important aspect of another culture in a complete, un-watered-down way. Why can't I enjoy authenticity when I get it, instead of food pandering to my assumed western, white tastes?

  55. @wowshiny

    Focus. Read the post. Read the comments. Pay attention. Thank you. =)

  56. @wowshiny: what is it that you're hoping for out of "authenticity"? What I understand the subtext behind the word to mean is "I want to eat the way people in _____ culture eat", which translates in its turn to "I want the experience- the eating experience in this case- of a person in a culture that I don't identify with." Which is why so many POC get pissed off with people not of their culture who try to tell them what is 'authentic' about their food and what isn't. It's another version of "we know better than you". Which is ALWAYS pissing off to hear.
    The reason I don't find culinary adaptations like Indian Chinese etc annoying is because I accept it as being a response to changed circumstances - not attempted cultural appropriation.

    It isn't as if WP judgment of some of my deemed 'disgusting' foods are any less annoying though- so I like to pick over fish bones with my fingers, so what?


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