Quote of the Day

[Content Note: Racism; appropriation; food policing.]

"In the United States, immigrant food is often treated like discount tourism—a cheap means for foodies to feel worldly without leaving the comfort of their neighborhood—or high-minded fusion—a stylish way for American chefs to use other cultures' cuisines to reap profit. The dishes of America's recent immigrants have become check marks on a cultural scavenger hunt for society's elite. ...This cultural appropriation stings because the same dishes hyped as 'authentic' on trendy menus were scorned when cooked in the homes of the immigrants who brought them here."—Ruth Tam, in a great piece for the Washington Post, "How it feels when white people shame your culture's food—then make it trendy."

(The article is from August, but I only just read it today, and I highly recommend reading the whole thing.)

This culinary appropriation exists at the intersection of food policing, racism, and classism. Tam focuses primary on the racist aspects, and does so brilliantly. Classism is a major feature of this, too: "Peasant food," as it is often called, is garbage food until it is the hands of a professional chef, who "elevates" it. Or doesn't even elevate it, but simply calls it "rustic fare."

Like many other issues, often the racism and classism of culinary appropriation overlap. And it doesn't even have to be "foreign" food: Southern US cuisine must be "elevated" by a professional chef to be considered gourmet, even if that chef's grandmother is still cooking at home the same recipes she gifted to hir.

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