Cultural Appropriation in Cooking
I grew up eating a pretty standard Midwestern fare of meat and potatoes with the occasional stir-fry and enchilada thrown in the mix. Now I’m a chef with my own business (The Heirloom Chef) in one of the most culturally diverse cities in the country. My taste buds and cooking repertoire have expanded exponentially. One of my specialties is take on one of my mom’s classic recipes, shiitake mushroom meatloaf. Those tasty flavor bombs of mushrooms are something I didn’t really try until adulthood. This all leads me to the question at hand, as an American-born, white chef, how do I incorporate these new flavors into a culinary language I use to make my livelihood? How do I do this while respecting many of the ingredients came from peoples and places that have been disenfranchised by a system that gives me an advantage? Appropriation, “the adoption or use of elements of one culture by members of a different culture” isn’t inherently wrong. It becomes problematic when you practice it within an economic system that exploits entire groups of people to make others wealthy. So when exploitation enters the picture of appropriation that’s where the problems begin.
I’m looking at what appropriation looks like in the context of the culinary world and what the solutions are and that’s why I’m researching what others have to say. Here’s a list I’ve compiled so far.
Please share other resources you might have in the comments
Wiki Definition of Cultural Appropriation
Cultural appropriation is the adoption or use of elements of one culture by members of a different culture.Cultural appropriation is seen by some as controversial, notably when elements of a minority culture are used by members of the cultural majority
News articles and Blog Posts:
“Eating a particular cuisine, even if it’s the most authentic possible, does not lead on its own to a better or deeper understanding of the culture that produced that food, and in that way, should be treated as a very partial, albeit fun, part of knowing a culture or ethnic group.”
The best meals are more than the sum of their ingredients; their flavors tell the stories of the rich cultures that created them. When the same respect is afforded to immigrant food as traditional “American” food, eating it will sate us in more ways than one.
When it comes to cuisine, Twitty warns of a pattern he sees of white chefs “projecting ownership and making it about them, not even considering the people who have been marginalized and exploited.” Conversations about the subject often focus on the idea of cooking with local, historically “accurate” ingredients as opposed to the fact that slavery was the genesis for said ingredients arriving and thriving in the South. (…)
To be clear, neither Twitty nor Dennis are saying that white Charleston chefs can’t or shouldn’t be inspired by Gullah cooking (it’s way too late for that, anyway). “Everybody borrows from everybody at some point,” Dennis says. “It’s all in cooking.” But there’s a way to “responsibly borrow and quote from another culture,” says Twitty. “You have to do two things: You have to respect the tenets of the culture from which you borrow. Respect the people. I don’t always see that in the Charleston food scene. I see this acknowledgement of the people, acknowledgement of the story, but I think that the story is often used to upsell the food, upsell the product. That’s not quite the same as respecting the people.”
This entry was published on March 31, 2016 at 10:52 pm and is filed under Uncategorized
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