¿Qué forman las fronteras de los desiertos alimentarios? Y últimos pensamientos de la mejor clase (Últ. blog, por Josh)

¿Dónde está Trader Joe’s?

Es el 2019. Puedes buscarlo tú mism—bien, bien, lo buscaré por Google por ti. Aquí:

Una búsqueda en Google Maps para «Trader Joe’s»

¡Voila! C’est une réponse facile. Solía vivir arriba de mi comerciante favorito, Joe, cuando vivía en el Pueblo de la Universidad de Niños Mimados cuando estaba en segundo año. Recomiendo fritas de col rizada. Es muy fácil; sólo tienes que hornearlo a 350 grados Fahrenheit por 15 minutos, con un pequeño chirimiri de aceite de oliva:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IF3ehloj2Q8

¡Ah! Quieres más discusión. No hay problema, veamos—si miras la captura de pantalla anterior, del mapa de las ubicaciones de Joe en Los Ángeles, con más atención, notarás algo: hay una gran brecha de mis amigos Joes en el centro del mapa. Hmm, me pregunto si hay algún significado en esto… ¡guay! Lindos puntos de colores:

Cable, Dustin. “Racial Dot Map In LA Highlights Segregation By Neighborhood.” HuffPost, Weldon Cooper Service for Public Service at the University of Virginia, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/racial-dot-map-la_n_3819252

Los puntos azules representan poblaciones blancas; los rojos asiáticos; los verdes negros y los amarillos hispanos. Puedes ver que las ubicaciones de Comerciante Joe’s están agrupados en áreas con muchos puntos azules y rojos; es decir, en comunidades con mucha gente blanca y asiática, con la excepción de mi compañero de clase Joe en USC. Las localizaciones de Trader Joe’s insinúan una idea: que hay una segregación sistemática de la accesibilidad de opciones de alimentación sana. Sin embargo, ¿qué forman las fronteras de estos «desiertos de comida»? ¿Puede la raza explicar la imagen completa? Es difícil decir, porque sabemos que la raza se correlaciona con muchos otros factores, como educación e ingreso de familia. Por ejemplo, si miras un mapa del ingreso familiar promedio por cada área de código postal en Los Ángeles, quizás te des cuenta de que hay un patrón geográfico similar:

Glimpse, Warren. “Median Household Income by ZIP Code Area; Los Angeles Area.” ProximityOne, https://proximityone.wordpress.com/tag/zip-code-income/

Por esa razón, es difícil decir si los desiertos son un producto de racismo sistémico, o de discriminación por la clase socioeconómica, educación o riqueza. Probablemente, todos estos factores estén entrelazados, y no se pueda separar unos de otros. Y por supuesto, mi amigo Joe no es la definición de comida saludable. Aún hoy, hay mucha controversia sobre lo que constituye una dieta sana, y qué factores predicen mejor la salud, por ejemplo: ¿cuál es peor: grasa o azúcar? ¿Son la sal y el colesterol realmente malos? ¿Deberías hacer más ejercicio, o sentarse menos? ¿Son frutas realmente sanas, con toda su azúcar? La lista de preguntas sigue y sigue. En cambio, la mayoría puede estar de acuerdo que alimentos naturales y enteros son más saludables que comidas procesadas, y eso es un problema en áreas con muchas tiendas de conveniencia y licores y menos supermercados:

Not surprisingly, the community members reported that supermarkets had the highest quality and most affordable healthy options, and convenience and liquor stores had the fewest options, with available healthy options at higher prices. For example, 85% of the convenience or liquor stores that were surveyed sold Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and 89% sold Pepsi, but only 32% sold carrots and 17% broccoli.

Portnoy, Sarah. Food, Health, and Culture in Latino Los Angeles, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2016. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/socal/detail.action?docID=4756736.

De hecho, muchos habitantes del Sur de L.A. viven en estos «desiertos alimentarios»:

It is for these reasons that South L.A. is considered “the very definition of a food desert.” In fact, photos of South L.A. are among the first images that appear when doing a Google search of food deserts.

Portnoy, Sarah. Food, Health, and Culture in Latino Los Angeles, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2016. ProQuest Ebook Central,http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/socal/detail.action?docID=4756736.
Une búsqueda en Google Imágenes para «food desert». ¡Felicitaciones! ¡Lo logramos! Los europeos pueden visitar las bellezas naturales de EEUU: Yosemite, Valle de la Muerte, el gran Desierto Alimentario del Sur de LA, los árboles de Josué (míos), etc.

Es una lástima que muchas personas viven así. En realidad, estas áreas también ven índices más altos de obesidad y diabetes tipo 2. ¿Qué podemos hacer para mitigar estos problemas de salud? Si me preguntaras, diría que campañas de educación sanitaria es lo más efectivo. Porque de hecho, hubo un estudio que encontró que el mayor pronosticador de salud entre personas de la misma clase socioeconómica no era la dieta ni la cantidad de ejercicio, sino más bien cuán consciente o concienzuda era esa persona acerca de su salud. Esto tiene mucho sentido para mí: el conocimiento de alimentos no es intuitivo para nadie. Damos por sentado nuestro conocimiento de la nutrición, pero tuvimos que ser enseñados sobre los carbohidratos, grasas saturadas e insaturadas, insulina y azúcar, lipoproteína de alta y baja densidad, etc. y probablemente todavía necesitemos más educación sobre esos temas. No obstante, podemos aprender cualquier cosa, especialmente niños:

Stunned parents frequently ask the teachers, “How did you get my child to eat kale?”

Portnoy, Sarah. “This Lush Garden at a South L.A. School Helps Kids Learn About Veggies — and Eat Them, Too.” LA Weekly. https://www.laweekly.com/restaurants/miss-piggie-eats-aka-jennifer-yu-followed-her-passion-to-influencer-stardom-10146510. Visitado 22 abr. 2019.

¡Fríelo! Estoy bromeando, estoy bromeando… Mi punto es, debemos hacer un esfuerzo activo para enseñar nutrición y hábitos alimenticios saludables a niños desde una edad temprana, y estos niños también pueden enseñar a sus padres y familias. He visto esto tiene éxito de primera mano, con programas voluntarios de USC en escuelas cercanas. El conocimiento es poder, va el cliché, y ya sabes, como dice todo el mundo, la col rizada es la mejor… vale, nadie dice eso, pero es la verdad.

Turismo gastronómico sostenible

En realidad, no soy un gran fanático del turismo en casi cualquierá forma, y por eso, siempre trato de llegar antes que la multitud. Entiendo que el turismo trae buen dinero, pero para mí, no me gusta la sensación de que las personas se están vendiendo sus culturas por mi dinero… prefería conocer a gente «real» o normal, y si comen arroz y frijoles y beben Nestle clásico todos los días, es lo suficientemente bueno para mí, y si comen como reyes todos los días… voy a comer como rey cada—pfft… por un—día, pero, empero, todavía puedo encontrar valor en y disfrutar de las cosas turísticas.

Memorias favoritas de 385

Sin ningún orden en particular:


Número uno. Hablando con el dueño de Mariscos Jalisco. Fue obvio que tenía pasión por su comida y que es un tipo genial y simpático. Definitivamente es un homie.

Número dos. Comiendo el taco de camote en Guerilla Tacos. Nunca pensaba que un taco de una verdura podría ser el mejor taco que he comido.

Número tres. Cuando la vendedora llegó y nos contó su historia. Tenía una vida interesante y es trabajadora.

Número cuatro. Hablando con el autor del artículo sobre el «Hombre de Maíz» por CaraTiempo (FaceTime). No sé por qué, pero me pareció muy gracioso esta escena.

Y por fin, ¡la clase entera! Gracias Portnoy por la mejor clase de español que he tomado en USC hasta el momento. No me arrepiento de haberme esforzado tanto para entrar en esta clase mientras estaba en los países bajos. ¡Hasta la próxima! —Josh

Blog Final por Brooke

Turismo culinario es un tema problemático pero pienso que como todos los problemas que hemos discutido, es un problema de respeto. Cuando hablemos de quién puede cocinar que la comida, pienso que la respuesta es: ¿Tienen respeto a la cultura, o no? En mi experiencia el turismo culinario puede ser muy negativo si la gente no tiene respeto a la cultura y las experiencias de otra comida. Puede ser un espectáculo por Instagram, una manera de contar cuentas de experiencias o algo de fama. En el artículo de New York Times, Pete Wells dijo que, “At this point in his career, Mr. Redzepi could sell out a weenie roast in Death Valley.” Pienso que esto es muy interesante, porque implica que su “pop-up” no es experimentar la cultura a través de la comida, pero es experimentar un chef que ha alcanzado una posición de celebridad en el mundo de comida.

Ahora, hay 7,645 posts de Noma México. Creo que el mundo está cambiando con las redes sociales, pero pienso que esto es ridículo. Experimentar otra cultura de su comida es algo y esto pop-up es algo completamente diferente. Muchas de las comidas que sirven son creaciones locas que nadie en México comen, pero es una forma de culinaria “high brow”.

“At this point in his career, Mr. Redzepi could sell out a weenie roast in Death Valley.”

En mis propias experiencias, aunque la comida no es la razón para viajar, es una parte integral de viajar y experimentar otra cultura. Por ejemplo, en el colegio por las vacaciones de primavera mi iglesia iba a Tijuana para construir casas. Nuestro propósito era trabajar y ayudar, pero comimos mucha comida mexicana auténtica. Mi experiencia no era ir a restaurantes increíbles y pedir algo con influencias de comida mexicana pero me costaba $100, fuimos a vendedores ambulantes con tacos y churros, y comimos en la casa de nuestra “familia”. Los vendedores ambulantes nos cocinaban tacos de carne asada con guacamole, pico de gallo y otras salsas. Eran pequeños con tortillas de maíz y con tres ingredientes simples. Eran increíbles y muy baratos también. Los churros eran hechos de mano enfrente de mis ojos y después ponían en azúcar y canela. Esto era una experiencia culinaria muy auténtica. Era una experiencia de turista culinario porque no soy de México, pero más era una parte de mi viaje y parte integral de mi entendimiento de su cultura.

churros hecho de mano

También comimos una cena de la mamá de la casa que construimos. Había mucho arroz, pollo, frijoles, tortillas y Coca-Cola. Lloremos antes de la cena y eran como una familia en la mesa. Tenía la oportunidad de experimentar una cena actual de las familias en Tijuana, México y esto era una forma muy positiva de turista culinaria. Experimentaba no sólo la comida de su cultura, pero también sus costumbres y sus conversaciones alrededor de una mesa de cena.

Reflexión

Este semestre ha sido increíble. Todos los excursiones eran muy divertidos y aprendí mucho de los vendedores y cocineros que nos hablaban. Pienso que mi tema favorito era la apropiación cultural. Esto es un tema de muchas conversaciones en la Uni, especialmente sobre la ropa. Mis padres son los dueños de una compañía de ropa y por esto hay muchas conversaciones de apropiación cultural en su negocio. Pienso que era muy interesante de ver este tema en la luz de comida, porque antes creyó que toda la gente pudo cocinar cualquier comida que quieren. Hay una diferencia de tener influencia y de robar una cultura de alguien y ahora voy a ser más vigilante de esto. Pienso que los mercados, Grand Central y en Boyle Heights eran muy interesantes. Los dos son muy diferentes y me gustaba ver los semejantes y desemejanzas. Los dos tienen mucha cultura, pero Grant Central es más nuevo, más “hip” y tiene una mezcla de culturas, aunque Boyle Heights es más auténtica, “old school” y tiene más gente específicamente hispánica.

Para mí el proyecto grupo era algo muy divertido. Mi grupo, Brandon y Tejas y yo fuimos a restaurantes de explorar la comida de Yucatán. Aunque disfruté la comida que comí, me gustaba mucho pasar tiempo con mis amigos nuevos. No hablaba mucho a Tejas y Brandon antes, pero en nuestro proyecto me di cuenta de que tenemos mucho en común y me gusta pasar tiempo con ellos. Pienso que esta clase es algo de explorar otras culturas y perspectivas y creo que sólo de hablar con Brandon y Tejas aprendí de otras perspectivas, culturas y vidas. ¡También me encanta los pasteles de Yucatan ahora!!

Appreciation or Appropriation

Arianna Proul

As said by chef Auguste Gusteau, “Anyone can cook”. I believe this is true and chefs, whether in world-renowned restaurants or at home, should be able to explore any culture’s food, but should take care to do so with respect for that culture. I think food is not exclusive as to who can cook it, but I believe the misrepresentation or act of marketing it as something that it’s not, is when the problem of cultural appropriation arises. In relation to Wes Avila and Guerrilla Tacos, I don’t think his tacos are an act of cultural appropriation at all. Though the word tacos is in the title, he does not market his food as a traditional Mexican dining experience, instead he calls it as it is, his own creation growing from the heart of Los Angeles. It wouldn’t be common to claim his sweet potato tacos as a form of appropriating Mexican culture, because they’re so uniquely his and done with benevolence. A contrary example, however, could be seen in Taco Bell, or as my dad likes to call it, Taco Hell. Starting with the architecture of the restaurant, the faux adobe and mission bell aspires to market itself as something its not. In their mission statement is states, “We take pride in making the best Mexican style fast food providing fast, friendly, & accurate service.” I doubt many would label Taco Bell as the best, or even a form of, Mexican food. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not still very successful, and for some very delicious. The misrepresentation as a Mexican restaurant, however, is problematic as it perpetuates white culture taking other cultures for their own gain.

“We take pride in making the best Mexican style fast food providing fast, friendly, & accurate service.”

Taco Bell

Just at Taco Bell markets their food as something its not, the same issue arose at Oberlin College. As student Diep Nguyen complained, “How could they just throw out something completely different and label it as another country’s traditional food?” This misrepresentation is done so without regard for the traditional cuisine, or the culture is originated from and that is an example of cultural appropriation. Food can be more significant for some rather than others, one dish could be comfort food, years of ancestry, an art form and/or religious. Disregarding that significance is the issue with this dining hall food.

The main issue when separating cultural appropriation from cultural appreciation is whether or not it is done with respect. For example, in relation to Elotegate, Peterson was not disrespecting Mexican culture when writing about the elotero, and therefore, though problematic in its legal implications, I don’t think it was a form of malevolence or appropriation. “Food is food” as said by Arellano and Esparza, and therefore anyone can enjoy it and write about it, but do so with respect and awareness (Portnoy, 106). Though Peterson apologized, other similar critiques can be received with much more anger. Just as Bayless claiming reverse racism. For me, if the food I’m eating is good and authentic to what the restaurant claims it is, I don’t think one culture has to exclusively cook their own culture’s food. However, in Bayless’ case, his disregard of his white privilege in the restaurant scene and his disrespect for minorities’ struggles, diminishes my desire to eat his food.

“Food is food”

Portnoy, 106

Overall, the complexity of cultural appropriation does not allow for a black-and-white classification as such. Rather, each diner, chef, restaurant and critic has their own relationship with their own culture and the representation of it. If done so with respect, I believe other cultures should be explored in cuisine, but done so carefully so as not to neglect the importance of each dish served.

Blog #5: Culinary Cultural Appropriation

Por Carlin Pappas

Food has always been a way for cultures to define and differentiate themselves, each cuisine comprised of ingredients and spices that lend to its own unique identity. For example, Indian cuisine relies heavily on the use of turmeric, while Italian cuisine uses oregano. But the question over ownership of a particular food sparks and interesting debate over culinary cultural appropriation. Culinary cultural appropriation is the act of adopting culinary practices of one people or society by members of another and typically more dominant people or society. Trade and globalization have led to the colonization of foodscapes. 

In Portland, Oregon, Kooks Burritos was forced to shut down after accusations of stolen recipes and cultural appropriation. The situation over the burrito cart, operated by two white women, has left many to question ‘who’ exactly has the right to represent the food of a different culture or country.

Chef Rick Bayless.

Chef Rick Bayless, a white guy from Oklahoma, is considered one of the premier experts on Mexican food in the US, with restaurants in Los Angeles and Chicago. His cooking is so highly regarded that he cooked for former Mexican President Felipe Calderon during his visit to the White House in 2010. According to Bayless, many of his critics have said that by virtue of his race he “can’t do anything with Mexican food” (NPR, Godoy & Chow). However, he calls the criticism “plain racism.” Instead, Bayless says his cooking aims to promote the “greatest cuisine on the planet.” 

Bayless, who is bilingual and has spent years traveling through Mexico and studying the regional cuisine, explains his love for Mexican food “comes from a deep understanding” of the food and culture. But, realizing what his critics mean when they critique his cooking is instrumental to the debate around culinary cultural appropriation. What Bayless fails to recognize is his own privilege in the kitchen as a white male. According to Francis Lam, “An American-born chef is more likely than an immigrant to have the connections and the means to grab investors or news media attention—even more so if the chef came up through a prestigious restaurant or culinary school.” Bayless has the privilege of returning from Mexico to the United States after each visit. To him, cooking Mexican food isn’t a necessity but an economically-beneficial luxury. He is able to profit off of the recipes that represent lived experiences of the Mexican people. Although he admits that his relationship to Mexican food comes with some restrictions (acknowledging that since his name is non-Hispanic, he cannot mess with the food very much), he still neglects to understand his own advantage in his exploitation of Mexican cuisine. While I do think that people of different races have the right to cook foods that are not ‘ethnically theirs,’ it is important that one remembers their own privilege in the process of the cooking as a way of avoiding complete appropriation of a cuisine or culture. Cooks like Bayless should be cautious when equating their culinary experience to those of the people from which their recipes are borrowed.  

Bayless is not the only culprit in culinary cultural appropriation. Students at Oberlin College expressed their dissatisfaction with the university’s dining halls. Banh Mi, a traditional Vietnamese sandwich, served at Steven Dining Hall used ciabatta bread, pulled pork and coleslaw instead of French baguette, grilled pork, pate, pickled vegetables and fresh herbs. One student asked, “How could they just throw out something completely different and label it as another country’s traditional food?” In an attempt to provide a large number of people with food at a cheap cost, many universities fall in the trap of translating international plates to an American public as a façade of offering a ‘diverse array of cuisine’ Personally, I have not eaten at a USC dining hall since my freshman year, however, I see the same thing happening at my sorority house. At least once a week, the menu will boast an international-themed meal. For example, this week for dinner the menu has ‘Chicken Teriyaki, Asian Veggie Stir Fry, Potstickers, Egg Rolls and Fruit Cobbler’ listed. Simply labelling something as another culture’s cuisine—in this case, calling rice with vegetables “Asian Veggie Stir Fry”—is a blatant example of culinary cultural appropriation and translation. Similarly, many of the restaurants in the village, like Cava and Trejos Tacos, advertise Mediterranean and Mexican fare, respectively, but such titles are subjective towards a largely American audience. Trejos Tacos would not be considered Mexican cuisine to someone from Mexico, but to someone who has less exposure to Mexican food it may be all they know.  

Even Trader Joes sells ‘Asian Stir Fry,’ which is comprised of a mix of vegetables. The name in itself implies cultural appropriation.

Columbising is the process of “discovering” something that has existed forever. It is taking something that does not belong to you, claiming it as your own and introducing it to a new demographic of people. When Lucas Peterson wrote an article on Timoteo, an Elote Man in Lincoln Heights, he was accused of columbising. However, ‘Elotegate’ brought an influx of people to Timoteo’s business and encouraged people outside of his immediate community to try foods that they may not have been familiar with. Food writing is a great way to raise awareness around cultures and different culinary practices. I believe that Peterson and Professor Portnoy’s writing does not appropriate Latino culture, but rather raises awareness around the many different types of cuisines. Writing about food not only benefits the cook, but the consumer. It increases visibility and popularity for marginalized communities. 

Over the semester, I have enjoyed writing about my own experiences visiting a variety of Hispanic establishments. I have liked learning about how cooks have adapted and evolved their own recipes to fit the landscapes in which they operate. For example, Wes Avila of Guerrilla Tacos uses influences from his California roots and applies modern twists to traditional tacos. I believe that there is a fine line between cultural appropriation and culinary experimentation. When cooking, it is important to remain genuine to yourself and wary of exploiting other cultures. It is ok to cook another culture’s cuisine, but important to remember your privilege and background and be mindful of culinary exchange as to avoid appropriation, either intentional or unintentional. 

(Well-Researched) Imitation Is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

Por Caroline

Food and Culture are areas that are constantly evolving. Fusions between cultures have occurred both naturally and forcefully for many centuries. More recently, the question of authenticity has been a lively factor in food debates around the world. Furthermore, critics are questioning whether or not chefs have the right to prepare food outside of their personal cultural backgrounds.

In his article, “Apropiación cultural, o la usurpación de elementos étnicos: ¿un problema real?” Adrián Triglia describes cultural appropriation as someone taking elements specific to a culture and striping them of their authentic meaning. He writes, “es lo que ocurre cuando se usurpa un elemento cultural con finalidades que nada tienen que ver con las que se le atribuyen” (Triglia). In Professor Portnoy’s Food, Health, and Culture in Latino Los Angeles she mentions the concept of columbusing, and quotes Peterson, who defines it as “the act of reckless and thoughtless appropriation (typically by rich white people) of a thing that has been around for years or decades (a thing that usually belongs to non-white people).”

I believe that there are two distinct ways to examine cultural appropriation and columbusing in regards to food in the US. One example would be Kali Wilgus and Liz Connelly, former owners of Kooks Burritos, and the other is Rick Bayless, owner of Frontera Restaurants.

Kooks Burritos

“Creo en la inmersión cultural respetuosa, construir una relación con las personas, honrar y apoyar sus creencias. No mucha gente se toma el tiempo de aprender sobre otras culturas de manera respetuosa.”

Gregory Gourdet, Munchies Apropiación Cultural
Kali Wilgus and Liz Connelly

Kali Wilgus and Liz Connelly opened Kooks Burritos in 2017, and gained initial success. It all started when they took a trip to Baja California and became obsessed with Mexican cuisine. They asked women in broken Spanish what their process was, and the women’s hesitation to share the recipe coupled with a language barrier between them led Wilgus and Connelly to peer through windows to observe the tortilla-making process first hand. When this information was published in an interview months after opening Kooks Burritos, the women came under fire. People believed that they had stolen authentic tortillas and had blatantly disrespected Mexican cuisine. Many critics accused the owners of cultural appropriation. Shortly after the interview was published, Wilgus and Connelly made the decision to close their restaurant.

Although I like to believe that Wilgus and Connelly did not have malicious intent, I do think that their way of imitating Mexican cuisine was “reckless” as Peterson would say, as well as a bit tone-deaf. When recreating an element of a culture, such as cuisine, I think it is extremely important to do so with respect and care. It is of utmost importance to truly understand the cuisine at a fundamental level in order to recreate it.

Frontera Grill

“It doesn’t come from a shallow understanding of it, it comes from a very deep understanding of it.”

Rick Bayless, Sporkful Podcast
Rick Bayless

Rick Bayless is a famous American chef who specializes in Mexican cuisine. Rather than one spontaneous trip to Mexico, he spent several years in Mexico truly learning about all elements of the cuisine. He brought his knowledge back to the US, publishing his first book, Authentic Mexican: Regional Cooking from the Heart of Mexico, in 1987 and opening Frontera Grill, a Mexican restaurant in Chicago (Portnoy). He is also often criticized and accused of cultural appropriation. He prefers to view his culinary works as “translation,” or making traditional Mexican food more familiar so that a wider population of Americans would be interested.  For example in the Sporkful podcast, Other People’s Food Pt. 1: White Chef, Mexican Food, Bayless describes how he wouldn’t simply say “mole,” but rather would describe it as “a Oaxacan red mole from the coast” (Bayless, Sporkful Podcast). Bayless goes on to explain how he “started pulling out the familiar things and listing the ingredients that sounded not too frightening to people, in fact they sounded really delicious” (Bayless, Sporkful Podcast).

I believe that Rick Bayless’ background and commitment to learning Mexican cuisine allows him to explore Mexican food in a respectful way. He even acknowledges his position on sticking to tradition rather than experimenting with Mexican food when he says, “because my name is not hispanic, I cant mess with the stuff very much. And I realize that, and I accept that” (Bayless, Sporkful Podcast). I believe that acknowledging an admiration for Mexican culture and respecting that culture’s authentic past is a vital part of participating in the recreation of their cuisine.

An important distinction between the two situations is Bayless’ “deep and resonate” love for Mexican cuisine, whereas Wilgus and Connelly seem to have a more fleeting interest without truly making an effort to understand the culture.

“La cocina es por mucho el ejemplo más puro e íntimo de expresión cultural y por lo general el quién puede cocinar qué se convierte en una batalla más amplia que afecta a la sociedad.”

Brad Japhe, Munchies Apropiación Cultural

Conclusion

When looking at the restaurants I have tried throughout this course, Taco Bell is a very clear front-runner for cultural appropriation. Glen Bell, the entrepreneur who founded Taco Bell, very clearly did not do so to attempt to understand and share Mexican culture. I think this is a prime example of columbusing, through his cheap imitation of Mexican culture, like the bell tower and “adobe” walls, as well as food, through the use of cheddar cheese and iceberg lettuce. In contrast, I visited several other restaurants that were the polar opposite of Taco Bell. For example Sarita’s Pupuseria, Guisados, or Guerrilla Tacos. In all three instances, I felt as if the owners were truly trying to share their culture and their experiences, rather than simply selling a Spanish Fantasy Past, which asserts a theatrical version of Latin culture.

In conclusion, I think there are many ways to look at cultural appropriation within Mexican cuisines in the US. However, if I were to attempt to generalize my opinion on the topic, it would come down to the genuine intent of the chef, and how much effort they invest to understand the food and culture of the foreign region they are recreating.

Translations or Tainting? (Por Emily Stallings)

It is difficult to determine who has the right to represent another culture or country’s food, especially if that person is not from the same origin as the food. On the one hand, I believe that someone can replicate another ethnicity’s food if that individual respects the culture, is knowledgeable about the culture, and has good intentions. Rick Bayless, for example, is native to Oklahoma, and yet, he has become “one of America’s primer experts on Mexican food”. For Bayless, his deep understanding and research into Mexican culture has allowed him to produce “authentic” Mexican food. While Bayless replicated Mexican food out of his admiration for the culture, I do also understand the other side of the argument. From the NPR article, the authors made a comparison that I think is worthwhile. The authors equated the question of “who gets to cook other people’s foods” with “who gets to tell other people’s stories”. Food has always had a tight link to cultural identity and history, and as a result, ethnic individuals tend to be experts in their ethnic cuisine. With this being said, I think people not of the ethnicity can represent the country or ethnicity’s food if they have previously been immersed in the culture and are well-versed in the cultural norms and traditions.

The kitchen at Guerilla Tacos.
Los Angeles is an epicenter for the fusion of cultures and innovation.

America is a product of its multicultural population. In addition, America was built on imports and trading. In relation to the Atlantic article, I do agree that in general America is a country of “mixing and matching and intermingling and borrowing and stealing and creating new traditions out of whole cloth”. These fusions and combinations create uniqueness and represent innovation, but it is important not to blur the lines between the original product and its altered counterparts. As Bayless would say, these “translations”, or interpretations, create recognition for the food and culture. In the podcast, “Bayless translated classic Mexican food for an American audience, tweaking it to make it more accessible, more familiar, while still preserving the soul of it”. Critics of Bayless’s translations acknowledge the increase of sophistication, but highlight the loss of vernacular. From this point of view, “all translation is not a colonizing act”, however, translation can still be a loss because it is deviating from the tradition and antiquity of the original product.

“An American-born chef is more likely than an immigrant to have the connections and the means to grab investors or news media attention — even more so if the chef came up through a prestigious restaurant or culinary school or is quick with a witty quote” — Francis Lam, New York Times

https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/03/22/471309991/when-chefs-become-famous-cooking-other-cultures-food

From the article “Apropiación cultural, o la usurpación de elementos étnicos: ¿un problema real?”, cultural appropriation refers to the commodification of marginalized cultural aspects that have been introduced by Western, white culture. Based on this definition, I do think chefs, like Rick Bayless, are demonstrations of cultural appropriation; their “status” as white chefs allows them to have a platform to share their re-creations of ethnic food. Another example of cultural appropriation is Taco Bell; Taco Bell is a Mexican-American restaurant that serves less-than-authentic food with a lack of high quality ingredients. This fast food chain has normalized hard shell tacos with ground beef, iceberg lettuce, and sour cream. I, personally, would not consider the “Crunch Wrap Supreme” to be Mexican food.

In my opinion, I think there is more to the definition of cultural appropriation than given in the article previously mentioned; cultural appropriation also includes inappropriate or unacknowledged adaptations of the culture’s customs. Through this perspective, I do not think Bayless’s restaurant and food is an example of cultural appropriation. Along these lines, Gregory Gourdet, a chef of Asian cuisine, said in the Kooks Burritos article, “Creo en la inmersión cultural respetuosa, construir una relación con las personas, honrar y apoyar sus creencias”. When chefs of different ethnicities respect and admire the other ethnicity, there is nothing inappropriate about it.

“La cocina es por mucho el ejemplo más puro e íntimo de expresión cultural y por lo general el quién puede cocinar qué se convierte en una batalla más amplia que afecta a la sociedad.”

https://munchies.vice.com/es/article/59mxvn/portland-chefs-discuss-cultural-appropriation-amid-burrito-stand-closure

 “Columbusing” is defined by Peterson as “‘the act of reckless and thoughtless appropriation (typically by rich white people) of a thing that has been around for years or decades (a thing that usually belongs to non-white people).’” The key word in this situation is “thoughtless”; Peterson was not knowledgeable enough to realize the possible consequences of his words. For one, he described the delectable toppings of sweet corn as a “mountain of unhealthy toppings”. He also gave the location of the elotero, which could be used by the police and FDA to shut down the stand. Nevertheless, I do think non-Latino writers can write about Latin American cuisine; they just have to do be well informed about the culture and its cuisine. For example, chef and owner of Petty Cash taqueria, Walter Manzke, grew up in San Diego but took frequent childhood trips to Tijuana where he fell in love with Mexican food and culture. Only after extensive research into flavors, ingredients, and techniques did Manzke open up his restaurant.

In regards to the article, “A Food Fight at Oberlin College”, I agree with the student’s statement that “if people not from that heritage take food, modify it and serve it as ‘authentic,’ it is appropriative.” I believe that when someone creates the dish, they are also representing the meaning of the culture and the stories behind it. At Oberlin College, the dining hall should not have labeled their ethnic food as “authentic”, knowing that there dishes did not fully resemble the traditional versions. On the other hand, college campuses don’t always have access to the best ingredients and, therefore, it can be difficult to recreate dishes with accuracy. The lack of ingredients and lack of knowledge about the culture fostered the student’s negative attitudes towards the dining hall dishes.

At ethnic restaurants, I do not have a preference about who cooks and prepares my dishes. As long as the chefs are well-versed in the culinary history and tendencies of that ethnicity, have the proper skills and training, and have a story to tell, I am more than willing to eat the food.

Cultural Appreciation or Appropriation?

por Sarina Kapai

Today, Los Angeles’ latest trend seems to be fusion food or inspired food, and many restaurants capitalize on the craze for creative new ways to present traditional cuisines and transform authentic recipes. But in their mission to be creative, do chefs sometimes cross the line? Are there times when experimentation disrespects a culture’s culinary traditions? When does cultural appreciation become appropriation?

There are many who feel that the culture of fusion food in Los Angeles is a result of globalization and that the non-traditional styles of dishes are simply a reflection of such cultural collisions. The Mexican and Salvadoran citizens who immigrated to the United States brought with them new recipes and ingredients, which has merged with the existing food culture to create something new. For example, many Latino street food vendors sell tacos by cooking meat from a rotating spit, which is a style originally from Lebanese immigrants. And many more loncheras (food trucks), and street vendors offer similarly non-traditional dishes. Many, like Mariscos Jaliscos, which we visited as a class, uses traditional family-owned secret recipes prepared with more local ingredients—an adaptation or translating to living in a new environment that is not home. Other places like Guerilla Tacos make fusion food their misión, and chefs like Wes Ávila intentionally combine Mexican, Middle Eastern, Japanese, and Chinese ingredients in their recipes. Many of these places that we recently visited in class were considered to be examples of cultural appreciation—food places that both celebrate tradition and acknowledge that what is “authentic” can always change.

Guerilla Tacos: fusion food

Bill Esparza is one such supporter of this form of this kind of food, saying that divergence from traditional and authentic is a natural consequence of America’s diverse population of immigrants. Fusion or non-traditional food, presented in this light, is quite a positive thing—a celebration of what can be made from separate rich cultures instead of racism or appropriation.

However, there is more to consider. The article from the Atlantic raised an important issue in the quest to determine whether something is cultural appreciation or cultural appropriation. Students at Oberlin College complained about their dining halls that claimed to offer “ethnic” dishes while completely misrepresenting those foods. Shortcuts were taken, cheaper ingredients were used, and the overall quality did not match the traditional versions that these students had grown up eating. This was the case for Oberlin’s Banh Mi sándwich and sushi were both condemned as subpar and disrespectful to the parent cuisines. While the cafeterias may have been trying to celebrate the diversity of their students, many students felt that they were in fact appropriating dishes from their cultures. However, I would argue that dining halls and their chefs should be held to different standards than restaurants. The author of the Atlantic article also raised this issue when stating that many cafeterias have lower budgets and often less flexibility in what they can serve. Restaurante are more able to determine their reputation and their image, and then stock their kitchen to meet those standards. Expecting college dining halls to provide quality cuts of fish for sushi night, is rather unreasonable in my opinion, simply because there is no budget for that. While some might consider that discrimination against Japanese cuisine, which relies heavily upon high quality fish, others would observe that providing this type of food in a college environment is not very feasible.

Banh Mi at Oberlin College

As Sarah Portnoy discusses in her book, appropriation is often “reckless and thoughtless” and typically done by white people, a phenomenon she terms “colombusing”. College cafeterias often make an effort to appreciate diverse cuisines—though limited in means. However, if we are to judge appropriation objectively, it is not contingent upon the intention of the cook.

As Sarah Portnoy discusses in her book, appropriation is often “reckless and thoughtless” and typically done by white people, a phenomenon she terms “colombusing”. College cafeterias often make an effort to appreciate diverse cuisines—though limited in means. However, if we are to judge appropriation objectively, it is not contingent upon the intention of the cook.

My friends and I have observed countless times how USC’s dining halls offer Indian food that is not traditional, or tacos that are not authentic. Most times we accept it, appreciating that an attempt was made to incorporate more diverse plates into our diets; however, on occasion, we have noticed things that can be considered more offensive, similar to how a student at Oberlin complained about being served beef on Indian holidays was disrespectful to her religion.

USC Parkside dining hall

Another interesting case to study is that of Chef Bayless, an American cook who has spent a lifetime studying and learning the art of Mexican cuisine and culture. He fluently speaks Spanish, has traveled to various countries, and offers both traditional and new forms of Mexican-inspired food. Many debate whether this is a form of appropriation or colombusing, since he is a white chef preparing the food of a non-white demographic. However, I would argue that so long as there is a clear respect for the base culture and a humility on the part of the chef cooking the food. To say that only Indian people can cook Indian food, or Salvadoran people can cook only Salvadoran food confines people to their own cultures and prevents the wonderful consequences of cultural collisions, which can be seen in Guerilla Tacos, Revolucionarios, etc. While it is fair to assign ownership of a cuisine to its natural demographic, I believe that this should not prevent others who are passionate about a culture that is not their own, from learning and appreciating it.

“All translation is not a colonizing act.”

– Sarah Portnoy

I agree with the quote above in that not all acts of translation are a form of appropriation. Simply being an outsider to a culture, does not mean that your involvement in it, is therefore considered disrespectful. The urge to study another culture—through food, or through language—is such a fundamental human thing; our curiosity is such a gift, that it would be a shame to discourage ourselves from learning more about each other. In fact, many of us in this course are not ethnically Latino, and yet we are enthusiastically studying this amazing culture with respect and an open mind. Cultural appreciation and appropriation are sometimes difficult to distinguish between, and there are many factors to consider. But at the very least, there must be a respect and healthy awareness for the cuisine or culture or language being studied. In this way, we at least strive to avoid the unintended incidents of appropriation.