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.

10 respuestas a “Appreciation or Appropriation

  1. sarinaka7

    Me encanta como usaba una cita de Ratatouille porque es mi película favorita! También estoy de acuerdo en que cada persona puede cocinar y tiene el derecho hacerlo. Creo que cómo un restaurante se presente es importante en determinar si es apropriación o celebración. Y desde que Guerilla Tacos no se presenta como un restaurante “auténtico” no es malo que cambia recetas de lo tradicional.

  2. emilystallings14

    Estoy de acuerdo que todos pueden estar cocineros! Sin embargo, es importante que todos representen la comida en una manera positiva y razonable. En relación a Taco Bell, la autenticidad de la comida es mínima. ¿Piensas que Taco Bell es un restaurante mexicano o solamente usa la comida mexicana como inspiración por su comida americana?

    Ademas, me gusta tu comentario sobre como cada chef, comensal y restaurante tienen sus propias ideas y representaciones de comida.

  3. camillestafford01

    I really like your dad’s nickname for Taco Bell. I have been one time and while it was delicious on the first bite I felt sick for the rest of the day. Your comparison of cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation is really well done and I agree that respect for other cultures can reduce many of the issues. Social issues are very much in the “grey” and are difficult to define and decide what is right and wrong.

  4. nred9

    Arianna, ¡me gustaba tu artículo! Reí cuando leí tu comentario sobre como tu padre llama a Taco Bell “Taco Hell.” Estoy de acuerdo con tu idea de que es necesario ser respetuoso, en relación con la línea que separa la appropriación v. el aprecio de una cultura culinaria. En mi proprio blog, tenía la misma opinión como ti sobre Peterson — también pensé que no era una forma de appropriación; ¡mejor pensé que era una manera de ayudar Timoteo a vender más elote! También tenía el permiso de Timoteo y todo.

  5. Carlin Pappas

    Ariana, I agree with you that when you say, “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.” You bring up a good point about the difference between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation. I would love to know more about what you think of Chef Rick Bayless. While I agree that his neglects to acknowledge his white privilege, do you think his appreciation of Mexican food and culture is genuine?

  6. Victoria Martinez

    Arianna,
    La referencia de Disney fue absolutamente perfecta para esta publicación de blog. Respecto a la universidad de Oberlin, no creo que sea el responsable de ser completamente auténtico, pero estoy de acuerdo en que ignorar los días religiosos y las restricciones dietéticas es algo que no se puede tolerar.

  7. Brooke Finegold

    I love the quote “anyone can cook”, and I remember hearing this in Ratatouille and resonating with that. However, I feel that this movie perfectly explains the line between appreciation and appropriation. Chef Gusteau worked to recreate timeless dishes of various cultures for a sensual and enjoyable experience. However, towards the end of the movie, the new owners sold Gusteau’s image out for frozen meals where Gusteau is on the front in various hats and stereotypical outfits of those cultures. I see the beginning of the film as an appreciation, and the frozen food line as appropriation. I think like Taco Bell, the lower end and more of a fast production the food is, the more of appropriation it is. Taco Bell I agree is not Mexican food, it’s like hot, off brand appropriated Mexican goo. While I can’t lie, I do enjoy it from time to time, it is never where I would go for a true authentic Mexican food experience.

  8. Caroline Stack

    Arianna,
    I think it’s really great how you mention that Wes Avila doesn’t claim to be authentic to Mexico, but rather authentic to Los Angeles. I agree that it is not cultural appropriation, but staying true to his own culture. I laughed at your mention of “Taco Hell.” I like your analysis of “food is food,” and I think it is a really important way to look at the topic. It’d be interesting to look at how much care restauranteurs take with regards to learning about the cultural history of the food. With Taco Bell, I would argue that it is cultural appropriation. When Peterson mentions a “reckless” disregard for authentic culture, it reminds me of Taco Bell. Great job!

  9. Sarah Portnoy

    Arianna,
    Tu cita de Ratatouille causó muchas reacciones arriba. Fue interesante lo que dijo Brooke sobre la evolución de aprecio a appropriation del ratoncito durante la película. Se me había olvidado esa parte.
    Bien escrito con muy buenas observaciones y ejemplos de la diferencia entre aprecio y appropriación.

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