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.
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 Timeshttps://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.