19 votes

Reclaiming Indian food from the white gaze

This topic is locked. New comments can not be posted.

49 comments

  1. [4]
    monarda
    Link
    I'm ashamed of how we responded to this writing. So once again I will out myself as a trying to reform racist. I'm going to go back in time to words I said related to places. Writing from that...

    I'm ashamed of how we responded to this writing. So once again I will out myself as a trying to reform racist. I'm going to go back in time to words I said related to places. Writing from that point of view.

    Walking into a lobby motel to get a room:
    "The smell, OMG it's so gross" <giggle>. "WTF is this?"
    Brown person walks out from their home attached to lobby, smiling.
    Me: "Do all your rooms smell like this?" <looks at boyfriend with a wrinkled nose>
    Brown person loses smile and (pretends to not understand?) says, "Can I help you?"
    Me: "I said," <slows my words down because obviously they need that> "do. all. your. rooms. smell. like. this."
    Brown person: "Oh you want a room!"
    Me: <rolls eyes> "yeah, how much?"

    Walking down a hall in an apartment building
    Me: <loudly exclaiming> "WTF is that smell?!"
    Friend: All middle easterners smell that way. I hate it.
    Me: "OMG right," <Loudly tells story of smell coming from brown people>

    Oh, and Polacks and their cabbagy disgusting smells wafting through apartment dwellings. Who the heck eats that shit.
    <Joanne Zawoski has me for a sleep over, conversation with my "real" friends afterwards> "Her parents tried to feed me poison. You know what I mean? I almost puked at dinner."

    Did any child who wanted to belong hear my words? I don't know. Did I give a shit? No. I did not.

    10 votes
    1. [3]
      patience_limited
      Link Parent
      Thanks for relating that - it's hard to acknowledge when you may have done harm to people. Just a footnote - my best friend is Korean, and she loves to cook. But when we were at work together,...

      Thanks for relating that - it's hard to acknowledge when you may have done harm to people.

      Just a footnote - my best friend is Korean, and she loves to cook. But when we were at work together, she'd never reheat her food or eat her lunch indoors, regardless of weather, because people made awful comments about the smell. She'd bring me gifts of homemade kimchi (OMG yum) and caution me not to unwrap the multiple layers of plastic until I got home.

      H1B Indian contractors at that same office went through hell about food smells. They were already resented for lowering wage standards among the salaried employees they were slowly replacing. If they dared to leave a food container in the 'fridge or microwave, they'd return to find it in the trash, container and all. At least one probably got sick from dish soap added to their food (and thus cameras added to the dining area, and a little more employee resentment - lather, rinse, repeat).

      8 votes
      1. TheRtRevKaiser
        Link Parent
        I get this, but there's a certain amount of office etiquette when it comes to food smells in general. Like, there have been a few times that people at my office nuked fish (or the one time...

        I get this, but there's a certain amount of office etiquette when it comes to food smells in general. Like, there have been a few times that people at my office nuked fish (or the one time somebody microwaved a whole bag of unpeeled shrimp) and they caught crap for it. I don't think we ought to make people feel inferior or bad about their culture, but we've all got to work together too, and most folks don't want to smell everybody's food.

        There's probably something to be said here about how employers probably ought to put more thought into how their workplaces are designed to minimize some of these issues.

        7 votes
      2. monarda
        Link Parent
        Racism is weird. I don't ever remember that my intent was to cause harm, instead it was to belong or being ignorant, or being thoughtless. It did not occur to me that my words and actions were...

        Racism is weird. I don't ever remember that my intent was to cause harm, instead it was to belong or being ignorant, or being thoughtless. It did not occur to me that my words and actions were part of "death by a thousand cuts." I can't take back anything I have said or done, but I can continue to learn. I really appreciate people like the author of this piece for shedding light about how that happens, so maybe we as society can reflect and be more mindful.

        4 votes
  2. arghdos
    Link
    Whatever else you want to say about this article: Is demonstrably true. I have been making quite a bit of Indian food during the quarantine, and in my experience the hard part is not making the...

    Whatever else you want to say about this article:

    But while I have been enjoying teaching myself traditional recipes, I often get stuck when none of the options online are written by brown people

    Is demonstrably true. I have been making quite a bit of Indian food during the quarantine, and in my experience the hard part is not making the food, but finding a recipe worth a damn. The situation becomes even worse because of the language barrier (have found the same for Thai as well). It becomes very difficult even searching for new (reasonably authentic) dishes to try, because they are drowned out by .... well, a lot of what the author describes in this piece. My only successful strategy thus far has been to find one or two sites that I trust, and stick to them.

    For instance, my partner and I have been making Chana Masala for years now (e.g., as discussed here), but I have never heard of Chole Bhature. There are a world of Chole's out there, and I have little to no idea what they are... and it takes pretty dedicated searching to find them (e.g., I found a mint and coriander Chole the other week, and it was amazing!)

    I would buy the shit out of her book.

    11 votes
  3. [4]
    Turtle
    (edited )
    Link
    If we want to talk about cultural appropriation: it's chá, not "chai". And your not supposed to put milk or sweeteners in it. Time to reclaim tea from the brown gaze I guess... /s, obviously...

    If we want to talk about cultural appropriation: it's chá, not "chai". And your not supposed to put milk or sweeteners in it. Time to reclaim tea from the brown gaze I guess...

    /s, obviously

    Cultures adapt products from other cultures to match their preferences. This is completely natural, literally every culture does this. It's not "gentrification" or "colonialism" or whatever.

    5 votes
    1. [3]
      NaraVara
      Link Parent
      This is a willfully obtuse misreading. Nobody is talking about using or adapting ingredients. The point is people profiting from the cultural products of people while denigrating the people who...

      Cultures adapt products from other cultures to match their preferences. This is completely natural, literally every culture does this. It's not "gentrification" or "colonialism" or whatever.

      This is a willfully obtuse misreading. Nobody is talking about using or adapting ingredients. The point is people profiting from the cultural products of people while denigrating the people who produced the cultural product in the first place. Again:

      Slowly, I started absorbing the stigma that others attached to my culture. In fifth grade, my mom submitted a chicken tikka masala recipe to our class cookbook even though we are vegetarians, because it’s always been easier to give the people what they want than to try to educate them. In 10th grade, eating bhindi stained my braces green. In college, my favorite snack was papad, but when my friends started to sniff the air after I made it, I learned to be self-conscious about its smell. As an adult, even my own home could make me feel judged: Whenever I made tadka in my Brooklyn kitchen, the mustard seeds tempering in ghee set off the smoke detector.
      But the same recipes I was teased for eventually became chic, gentrified, and endorsed by Goop. Their popularity in the hands of white tastemakers made me realize that people didn’t want to see a brown face behind brown food. I met people who were hesitant to try my homemade nimbu pani, but would happily pay $6 for South Indian filter coffee made by a white woman at Smorgasburg. It’s never been an equal playing field: Brown chefs are expected to cook their own food, but white chefs can cook whatever they want.

      How do you read all that and walk away thinking the author's point is that "nobody should use curry" rather than "if you like curry so much why are you so unwilling to accept the people who made it?"

      9 votes
      1. [2]
        Turtle
        Link Parent
        Maybe it's not 'the point' of the article, but the subtext was there, and that was what really irked me and what I was reacting to. So she's upset that: white people are eating ghee and "kitchari"...

        Maybe it's not 'the point' of the article, but the subtext was there, and that was what really irked me and what I was reacting to.

        It’s also jarring to see how the language around Indian food has changed over time, with new recipes branded as ayurvedic, vegan, and cleansing in order to seem more approachable. Ghee, which I grew up thinking was an indulgence, is now a superfood. Khichdi, one of my childhood comfort foods, has been co-opted as kitchari, the latest detox cleanse.

        This kind of language belongs to modern wellness culture, which has also made me distance myself from Indian traditions. I would love to learn yoga or meditation, but don’t feel like I have access to them anymore: It’s too painful to learn about my culture from people who can’t pronounce “namaste” (nuh-mus-teh) or “mantra” (mun-tra). “Namaste” is a word that no longer even belongs to us: I cringe when I hear it used in all sorts of inappropriate situations, like as a catchphrase to “namastay in bed.” Its loss echoes the one I felt my first year in New York, when I attended a Diwali puja (prayer service) only to feel sick to my stomach when I realized that I was the only brown person in the room. It’s traumatic to see your culture taken from you.

        So she's upset that:

        • white people are eating ghee and "kitchari"
        • white people have anglicized the pronunciation of "namaste" and "mantra" (almost like they're English speakers or something?)
        • white people using namaste in contexts different than the original
        • white people participating in her religion

        which sounds a lot like "whites adopting things from other cultures and changing them to match their preferences". Which is fine, right?

        4 votes
        1. NaraVara
          Link Parent
          Yes. It is often easy to make things sound like other things when you sever them from their context in a broader piece and read them with an eye towards finding things to get defensive about. The...

          Yes. It is often easy to make things sound like other things when you sever them from their context in a broader piece and read them with an eye towards finding things to get defensive about. The subtext isn't there. The subtext is one of valuing the work of others while shunning the people who made it.

          Each of the things you're implying are frivolous are being presented as evidence of ignorance being propounded specifically to make the cultural products more accessible to people whose racism would have prevented them from trying it otherwise.

          • She's not upset about people eating ghee. She's pointing out that you needed to brand butter as a "superfood" to encourage people to try it. This is clear when she uses the term "indulgence." Ghee is actually unhealthy. It's not a "superfood." They just call it that to make people comfortable buying it.

          • She's not upset about people having trouble pronouncing mantra or namaste, she's pointing out that people who couldn't be bothered to pronounce a word properly are unlikely to have learned to actually understand the tradition behind it. Especially in light of the fact that yogic practice emphasizes the rhyme and meter of sounds and syllables and if you don't know that it's dubious how well you actually know yoga.

          • Imagine thinking it's weird to appropriate greetings and spiritual iconography and apply it in ways that are considered disrespectful in the culture they originate from.

          • She's not talking about people "participating in her religion" she's talking about hanging out as tourists without actually participating.

          "whites adopting things from other cultures and changing them to match their preferences"

          In these cases "changing them to match their preferences" involves "disassociating them as much as possible from the icky mud-people who created them." So no. It's not fine.

          6 votes
  4. [27]
    rabbit
    Link
    I wonder what the author means by "white gaze". I must have missed that somewhere in article. From my own sense of ethnic food, white people seem to frown upon what was unfamiliar to them. Shows...

    I wonder what the author means by "white gaze". I must have missed that somewhere in article. From my own sense of ethnic food, white people seem to frown upon what was unfamiliar to them. Shows like Anthony Bourdain's tv series seemed to at least convince white people that good food is good food, regardless of ethnic origin. At least in my experience it seemed that more people around that time seemed more open to trying out "ethnic" food. My best guess at what the author is getting at with "white gaze" is that it's the trendiness of it. As I was reading the article, I immediately thought of sriracha sauce which within the past 10-20 years has exploded into the American (white) markets. I even remember seeing even some fast food joints like McDonalds or Wendy's started incorporating into their meals. But I'm not sure that was entirely a negative thing.

    All this isn't to say that I completely disagree with the author. I think there's a certain "colonial" attitude towards non-white cooks. Immediately after reading the article, I was reminded of the Dallas restaurateur who's now sueing a Vietnamese lady for pointing out a spelling mistake in a menu for his Vietnamese restaurant. I think there's a definitely sense of white chefs operating in that "ethnic" space that everything they do is better.

    4 votes
    1. gpl
      Link Parent
      "White gaze" usually refers to the fact (or phenomena) of white people, by virtue of holding most of the cultural and social capital in western societies, often get to define what is "good" or...

      "White gaze" usually refers to the fact (or phenomena) of white people, by virtue of holding most of the cultural and social capital in western societies, often get to define what is "good" or "beautiful". That is, the way we view things as society (again, in Western nations, but because of globalism and a history of colonialism this often extends to other spheres) is almost always defined and imposed by white people. Beauty standards, the "correct" way of speaking, the "correct" way of comporting yourself in public, tasty food, "disgusting" food, etc. All of this gets defined by white people, and this can have a seriously detrimental effect on how non-white people living in these societies view and evaluate their own cultural products. Toni Morrison wrote and spoke a lot about this topic, particularly in her novel The Bluest Eye, as well as the importance of non-white authors removing themselves from this white gaze. This is a good article touching on a lot of this and highlighting the personal effects of living in such a society.

      14 votes
    2. [3]
      acdw
      Link Parent
      I want to expand on @gpl's comment, and add my take on "white gaze" -- I think "white gaze" refers to the cultural expectation, due to colonialism etc., that culture is made for white people --...

      I want to expand on @gpl's comment, and add my take on "white gaze" -- I think "white gaze" refers to the cultural expectation, due to colonialism etc., that culture is made for white people -- that their gaze, or experience, is the important one, the one to consider. Compare this to the "male gaze," where women are often expected to make themselves presentable to the received male conception of beauty, to see themselves through a male's eyes. Men, and white people, do not have the obverse expectation -- they are free to ignore the gaze of other people.

      I think I read about the male gaze in "Ways of Seeing" by John Berger, though I've heard about it elsewhere too. Now that I think about it, I'm extrapolating from my understanding of male gaze to what I think white gaze means, so I could be wrong.

      11 votes
      1. [2]
        reifyresonance
        Link Parent
        This is what I thought of too. An excerpt: You can watch the documentary online instead of reading it, the most relevant section is part 2:...

        This is what I thought of too. An excerpt:

        Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at... The surveyor of woman in herself is male: the surveyed female. Thus she turns herself into an object - and most particularly an object of vision: a sight.

        You can watch the documentary online instead of reading it, the most relevant section is part 2:
        https://youtube.com/watch?v=lSSU3X_VBr8&list=PLr_OCmk7CcHRNn_61hGsFdPiLd830_HEW&index=2

        3 votes
        1. acdw
          Link Parent
          Thanks for linking the documentary! I forgot it was around first, even :)

          Thanks for linking the documentary! I forgot it was around first, even :)

          1 vote
    3. nothis
      Link Parent
      Eater is testing my liberal patience with some of their weird, highly political articles, lately. I expected to roll my eyes at this dramatic phrasing but it's IMO explained in the second...

      I wonder what the author means by "white gaze".

      Eater is testing my liberal patience with some of their weird, highly political articles, lately. I expected to roll my eyes at this dramatic phrasing but it's IMO explained in the second paragraph:

      Whenever I went to a British friend’s house for playdates, her mom proudly told me when they ordered Indian food (always curry) and how she was so relieved that this particular restaurant didn’t give her stomach problems.

      I mean, that's kind of a mean thing to say.

      4 votes
    4. [21]
      Loire
      Link Parent
      I really wish "whiteness" wasn't automatically associated with rural and/or ignorant white Americans. Most of us growing up in an urban center didn't suddenly turn on to something other than...

      I really wish "whiteness" wasn't automatically associated with rural and/or ignorant white Americans. Most of us growing up in an urban center didn't suddenly turn on to something other than salted roast beef and mashed potatoes because Anthony Bourdain told us it was cool.

      To be honest with you, I've read this article a few times now and I must be missing the point. To be frank this assertion that an innocuous comment by a white lady about her indigestion othered the author is frankly ridiculous and the some of the worst excess of victimization culture imaginable. The joke is, and has always been on white people and our lack of culinary adventurism for as long as I have been alive. It's almost instictual self deprecation at this point. The woman was trying to relate to the author through her culture. Does the author think she is the only one to have stained her own braces or set off her apartment's fire alarm? To attach cultural stigma to all these benign, fairly common place issues is asinine.

      To assert that only white restaraunters are allowed to dabble in other cultures might have some credence if the author lived in Madison, but to claim from Manhattan that only white chefs are working with alternative and hybrid cuisines? And to assert that white New Yorkers prefer to eat at white owned, foreign cuisine? Absolutely absurd.

      Gee, how terrible for the Indian culture that Ghee has become popular.

      Even in Houston I have never had Indian food that wasn't prepared by an Indian (or possibly Bengali or Pakistani). Do you think my local taco truck is run by a white person? Where is the outrage that Vietnamese immigrants have absolutely dominated and perfected Cajun cuisine in this region?

      There is no complaint because food, more than any other cultural item, is meant to be shared. It's how we gather, a centerpiece for socialization, and to bring people together. It's how we sustain eachother and make others happy. Food is an ambassador for cultures, and frankly I thought it was the one thing we could all agree to leave untouched from the gaze of cultural appropriation.

      Ask any (authentic or otherwise) non-white chef if they want to cook exclusively for their own racial sub-group, what do you think their answer will be? Do you think they care as long as their food is apreciated, and brings happiness? Do you think they feel othered by white people eating their traditional meals?

      Seriously what are we supposed to take away from this piece? That some people are so ready to be victimized that they allow the thought of other races enjoying their food to other them and alienate them from their culture?

      11 votes
      1. [6]
        acdw
        Link Parent
        I'm not sure where the parent comment or the source article made this assumption -- as a white American from the rural South I did not read that assumption in either text, but I might've missed...

        I really wish "whiteness" wasn't automatically associated with rural and/or ignorant white Americans.

        I'm not sure where the parent comment or the source article made this assumption -- as a white American from the rural South I did not read that assumption in either text, but I might've missed something.

        To be frank this assertion that an innocuous comment by a white lady about her indigestion othered the author is frankly ridiculous and the some of the worst excess of victimization culture imaginable. ... The woman was trying to relate to the author through her culture.

        I think the problem with this kind of "relating" is that, when someone hears it all the time, it stops being funny or self-deprecating pretty quickly. It's also difficult to take as a joke when the same people who make this kind of self-deprecating humor also make fun of, or belittle, mock, jeer at, or even physically harm you just for aspects of yourself you can't change, like skin color or cultural background. The same is true with the examples you give for staining braces or setting off a fire alarm -- it's hard to separate the instance from the background of "your culture is [in some way] invalid."

        Where is the outrage that Vietnamese immigrants have absolutely dominated and perfected Cajun cuisine in this region?

        I've heard some about Viet-Cajun food, though I haven't had any; I think that the outrage is missing because there is no attempt to erase the Cajun-ness of the food. It is a pure sharing expression of cultural melding, and that is beautiful.

        The problem that I think the author is coming up against is how white people, because of the background of colonialism and neocolonialism that we*'re barely conscious of much of the time, because we're steeped in it and it benefits us, do tend to erase people of color's contributions to our own cuisine. An example is linked in the article, actually: The Stew (here's that recipe, which is pretty obviously a curry, though she calls it a stew).

        I took the piece as one of frustration, that the author has felt this way for much of her life, through no fault of her own; and as a way to write about reclaiming heritage through cooking by embracing her own cuisine and showing it to others without apology.

        • I'm saying "we" as in "I", and other white people; I don't presume to know your own cultural background.
        10 votes
        1. [5]
          Loire
          Link Parent
          It was in reply to the parent level comment semi implying Anthony Bourdain made eating good food cool for white people. It can't "stop being self-deprecating" simple through repetition especially...

          I'm not sure where the parent comment or the source article made this assumption -- as a white American from the rural South I did not read that assumption in either text, but I might've missed something.

          It was in reply to the parent level comment semi implying Anthony Bourdain made eating good food cool for white people.

          I think the problem with this kind of "relating" is that, when someone hears it all the time, it stops being funny or self-deprecating pretty quickly.

          It can't "stop being self-deprecating" simple through repetition especially when that repetition is through multiple different people. If it's intended to mock one self that is exactly what it is, irregardless of how tired the joke is. We have a responsibility to not find harm where it is not intended.

          It's also difficult to take as a joke when the same people who make this kind of self-deprecating humor also make fun of, or belittle, mock, jeer at, or even physically harm you just for aspects of yourself you can't change, like skin color or cultural background.

          There is no indication the older women in question did this. Indeed, with the exception of the very off handed mention of childhood bullying there is no indication anywhere in the article that this woman has had this occur to her.

          I've heard some about Viet-Cajun food, though I haven't had any; I think that the outrage is missing because there is no attempt to erase the Cajun-ness of the food. It is a pure sharing expression of cultural melding, and that is beautiful.

          With all due respect you are literally just justifying it because it isn't being done by white people. Viet-Cajun food isn't Cajun food. It's a fusion that takes elements of Cajun cuisine and hybridizes it with Vietnamese because of the similiarities. Part of it is literally Vietnamese people saying crawfish are better cooked in Vietnamese style than New Orleans style. It is literally one culture taking another culture's cuisine and adapting it to their own preferences. It is the exact same as the author's complaints of white chefs cooking Indian cuisine.

          But you are right. It is beautiful. Because this is what food is supposed to be.

          The problem that I think the author is coming up against is how white people, because of the background of colonialism and neocolonialism that we*'re barely conscious of much of the time, because we're steeped in it and it benefits us, do tend to erase people of color's contributions to our own cuisine.

          While I'm sure examples of this have occurred, we really don't. When it comes to cuisine people by-and-large prefer "authentic" foreign cuisine (it's usually not actually authentic, but that's beyond the point), and that fully extends to the race of the kitchen staff. Nobody says "Hey let's go to that Sichuan Chinese restaurant run by a white guy". Nobody prefers halal served up by an Irishman. Nobody goes to an Indian restaurant, sees the white chef and thinks "yes this is exactly what I want". Cuisine is possibly the last place minority erasure occurs, it is the one place where nearly every culture worldwide is celebrated, and where, as I said, "authenticity" is prized.

          I took the piece as one of frustration, that the author has felt this way for much of her life, through no fault of her own; and as a way to write about reclaiming heritage through cooking by embracing her own cuisine and showing it to others without apology.

          I got a strong sense that her parents explicitly failed to share their cultural heritage with her (especially concerning food). There may be a better argument their about the harm caused by colonialism, concerning why they knowingly or unknowingly didn't want to impart that culture.

          4 votes
          1. acdw
            Link Parent
            Here's where we disagree. I think it's important, as a white man, part of a group that has historically battered and minimized other groups, to take a personal responsibility to try not to cause...

            If it's intended to mock one self that is exactly what it is, irregardless of how tired the joke is. We have a responsibility to not find harm where it is not intended.
            ...
            There is no indication the older women in question did this. Indeed, with the exception of the very off handed mention of childhood bullying there is no indication anywhere in the article that this woman has had this occur to her.

            Here's where we disagree. I think it's important, as a white man, part of a group that has historically battered and minimized other groups, to take a personal responsibility to try not to cause harm. It's like harassment at the workplace -- it doesn't matter what was intended, if harm was caused, it was caused -- and an apology, in my mind, is necessitated.

            I don't think that's really what the focus of the article is though. I think the author wrote an article speaking to her own experiences as a woman of color navigating a largely-white space that othered her for her culture and her food, and how she was able to transcend that in some way, and claim her own heritage back, by putting together a quarantine cookbook. I don't know, it just seemed like a neat story, and I liked reading it.

            As far as the rest of your comment goes, I really liked @rabbit and @NaraVara's replies and agree with them.

            6 votes
          2. [2]
            rabbit
            Link Parent
            I've been scratching my head and wondering how I might respond to your comment. I figured I'd start here. In the past 20ish years, I feel like there's been an increase of people calling themselves...

            It was in reply to the parent level comment semi implying Anthony Bourdain made eating good food cool for white people.

            I've been scratching my head and wondering how I might respond to your comment. I figured I'd start here. In the past 20ish years, I feel like there's been an increase of people calling themselves foodies who are quite adventurous. I'll be honest when I say that it may have been inspired by people like Anthony Bourdain. Do I have hard evidence? No, that's literally just a guess I had.

            We have a responsibility to not find harm where it is not intended.

            I don't want to this to go into personal attacks, but you do have this:

            Indeed, with the exception of the very off handed mention of childhood bullying there is no indication anywhere in the article that this woman has had this occur to her.

            This isn't a criminal investigation. We don't need evidence beyond a reasonable doubt to prove it did or didn't happen. In addition, what can happen though is you don't mean something hurtful, but it does end up hurting someone. I don't know why this seems to be questionable.

            And to bring it back to your previous comment, it sounds like you're taking a lot of offense from me and the author of the article. So just a quick reminder:

            We have a responsibility to not find harm where it is not intended.

            5 votes
            1. Loire
              Link Parent
              I'm not sure where you are discerning offense taken, but I assure you that's really not the case. It's vaguely dishonest (or as tildes prefers "in bad faith") to imply that because I (and numerous...

              I'm not sure where you are discerning offense taken, but I assure you that's really not the case.

              It's vaguely dishonest (or as tildes prefers "in bad faith") to imply that because I (and numerous other posters in this thread) find the author's opinion to be needlessly divisive, and maybe a little gatekeep-y, that I am taking offense.

              If this was an opinion piece members of tildes generally disagree with, say a right wing think piece of some sort, would you be implying their criticism is invalid because they seem to be taking offense?

              4 votes
          3. NaraVara
            Link Parent
            And sorry to break it to you, but that matters. This piece, and many others, have gone into plenty of detail about why. Including the piece on Alison Roman linked to in this article.

            With all due respect you are literally just justifying it because it isn't being done by white people.

            And sorry to break it to you, but that matters. This piece, and many others, have gone into plenty of detail about why. Including the piece on Alison Roman linked to in this article.

            5 votes
      2. [2]
        skybrian
        Link Parent
        Maybe the story here is that young people are often impressionable and will take comments far more seriously than they were intended? This can result in misconceptions that take some working out....

        Maybe the story here is that young people are often impressionable and will take comments far more seriously than they were intended? This can result in misconceptions that take some working out.

        In particular, many older folks do have to be careful with their diets because anything unusual for them results in a bad experience, but this might get generalized to "my food isn't okay," particularly if such comments come from multiple sources.

        But this also has commercial consequences for restaurants, because these fussy people might be potential customers. There is a thing that happens where people look for "authentic" experiences, not having any clear idea what that is, and some restaurants will open up making money giving them what they think is authentic but is actually adapted to their tastes. And the result is that what was supposed to be an educational experience about other peoples' cooking really isn't. Instead, your own misconceptions get reflected back at you, if you share them with the dominant group. (Such experiences can still be fun, though, if you're not looking for authenticity.)

        These commercial pressures are there regardless of who's in the kitchen; an unusual experience needs a customer base that's going to support it. Sometimes that happens because of a trend, but it also helps when there are immigrants living close by who are actually looking for something specific.

        9 votes
        1. patience_limited
          Link Parent
          The movie, Big Night does a good job of revealing how commercial concessions to taste and stereotypes cause divergence from authentic craft in cuisine, and the pain of living as members of an...

          The movie, Big Night does a good job of revealing how commercial concessions to taste and stereotypes cause divergence from authentic craft in cuisine, and the pain of living as members of an immigrant minority trying to become acculturated.

          There's a really striking scene of that interaction, to the tune, "Mambo Italiano", which is its own creole of cultures clashing and mixing.

          4 votes
      3. [6]
        NaraVara
        Link Parent
        Um no. Implying that another culture's food must necessarily get you sick is pretty directly claiming that "those people" are dirty and can't adhere to basic hygiene standards. It's not just...

        To be frank this assertion that an innocuous comment by a white lady about her indigestion othered the author is frankly ridiculous and the some of the worst excess of victimization culture imaginable.

        Um no. Implying that another culture's food must necessarily get you sick is pretty directly claiming that "those people" are dirty and can't adhere to basic hygiene standards. It's not just othering, ethnic restaurants routinely get rated lower (both by restaurant reviewers and travel guides as well as by health inspectors) because of these unconscious biases despite usually being less likely to cause upset stomachs. In fact, it's usually diners that cause it, but nobody remembers their eggs and bacon as notable enough to ascribe causation to.

        There is no complaint because food, more than any other cultural item, is meant to be shared

        No, food is meant to be eaten. People like to share it as part of a culture of hospitality. But you can't ignore the power dynamics that come into play with a relationship like that.

        Seriously what are we supposed to take away from this piece?

        It's pretty direct in the beginning:

        Slowly, I started absorbing the stigma that others attached to my culture. In fifth grade, my mom submitted a chicken tikka masala recipe to our class cookbook even though we are vegetarians, because it’s always been easier to give the people what they want than to try to educate them. In 10th grade, eating bhindi stained my braces green. In college, my favorite snack was papad, but when my friends started to sniff the air after I made it, I learned to be self-conscious about its smell. As an adult, even my own home could make me feel judged: Whenever I made tadka in my Brooklyn kitchen, the mustard seeds tempering in ghee set off the smoke detector.
        But the same recipes I was teased for eventually became chic, gentrified, and endorsed by Goop. Their popularity in the hands of white tastemakers made me realize that people didn’t want to see a brown face behind brown food. I met people who were hesitant to try my homemade nimbu pani, but would happily pay $6 for South Indian filter coffee made by a white woman at Smorgasburg. It’s never been an equal playing field: Brown chefs are expected to cook their own food, but white chefs can cook whatever they want.

        8 votes
        1. [5]
          arp242
          (edited )
          Link Parent
          Eh, if you go to India today the hygienic standards really are lower and many people from Europe/US not used to it do get sick. It took me about 3 months getting used to food in Indonesia. Modern...

          Implying that another culture's food must necessarily get you sick is pretty directly claiming that "those people" are dirty and can't adhere to basic hygiene standards

          Eh, if you go to India today the hygienic standards really are lower and many people from Europe/US not used to it do get sick. It took me about 3 months getting used to food in Indonesia.

          Modern Indian restaurants in the UK of course live up to the modern standards, but this was probably not always the case. So yeah, I'd say this has a basis in reality.

          ethnic restaurants routinely get rated lower (both by restaurant reviewers and travel guides as well as by health inspectors) because of these unconscious biases

          That's quite the stretch. Maybe the exotic food just isn't to everyone's tastes?

          5 votes
          1. [4]
            JackA
            (edited )
            Link Parent
            You also have to account for the fact that Indian food uses lots of acidic flavors and spices that can upset people's digestive systems. Coming from relatively bland diets that most white people...

            You also have to account for the fact that Indian food uses lots of acidic flavors and spices that can upset people's digestive systems. Coming from relatively bland diets that most white people are used to their body just isn't used to it. The idea that Indian food can cause stomach troubles for people not used to it isn't some subconscious racism, it's a matter of science.

            8 votes
            1. [3]
              Loire
              Link Parent
              Even for those of us who grew up eating non-bland foods age can cause a turn for the worst. I have eaten heavy amounts of spices, and was accustomed to high levels of capsaicin, my entire life....

              Even for those of us who grew up eating non-bland foods age can cause a turn for the worst. I have eaten heavy amounts of spices, and was accustomed to high levels of capsaicin, my entire life. Then, somewhere around 29-30, I just couldn't take it anymore. Now everytime I get heavily spiced food I am paying for it the next morning. European genetics are absolutely ruining my ability to enjoy good foods.

              3 votes
              1. [2]
                Sand
                Link Parent
                At least you're not lactose intolerant!

                At least you're not lactose intolerant!

                3 votes
                1. Loire
                  Link Parent
                  Thank rhetorical god for that. Although, with how little I consume dairy I might just trade lactose tolerance for some Laal Maas or ordering off the "Non-white person" spice scale at my local...

                  Thank rhetorical god for that.

                  Although, with how little I consume dairy I might just trade lactose tolerance for some Laal Maas or ordering off the "Non-white person" spice scale at my local Korean restaurant.

                  1 vote
      4. [5]
        Akir
        Link Parent
        I think the author might be living in New York or somewhere else with a strong regional culture. Some of the things they talk about don't seem to actually have much of an effect for most of the...

        I think the author might be living in New York or somewhere else with a strong regional culture. Some of the things they talk about don't seem to actually have much of an effect for most of the country. For instance, she talks about how Goop is recommending Indian food; I don't know a single person who takes Goop seriously. Likewise, I don't know anyone who judges food by the color of the chef's skin.

        4 votes
        1. [2]
          joplin
          Link Parent
          In most cases when I go into a restaurant, I don't even know the color of the chef's skin. Who are these people who check the kitchen to know this? (There are some cultures where it's customary to...

          Likewise, I don't know anyone who judges food by the color of the chef's skin.

          In most cases when I go into a restaurant, I don't even know the color of the chef's skin. Who are these people who check the kitchen to know this? (There are some cultures where it's customary to check the kitchen to see what the conditions are like, but that certainly isn't the US culture.)

          7 votes
          1. NaraVara
            Link Parent
            This author is talking about making a career in the food and restaurant business. It does have an effect in terms of who gets favorable coverage in the news, who gets glossy magazine features, who...

            In most cases when I go into a restaurant, I don't even know the color of the chef's skin. Who are these people who check the kitchen to know this?

            This author is talking about making a career in the food and restaurant business. It does have an effect in terms of who gets favorable coverage in the news, who gets glossy magazine features, who gets deals to publish cookbooks, whose blog or TV show takes off and who doesn't. . .

            6 votes
        2. [2]
          DanBC
          Link Parent
          You need to start talking to black people. https://www.gq.com/story/what-happens-when-a-brown-chef-cooks-white-food

          Likewise, I don't know anyone who judges food by the color of the chef's skin.

          You need to start talking to black people.

          https://www.gq.com/story/what-happens-when-a-brown-chef-cooks-white-food

          1. Akir
            Link Parent
            I'm not saying that it doesn't happen. By no means do I want to discredit anything of what the author of OP's article is saying. I'm just saying that it's nothing I have ever experienced. Both...

            I'm not saying that it doesn't happen. By no means do I want to discredit anything of what the author of OP's article is saying. I'm just saying that it's nothing I have ever experienced. Both yours and OP's articles are about New York. I live all the way on the other side of the country and it's far more likely that the entire foodservice crew is going to be Latinx or Asian.

            3 votes
      5. culturedleftfoot
        Link Parent
        I get what you mean, but considering that the whole idea of whiteness in the US has long been predicated on exclusion, and that the kind of exposures you're talking about that you would get in...

        I really wish "whiteness" wasn't automatically associated with rural and/or ignorant white Americans. Most of us growing up in an urban center didn't suddenly turn on to something other than salted roast beef and mashed potatoes because Anthony Bourdain told us it was cool.

        I get what you mean, but considering that the whole idea of whiteness in the US has long been predicated on exclusion, and that the kind of exposures you're talking about that you would get in urban centers are relatively very recent at scale, it's a hard notion to shake. White Americans by and large are not savvy about non-white people, culture, food, etc. Yes, there is a range of experiences, and I think urban vs. rural has a lot more to do with it than is often given credit for, but still, up to a few years ago 40% of white Americans had no friends of another race and 91% of white Americans' social networks were also white. You can't develop meaningful understanding of anyone in that kind of isolation.

        3 votes
  5. [13]
    NaraVara
    Link

    The same food I was teased for as a kid has become gentrified and endorsed by Goop. Now, I’m using my cookbook to change the narrative.

    1. [12]
      joplin
      Link Parent
      So this is something I don't understand. I often hear people say that one way white people can help people of color is to patronize their businesses. Give them your money. But when we try,...

      So this is something I don't understand. I often hear people say that one way white people can help people of color is to patronize their businesses. Give them your money. But when we try, suddenly we're gentrifying.

      I have no patience for it. I'll eat what I like regardless of where it's from, where it's made or by whom.

      11 votes
      1. Loire
        Link Parent
        It's just such incredibly divisive rheyoric over something that is meant to be shared.

        It's just such incredibly divisive rheyoric over something that is meant to be shared.

        8 votes
      2. [10]
        smores
        Link Parent
        Hmmm... I don't think anyone is saying that a white person eating at an Indian restaurant owned by an Indian person and/or with an Indian chef is gentrifying. The gentrification that the article...

        Hmmm... I don't think anyone is saying that a white person eating at an Indian restaurant owned by an Indian person and/or with an Indian chef is gentrifying. The gentrification that the article talks about is referring to wealthy white chefs and restaurateurs making "Indian" food for white consumers.

        4 votes
        1. [8]
          Loire
          Link Parent
          The author spends significantly more time writing about her white, or non-south Asian acquaintances, and various imperceptible cultural slights while enjoying her culture's food than she does...

          The author spends significantly more time writing about her white, or non-south Asian acquaintances, and various imperceptible cultural slights while enjoying her culture's food than she does about white restaraunters cooking Indian dishes.

          2 votes
          1. [7]
            NaraVara
            Link Parent
            If she perceived them they are, by definition, not imperceptible. You're centering your own rubric for what's a valid level of offense and dismissing her's.

            imperceptible

            If she perceived them they are, by definition, not imperceptible. You're centering your own rubric for what's a valid level of offense and dismissing her's.

            3 votes
            1. [5]
              JackA
              Link Parent
              Aren't you doing the exact same thing to them? Just because you can't perceive the minor level of offense that comes from being judged for being white doesn't mean it's not there.

              Aren't you doing the exact same thing to them? Just because you can't perceive the minor level of offense that comes from being judged for being white doesn't mean it's not there.

              5 votes
              1. [4]
                NaraVara
                Link Parent
                Does it matter? I don't care about anyone's hurt feelings. I care about the macro-effects these things add up to. In the author's case, the macro-effect is a systematic privileging of White voices...

                Just because you can't perceive the small level of offense that comes from being judged for being white doesn't mean it's not there.

                Does it matter? I don't care about anyone's hurt feelings. I care about the macro-effects these things add up to. In the author's case, the macro-effect is a systematic privileging of White voices at the expense of everyone else. In this case the macro-effect is a few individuals' feelings are hurt while they get to maintain all the cultural cachet and societal privilege in spite of it.

                1 vote
                1. [3]
                  JackA
                  Link Parent
                  I'm of the opinion that you need to treat everyone equally on a personal level, and then eventually those small changes bubble their way up to the macro level. You need to address the cause, not...

                  I'm of the opinion that you need to treat everyone equally on a personal level, and then eventually those small changes bubble their way up to the macro level. You need to address the cause, not the symptom.

                  Those people whose feelings you may hurt (even for a just cause) only turn away from the conversation and don't learn from it. No individual should be prejudged for the actions of their groups, doing so only increases the tensions between them.

                  6 votes
                  1. [2]
                    NaraVara
                    (edited )
                    Link Parent
                    Some people will interpret any criticism as an attack because they're so accustomed to living in a world that caters to them that any pushback feels like hostility. There will be no growth without...

                    Those people whose feelings you may hurt (even for a just cause) only turn away from the conversation and don't learn from it.

                    Some people will interpret any criticism as an attack because they're so accustomed to living in a world that caters to them that any pushback feels like hostility. There will be no growth without tension and discomfort and White people need to come to terms with that.

                    Understand that when you say this you are consistently putting the work and responsibility of teaching in one groups' lap and the privilege of learning and being catered to in another's. Seeing this arrangement as being value-neutral or not tension-causing reflects a centering and valuing of one group's growth and comfort over the others.

                    1 vote
                    1. Loire
                      (edited )
                      Link Parent
                      You don't see how this absolutist statement can easily be turned around? It's intellectually dishonest to equate the content with this article to the current ongoing battle against institutional...

                      Some people will interpret any criticism as an attack because they're so accustomed to living in a world that caters to them that any pushback feels like hostility.

                      You don't see how this absolutist statement can easily be turned around?

                      It's intellectually dishonest to equate the content with this article to the current ongoing battle against institutional racism or to assume anyone who calls out the article yearns to maintain the world of white privilege.


                      Coming through highschool and college in Canada I had numerous good Nigerian and one Ethiopian friends. They were ecstatic to share their meals and culture with me, to run interpretation duty on African menus, to invite me to their cultural events and parties. Perhaps that was partly some cultural obligation, but they seemed genuinely excited about it. I learned from them, happily about their culture, and they seemed more than excited to pass that information along. I was never criticized because I prefered this dish over that one. I was never criticized for mispronouncing something from their cultural heritage. They were genuinely over joyed to share it with me. And I was happy to share with them what meagre culture Canadianshave, ceasers, hockey and maple syrup. You know what? I learnt a fucking lot that way.

                      But ever since I have moved to America, and I admit this is partially about the recent timing, it's a whole other world. A not insignificant number of black people see me as their oppressor. Everything seems mentally segregated. The one black friend I have been able to make outright tells me that she "doesn't usually like white people". Thats the type of thing I have never in my life heard from any minority prior to moving here. Many black friendships I attempt to make are apparently unviable. It's like there is two different worlds. You do your thing and we'll do ours. Do I understand what causes these problems? For sure.

                      To swing this anecdote into a an actual point:

                      Had I not grown up with the exposure I did how would I ever have learnt a fucking thing? If I had grown up in this shithole of a country would I have had the shared cultural experiences I recieved? I doubt it. America apparently doesn't do that.

                      Your "white discomfort" might feel right but it drives a wedge and further divides the population. This hard knocks education of actively attacking normal white people (I'm not going to pretend like we don't have an active racist population that deserves violent reprisal) from every direction (edit: Especially for things that you turn around and say it's perfectly okay for minorities to do) isn't going to garner the results you want.

                      I'm sorry but it just won't.

                      /u/JackA is mostly right (not everyone deserves good treatment): When you attack people for something as trivial as trying to share and partake in your culture you will push them away and harden them against what they really need to hear about structural racism in this nation.

                      2 votes
        2. joplin
          Link Parent
          If that's the case here, then that's fine. But I have had people I know make these contradictory arguments and it's frustrating.

          If that's the case here, then that's fine. But I have had people I know make these contradictory arguments and it's frustrating.