Vegans of Color

Because we don’t have the luxury of being single-issue

Vegan cookbooks: helping folks eat the Other February 8, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 7:32 am
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I’ve written before about exotification in discussions around vegan food, but it’s something I’m always thinking about & that has come up a lot lately. This year I’ve set myself a goal to cook at least one recipe from the many cookbooks I own. Hence I’ve been scouring them more than usual.

Has anyone else noticed that a staple of many a vegan cookbook is a recipe for African Peanut Stew or African Yam Stew or something similar? I’ve also seen (though less frequently) recipes for, say, Asian-Style Tofu or whatever. I cannot recall ever seeing a cookbook featuring anything like European Bean Soup. Is it because to most vegan cookbook authors/food bloggers, it would be preposterous to assume that there is anything universal or overarching about the many countries that make up Europe, or their cuisines? And yet we don’t often see the same distinction granted to countries in Africa.

“African” stew? Is the recipe from Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa? Is that tofu done Chinese-style, Japanese, Filipino? Never mind the many variations even within those categories (just to preclude comments along the lines of “But hey, lots of countries in Africa do that kind of stew / lots of Asian countries use tofu!”).

Another thing I’ve seen not infrequently in vegan cookbooks & food blogs is the following construction:

“[Non-English ingredient or recipe name] must be [non-English language] for ‘delicious’!”

I also spotted this recently at Food Fight, who guess that “Mahalo is Hawaiian for ‘fake Almond Joy.'”

Oh, how cutesy. How patronizing. We don’t know what those funny foreign languages mean but we sure do love their grub!

The obsession with authenticity is another thing. This, like all the food othering in this post, is not limited to vegans, of course. My white boss (a one-time vegetarian turned omnivore due to happy meat, I might add) once praised my lunchtime curry because it “smelled really authentic.” She then went on to bemoan how she couldn’t manage to cook Indian food “authentically.” I squirmed, & said something about how surely what mattered most was whether she liked what she cooked. This only served to encourage her to rattle on about how important it was to get food “authentic.”

Anyway, there are countless examples of vegan recipes that stress their authentic nature. One I stumbled upon recently was in The Urban Vegan, in a recipe for “Blue Mosque Ayran,” which apparently is a drink you can find “at any cafe or from any street vendor in Istanbul.” I’ve never been to Istanbul, so perhaps I’m missing something in how this drink would be connected specifically to mosques (whose architecture are often held up as images of the exotic & dangerously foreign, I note), much less how the recipe in the cookbook is “so refreshingly good that the imam would definitely approve.” I dunno — has anyone ever seen an Italian recipe touted as being so delicious that the priest would approve?

I did some Googling & found that a common Turkish recipe is Imam Bayildi — which apparently means “The imam fainted” (when he tasted the recipe). I didn’t really see any other references to the imam having a lock on what is authentic Turkish food or not, but if someone knows differently, please let me know. I wonder if the Urban Vegan knew of this particular recipe & made a deliberate reference to it, or if it was just an example of throwing in something seen as “exotic.”

On the same page of that cookbook, by the way, is a recipe for “Political Biscotti.” The recipe notes that cafe culture frequently features both biscotti and political discussion. The biscotti are political because they contain both carob & chocolate, two flavors about which “people tend to be very ‘either/or'”:

They are always considered separately, as two distinctive flavors that were never meant to come together, sort of like Palestine and Israel. … The dates [in the recipe] act as a sort of sticky-sweet peacemaker, a culinary UN if you will.

Yeah. She went there. The bloody oppression of Palestinians reduced to a clever comment about biscotti.

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52 Responses to “Vegan cookbooks: helping folks eat the Other”

  1. [...] Vegan cookbooks: helping folks eat the Other | Vegans of Color Has anyone else noticed that a staple of many a vegan cookbook is a recipe for African Peanut Stew or African Yam Stew or something similar? I’ve also seen (though less frequently) recipes for, say, Asian-Style Tofu or whatever. I cannot recall ever seeing a cookbook featuring anything like European Bean Soup. Is it because to most vegan cookbook authors/food bloggers, it would be preposterous to assume that there is anything universal or overarching about the many countries that make up Europe, or their cuisines? And yet we don’t often see the same distinction granted to countries in Africa. (tags: fail publishing race food) [...]

  2. Urban Vegan Says:

    Hi: Since you’re wondering, I didn’t throw in this recipe to be “exotic.” My book centers around urban vegan recipes, and I include recipes inspired by cities all over the globe.

    That said, I have been to Istanbul, and I have tasted Aryan in my pre-vegan days, both there and in Syria and Jordan. (Ironically, it’s actually NOT all that exotic. )

    As far as the Blue Mosque goes, it was one of the most beautiful, inspiring works of architecture I’ve ever seen, and hearing the call to prayer there was so lovely that it brought tears to my eyes. It’s for these reasons, plus the simple fact that I tasted ayran at a stand not far from the mosque…which is why I named the drink after it. And actually, *I* would say that some Italian (or Polish–I am Polish American) recipes are so good that the Pope would faint or that the borscht was so good that the rabbi would faint, and on and on and on. Whichever way you slice it, I am just not very PC.

    And I’m sorry if you saw my biscotti recipe as offensive or a “reduction” of a very grave situation. That was absolutely not my intention. If it needs explanation–and I really don’t think that it does–I intended it as a *metaphor* for peace. For hope. For trying new things, new combinations, new discourse, new solutions. And incidentally, I have been to both Israel and Palestine and I have seen the oppression’s devastation firsthand.

    Peace.

  3. Alice Says:

    The peanut stew you mention is featured in many cookbooks as “West African Groundnut Stew.” So I have taken this to mean that it is a dish that comes from a region including Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, Gambia. That to me seems specific enough. And I have seen many recipes for “Eastern European” stews.

    Cooks and recipes often blend traditions from a given region, and then slap their own name on it. This is how culture travels. In Taiwan, you will find restaurants for “Western Food,” also known as “Big Nose Food,” since “westerners” all have big noses (I guess). And “American Food” of course is imagine to consist of only hamburgers, in many places in the world.

    I can see your point, but I think there is probably better evidence for it than the peanut stew. (Which, authentic or not, is totally amazingly delicious.)

    • johanna Says:

      Alice — I guess another question would then be: why “Eastern European” stews & not “Western European”? Possibly having to do w/enduring subconscious views of Eastern Europe as a monolithic communist bloc?

      Re: “fusion” cooking — please see the comment from island girl in a land w/o sea below. Also, in terms of power balance, to compare what the West does w/food from other cultures versus what Taiwan does? Not at all the same thing.

      • Alice Says:

        “Eastern Europe” as a category goes back much farther than 20th-century ideas about a “monolithic communist bloc,” so I’m with you on that. Think Ottoman/European battleground, and you’ve got all the othering you could want right there. And I wouldn’t call it subconscious at all.

        And I wasn’t equating “what the West does” with “what Taiwan does.” Just pointing out that the impulse to exoticize is a fairly widespread phenomenon. But of course the history of imperialism means that these processes take on different meanings and have different consequences, depending on the group and the context.

    • NinaG Says:

      I don’t think even stating the region is specific enough – there are so many variations of that recipe that are country specific. As a Ghanaian, I can tell you when I’ve tasted simple recipes like jollof rice from Nigeria or Liberia – it is not the same.

  4. [...] Vegan Cookbooks: Helping Folks Eat the Other | Vegans of Color "Has anyone else noticed that a staple of many a vegan cookbook is a recipe for African Peanut Stew or African Yam Stew or something similar? I’ve also seen (though less frequently) recipes for, say, Asian-Style Tofu or whatever. I cannot recall ever seeing a cookbook featuring anything like European Bean Soup. Is it because to most vegan cookbook authors/food bloggers, it would be preposterous to assume that there is anything universal or overarching about the many countries that make up Europe, or their cuisines? And yet we don’t often see the same distinction granted to countries in Africa." (tags: race food politics exoticization) [...]

  5. dersk Says:

    Sorry, I think you’re wrong. Let’s see what the Moosewood has in terms of geographic recipes:

    – China, Hungary, Brazil, Russia, Macedonia, Thailand, Indonesia, the Alsace, Bermuda (though that one might be about the onions), Odessa, the Balkans, Italy, Greece, Mexico, China again (duck sauce), Mexico, Bulgaria, ‘Arabia’ (sounds good, actually – mashed squash or pumpkin baked with feta and served with tabouleh), Chile.

    Sure I recall reading recipes usually for a type of ground nut stew with root vegetables. If all the author knows is that those are common ingredients in (say) West Africa, I don’t see anything wrong with describing it as such. It’s descriptive, not prescriptive, much like the drink name.

    Or to turn it around: what would you rather call recipes like that?

    • johanna Says:

      Oh, you’re right, the example of one cookbook totally annihilates my point.

      Did you click on the link in the post about how Africa is not a country, but is frequently referred to & treated as such?

      • dersk Says:

        As opposed to your statistically significant data set?

        I may as well get upset when my Brit friends call me a Yank, even though I was born south of the Mason Dixon line, or when the Dutchies over here call Yankee hats ‘New York’ hats.

        Again, do you have a better suggestion for, say a recipe that’s based on groundnut and other regional ingredients, but isn’t necessarily specific to one country?

  6. island girl in a land w/o sea Says:

    i am part-time vegan, full-time vegetarian and 100% pilipina raised in the US. i went to culinary school at the height of the “fusion” fad — a trend that i detested then and detest now. here’s why:

    immigrants to the US and people from countries that have been colonized by europe or the US have always engaged in fusion cooking of some kind. immigrants learn to use proxy ingredients to stand in for traditional items that are difficult to find in the US. the first example that comes to mind is a decidedly un-vegan one: in san francisco chinatown, smithfield hams (that is, cured country hams from virginia) are a coveted and expensive item. apparently, cured ham from some regions of china are nearly identical in taste to those produced in the US south.

    of course, when big name (white) chefs do fusion, all of a sudden it’s hot. the appropriation of Others’ food traditions without acknowledgment tends to create an avatar-like situation in the professional food world. all of a sudden, some chef with a face like an unbaked roll is in front of the class or on the TV claiming to make “authentically asian” food — more so than the plain-old asians who have been cooking this food for millenia. in culinary school, i sometimes protested at the mindless combinations of ingredients by chefs who didn’t know shit about what they were doing. more often than not, i was told that i “need to let go of old traditions,” or “if it works, who cares where it comes from.”

    whiteness (mind you — i didn’t say white people) steals from Others and then refuses to acknowledge the theft. it’s true of food, land, cultures….

    and one more thing: urban vegan, this isn’t about you and this isn’t about being PC and this isn’t about what you may have “intended” or not. perhaps you might visit this site:

    http://www.derailingfordummies.com/

    • johanna Says:

      some chef with a face like an unbaked roll

      BWAHAHAHA DON’T YOU KNOW YOU’RE BEING A REVERSE RACIST???

      whiteness (mind you — i didn’t say white people) steals from Others and then refuses to acknowledge the theft. it’s true of food, land, cultures….

      So true. And the clarification (re: whiteness/white people) will hopefully forestall defensive comments here about how White Person X didn’t personally steal anything (though frankly as comments like that violate the comment policy of this blog — whereby people who have no clue about Racism 101 are subject to having comments deleted — might be a moot point).

      • C.esar Says:

        I’m feeling the post, Johanna, and the comments to a certain point.
        However, I’m disappointed that the phrase “some chef with a face like an unbaked roll” is not being challenged but is actually being explicitly condoned. It’s obvious that that is a racist statement (note: not reverse racist). I would certainly consider someone, outside of my culture, referring to me as having “a face like a overly baked whole wheat roll” as racist. Why not consider island girl’s comment to be racist then? The “chef’s” actions are not being questioned in such a statement, but rather their physical characteristics are being ridiculed. For me, that’s what separates racism from valid criticism.
        I too am frustrated with white folks appropriating culture, and cuisine, from other folks and presenting it as their own (but with a “twist”..) but racism is racism and should not be condoned. Privileged and oppressed groups could possibly change positions and the latter can adopt the characteristics of the former if not cautious.

        With respect,

        C

      • C.esar Says:

        I’d like to add that, as a Mexican-American (for lack of a better term) I experience racism first-hand and I also spend my time reading many other folks’ experiences of racism within a culture of whiteness. I am certainly no stranger to it and do not need “racism 101″ to shape my viewpoint.

      • johanna Says:

        Hi C,

        Then you must be aware of the definition of racism equaling prejudice plus power.

      • C.esar Says:

        I have my own personal experiences of racism and interpretations of them. But actually I am aware of and do understand the sociological definition you’ve provided. I find it useful but don’t see how it excuses island girl’s blatantly racist comment.
        On the individual level, a statement that ridicules the physical characteristics of a person is a racist statement, and not a constructive criticism. As I mentioned above, power imbalances are subject to change and if the same racist tendencies of the privileged group are condoned and encouraged by an oppressed group (ridiculing someone’s physical characteristics for the sake of “humor”) the latter are at risk of adopting the problematic characteristics of the former once they are in a position of power, only to further perpetuate oppression.
        For example, I live in a largely Korean city (Koreans own and run much of the business establishments in my city and have large population) and I encounter at least as much, if not more, racism from Koreans than I do from whites in my daily life. In my neighborhood Koreans are in an established position of power (have economic power and some political clout) and many Central and South American folks are day laborers or physical laborers of some kind and are looked down upon by both whites and Koreans in power (basically by everyone else). When I walk into a Korean owned department or grocery store (or restaurant, bar, etc.) and am followed around and/or eyed and/or subject to receiving racist comments because of my physical appearance (or language or supposed societal designation), am I not encountering racism because Koreans don’t have *as much* “power” as whites in this society? Just because whites perhaps have *more* overall societal privilege than Koreans in this part of the world, it doesn’t mean that microcosms of racism don’t exist due to established power imbalances. So, again, I strongly feel that racism (or manifestations of racism) should be challenged at all levels or racism and oppression will exist no matter who is in a position of power.

      • Anon2 Says:

        Johanna, when you say “Then you must be aware of the definition of racism equaling prejudice plus power.”, By adding the ‘plus’ are you implying that groups/individuals without power cannot be racist or exhibit racist tendencies, mockery et?

      • C.esar Says:

        after re-reading what you’ve said, Johanna, are you just suggesting that an oppressed group cannot be considered racist (or that their racist statements cannot be considered racist) for making racist statements (ones that make fun of racial physical characteristics) about any privileged group?

      • johanna Says:

        I gave the “racism=prejudice+power” definition to raise the point that what C is talking about is not racism.

        I am not interested in defending to you island girl in a land w/o sea’s comment or my laughter, thus I did not address that point.

      • C.esar Says:

        I must just not understand racism as much as you, Johanna.
        I guess my own experiences and interpretations of them are not as valid as your doctrine.

      • C.esar Says:

        When white folks make jokes about the physical features of POC then they are obviously being racist but when a POC makes a joke about the physical characteristics of white folks then they are not being racist because they are lacking power?
        Not with you on this one.

  7. macon d Says:

    Thank you johanna, this is an eye-opening post about yet another way that whiteness blithely steals from and commodifies Thee Other. I’ve long been bothered by those homogenizing recipes and their fake, bland, careless names.

    Do you mind if I repost this post on my blog?

    ( http://stuffwhitepeopledo.blogspot.com/ )

    Total co-sign too to island girl in a land w/o sea’s comment.

  8. melinda Says:

    This is so true. I have this one cookbook that was apparently made for white Midwesterners, I guess, because every other word in it is “exotic” or “ethnic” if the recipe didn’t originate in Europe somewhere (uh, except for Greece, because, you know, they aren’t REALLY white yet, I guess? Beats me…)

    I’m a white Midwestern lady whose spouse is from Turkey originally; there are recipes for his comfort food that he makes that are labeled “exotic” and “ethnic” in that cookbook. If it gets cooked in my house on a regular basis, it’s not exotic to me, no matter where it came from, by definition! Tossing around the labels “exotic” and “ethnic” make me a little nuts. Whose exoticism? Whose ethnicity? I actually had a coworker say to me once “I like when ethnic food is cooked by real ethnics”, but I digress…

    FYI, imam bayıldı is pretty much the only Turkish food I can think of that mentions an imam, but lots of things have silly names (ladyfingers, anyone?). The verb that “bayıldı” is constructed from can also mean “liked very much” in Turkish, but for all I know, the dish was around before the verb for “to faint” became “to like a lot”! I’ve only been learning Turkish for a year or so, so a lot of the fine points are still lost on me.

  9. Anonymous Says:

    IF the ‘recipe originator’ might actually no longer KNOW the country of origin of the recipe, but knows that this style of food ( with its spices/style ) probably originates from a country or region in Africa, would it be worse to falsely assign a recipe to a country where the food does not originate?

    IE, If they called it Kenyan Stew, due to misinformation, then Kenyans could be offended as in “This is not our traditional food and is offensive, how dear they ( Westerners ) associate this food with us. ” Thoughts?

    • johanna Says:

      The “recipe originator” could do more research, for starters.

      I don’t see how a comparatively rare hypothetical negates the stupidity of the much more common “African stew.”

  10. supernovadiva Says:

    africa stew pisses me off to no end. i find many vegan cookbooks that happen to be authored by white vegans tend to run the same recipes but with a different cover. even in kenya, as one mentioned, the food is varied by people. so now i don’t buy cookbooks unless it focuses on a cuisine i’m interested in even if it means me buying omni books again and converting it. i’m interested in the food of african nations, but i find almost a mass omission of the cuisines. no one covers it on the food network (save me your tagine comments). a whole continent is underrepresented if at all except to mention africa (never specifics, just africa) as a charity. it’s seems it serves them well to keep africa as the dark, mysterious continent that needs the west’s donations of cornmeal to survive. and no i don’t want another rick bayless to go on food safari, over pronouncing words to validate the food and the people. i want to hear from african chefs themselves. i bet they won’t serve me ‘african stew’ (never have btw in places i’ve been too). i even dare you to go to vee vee’s (west african) in chicago and say ‘hey, can i have african stew?’ then go down the street to the ethiopian restaurant and ask for the same thing (expecting both to serve that stew in the cookbooks).
    don’t say it’s not possible to know regional cuisines. authors seem very happy to dissect italy and france, praise the culture and food, even bragging about how long they lived there to learn the language, traditions, and cuisine.

    • I’m enjoying the comments to this post. I tackle this heated and racialized issue of “exotic” (and how it constructs “whiteness as the norm” ) in a chapter that I wrote for a book coming out next year, through MIT Press. It’s a Food Justice reader and I analyze the responses on VOC, in regards to “exotic” vegan food posts from the past 2 years.

      I think the topic is really difficult to talk about without inciting heavy emotions in everyone, but I do think it is a necessary conversation to have. Not everyone is going to agree with everyone, but it’s good to start having the dialogue around why a significant number of non-white racialized minorities, living in predominantly white nations, become infuriated over the use of the word “exotic” to describe their food/them.

    • Kate Says:

      This is interesting. I’d really like to try some different recipes from African nations, and I wonder what your opinion is of a cookbook that is by a white or european vegan, but does make an attempt to contextualise the dishes, eg: this dish is from Kenya?

  11. Crys T Says:

    Although I completely agree with the main point of the post, I do have to disagree that this is a phenomenon that excludes all of Europe, or even all of Western Europe. I think it’s a Northern European/Germanic superiority thing.

    I’m Spanish, and believe me, the Spanish are exoticised and Othered and treated as Lower Beings by Northern Europeans. As far as cookbooks go, every time I see a new “Spanish” cookbook on the market (I live in the UK), I know it’s going to piss me off–and they never let me down. They depict Spain as somehow being stuck in the 19th Century; they exoticise and sexualise the Spanish people, especially Spanish women, and they have no respect for regional cultural differences, for example, referring to local languages as “dialects” and depicting regional struggles to maintain their identities as somehow ridiculous and amusing.

    And it’s worse when it’s a random “Spanish ” recipe in a mainstream cookbook. The “X must be Spanish for delicious” thing comes up a LOT.

    I’m guessing a lot of other Southern Europeans living in Northern cultures would say the same about how their cultures are treated.

  12. alexx e Says:

    Hello

    I really really enjoyed this blog post–this has always been a frustrating phenomenon in the recipe books I own, though I’ve never been able to completely articulate my discomfort until reading this blog post. So thank you for that.

    Also, about the “authentic” comment that is used so often–I think that a lot of people use the word authentic when they’re trying to describe a dish that isn’t greasy, salty, bland, etc–in short, “American-style.” So, for example, many Chinese restaurants are extremely Americanized (fortune cookies aren’t even Chinese), and so when White people find a Chinese restaurant that doesn’t load its food with MSG, grease, deep fried meats, etc, they immediately praise its “authenticity”. Of course, this doesn’t excuse the usage of this word, but any ideas on other ways to describe what I’m talking about, other than “not greasy, MSG-pumped, salty, etc.”?

  13. Ergo Says:

    Damn white people. Why can’t most of them find a way to enjoy other cultures’ foods, in their original forms or not, without being cutesy and patronizing and exotifying about it?

  14. dersk Says:

    I STILL haven’t heard anyone suggest a name they wouldn’t be offended by for a regional, but not nationally specific, dish.

    Is it offensive to call mole sauce Mexican and not Oaxacan? Should I be offended by Brits who call me a Yank even though I grew up south of the Mason Dixon line?

    Look, all exotic means is from somewhere else. Tofu is exotic in Michigan, fried dough is probably exotic in Taipei. Of course things will be seen as exotic if they’re not part of that place’s (or that author’s contextual) mainstream culture. Thus, Kraft cheese & macaroni would probably be seen as exotic here in Europe where it doesn’t really exist.

    Well, to be honest, it’d probably be seen as vile, I’d hope, but that’s a whole different thing. After all, a lot of Dutchies seemed to think McDonald’s was the apotheosis of the American hamburger…

    • johanna Says:

      If you honestly think exotic is a neutral term, & that your example of what Brits call people from the US is at all an appropriate analogy, then I really have nothing else to say to you.

      • Anon2 Says:

        Hi Johanna, do you have any links to where/why (historically) the term ‘exotic’ is being redefined as a disparaging/negative as opposed to the dictionary meaning of ‘not native’ as used in perceived ‘high’ quality goods such as exotic sports cars, exotic silks etc?

      • johanna Says:

        Are you willing to do any work at all yourself? Because there is TONS of information out there about this. It’s not hard to find. I’m not going to do the heavy lifting for you.

      • Anon2 Says:

        Johanna, I guess I asked it wrong. I meant ones that hit the mark based on your opinion. Of course I can search on my own and read tons of ones which might be 70% on the mark but might be missing some crucial metaphor or example which you believe really demonstrates your point. Anyway no worries, Ill search on my own.

      • johanna Says:

        So in other words, you were still asking me to do the work. NICE.

    • London Mabel Says:

      Good post–I read it on Stuff White People Do.

      To dersk: Why not just put a mention of where you think the meal comes from in the notes, rather than the title? Such as “I once had stew at an Ethiopian restaurant and I went home to try and reproduce it. This is what resulted” type thing. And then just give it a regular name (Pink Potato Stew! Cold Winter Stew! Yammy Happy Stew! or whatever. Cookbook editors do expect stupid titles.)

  15. Noemi Says:

    Look, all exotic means is from somewhere else.
    -thanks for clarifying why I shouldn’t be offended at being exotified.
    Are we really using dictionary definitions now.

  16. [...] of Color: Vegan cookbooks: helping folks eat the Other Has anyone else noticed that a staple of many a vegan cookbook is a recipe for African Peanut Stew [...]

  17. [...] johanna @ Vegans of Color: Vegan cookbooks: helping folks eat the Other [...]

  18. [...] Johanna over at Vegans of Color has been talking a lot about “exotification in discussions around vega… [...]

  19. beet Says:

    so, to start off, i want to mention that mixed race and usually am read as brown. neither of my parents were born/bred white, both have thick accents and might be called ‘terrorist.’

    that said: but at the same time: i was talking to my (white vegan) housemate about cooking, and about how i don’t know how to cook very well but that i group foods together by a sort of ethnicity/location. e.g. ‘italian’ = pasta, garlic, oregano, basil, tomatoes, spinach, white beans, heavy cream sauces. ‘mexican’ = black beans, peppers, hot sauce, cumin. ‘southern’ = liquid smoke, oregano, mushrooms, tempeh, shortening. ‘asian’ = soy sauce, hot sauce, oregano, ‘five spices’, tofu, rice noodles.

    and sometimes (okay, often) i put a bunch of shit in a pot and ‘theme’ it with spices or with colors and either call it ‘[color] mush’ (e.g. ‘brown mush’) or ‘[ethnicity] mush’ (e.g. ‘asian mush’). does that mean racism? or does that i haven’t spent a lot of time learning how to cook properly and that i instead just have some idea of what foods go together – a sort of crib? my housemate does the same thing exactly, but she doesn’t make mush and call it by the same names i do because she thinks it’s sort of fucked up, but she has mental flavor combos that work the same way mine do – that is, associated with a geographic region. is this just a question of whether you need power to be racist?

  20. İmambayıldı is a popular Turkish dish common in restaurants both inside Turkey and beyond. Most of the places I’ve seen it on menus didn’t bother translating the name so I am skeptical that it was included it because it was exotic sounding but rather because it is tasty and popular. Of course, I guess it’s hard to tell for sure.

  21. Kate Says:

    This is interesting and eye opening for me, because as a white, able-bodied woman I am not always immediately alert to some -isms, like the issue of racism in cookbooks, or the ableism displayed by Amanda Palmer recently on Good News Week (had this pointed out to me by a friend). But I am alert to others, such as the sexism in Lynx Twist’s “women get bored easily” ad, and the really obvious racism in the Hey Hey It’s Saturday blackface skit (and was surprised that other people denied this was racist).

    I do wonder though about the ‘African’ dish point – if a dish is genuinely non-specific and is cooked in several West African countries, shouldn’t it be accurate to call it a ‘West African dish’?

    I also don’t agree that making physical judgements about another race such as “a face like an unbaked roll” is not racist. Of course it does not have the same majority condoning and marginalising power behind it, but it is still prejudice. What if a Greek immigrant were to call a Chinese immigrant a “chink”? That would be seen as racist, yet both would be minorities.

    Of course I don’t think that “unbaked roll” comments are on the same level as majority oppression of a minority, but they are both prejudice, and neither should be condoned as okay.

    • Kate Says:

      Perhaps it is a case of prejudice vs racism. Prejudice being judging another race, racism being oppression of a minority race by a majority?

      My friend has also explained to me the concept of intersectionality with regards to different minorities being prejudiced against each other.

      • Kate Says:

        After rereading, I think I understand your point better. It’s true you would never see “European soup” as a recipe title, so recipe writers really should do more research and properly contextualize the recipe.

        Also, I apologize if I offended anyone with the use of a racist term in my hypothetical. I do want to be more aware of privilege, and avoid causing offence as much as possible.


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