Vegans of Color

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

sacred aboriginal cookies? December 23, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 12:09 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Things have been a little quiet on this blog, for which I apologize. Hopefully in the new year I’ll get to writing up a few posts that I’ve been thinking about.

In the meantime, a quick thought about Orgran Outback Animals Cookies. I picked these up at the local health food store. I noticed they were vegan, & also catered to folks trying to avoid common allergens (like gluten). They’re pretty yummy, I have to say.

My partner took a look at the box, which is emblazoned with various Australian animals given names (Kim Koala, etc. — not quite Suicide Food, I guess, given that these are vegan representations of animals…). Then he snorted & pointed out the big rock looming in the background:

what does aboriginal sacred ground have to do w/cookies?

Turns out this rock is called Uluru, & is Aboriginal sacred ground. Despite an expressed wish to the contrary by the Aboriginals living nearby, tourists continue to climb Uluru, & the rock remains, according to Wikipedia, a famous icon of Australia (I would probably think of koalas or the Sydney Opera House instead, but that’s just me).

So what does this have to do with vegan, gluten-free cookies? You got me. I find it disturbing that a spiritually important Aboriginal area would be used so casually to market something completely unrelated. It reminds me in a way of how bindis turned into mere fashion accessories for a certain group of people.

I want to take a more systematic look someday at how ethnicity is represented in food products, particularly ones marketed to a more mainstream/whiter audience: for example, not miso that you buy in Asian markets in Asian neighborhoods, but, say, Eden health food store miso. Trader Joe’s alone would provide fodder for a whole series of blog posts (I love TJ’s food, & that they have so many vegan-friendly products, but sometimes they make me shudder).

Anyway — happy holidays to anyone celebrating. May the usual vegan pitfalls be avoided. See you in 2008.


5 Responses to “sacred aboriginal cookies?”

  1. “I want to take a more systematic look someday at how ethnicity is represented in food products, particularly ones marketed to a more mainstream/whiter audience”

    I think that’s an excellent idea and I’m interested to see what you come up with. Could be a great blog series!
    I suspect a lot of health food store versions of food have been white/green-washed. Like, Silk soy milk is so completely mainstream that almost doesn’t feel like soy milk to me. I came to know of soymilk coming in one kind of container and real milk came in another, but silk changed that.
    It’s great that foods are being marketed in a way that makes some people less fearful of trying new things, but it’s disappointing to see cultural symbols wiped away.
    Anyway, sounds like a good blog series if you decide to do it.

  2. vegansofcolor Says:

    Thank you! If I were still in school, this would be the sort of thing I’d want to write a paper about, heh heh.

    It’s funny, I didn’t even think of it so much from the angle of things being whitewashed — you raise a good point. I was thinking more along the lines of things being super-racialized/exotified for a white audience. Like I know some Trader Joe’s Asian stuff has labels that are written in the Chinese takeout font & are called, like, Trader Ming’s or something. And I’ve seen stuff like miso labels w/people wearing conical bamboo hats, etc. etc.

    I’ll have to start taking some notes the next time I go to the grocery store. 🙂

  3. Gary Says:

    Based on your comments thus far, I think my impression of Trader Joe’s is at least roughly in the same ballpark as yours. They have some good foods, to be sure, but there’s this vaguely uncomfortable feeling of the white European explorer bringing back goods from the oh-so-exotic natives.

  4. chaia Says:

    YES! It drives me crazy to see stuff like that. One of the latest gluten-free offerings on the market is Kinnikinnick Foods. While I have no doubt that the company founders (as with Orgran’s) would claim that they are honoring the sacred origins of all humanity, blah dee blah, from here it reads like cultural excision. (Like, WHICH Native Americans smoked the bearberry? The Ute? The Cherokee? The Inuit?) Fundamentally – why name YOUR company after SOMEONE ELSE’S traditions? Why draw a cartoon of SOMEONE ELSE’s sacred site on YOUR box of product?

    I’m a little too scattered at this moment to go into fully-articulated rant mode, but I just wanted to register a complaint.

  5. johanna Says:

    Gary — I don’t know how the whole “Trader” in “Trader Joe’s” got by me, but yeah… definitely. I guess it goes along w/the Hawaiian-style shirts the employees have to wear.

    Chaia — Whoa! I love how, in that link, they talk about how the name of a brand has to be unique & easy to remember & get people talking… like that is the most important justification for merrily dipping into another culture’s traditions.

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