Cultural Appropriation and Food

There’s an important distinction between appreciating the food and misnaming a dish that contains a few ingredients that are commonly used in another culture. America is a melting pot of cultures – different languages, styles, art, literature, and food. The different foods should be appreciated and respected – you should want to try them! If done well, “immigrant food can provoke discussions about personal history and shared diasporas” (Ruth Tam, 2015), but there are many examples where this has been done very wrong.

“Asian Cuisine”

We have all been to a restaurant where the menu says that there’s “Orange Chicken,” which is supposed to support cultural diversity, but, often times, there’s not much appreciation for the culture behind the dish. “New” trendy meals, such as bone broth (featured on the Today Show as the 2015 hottest new food trend), make no mention of its history in Chinese culture. As Ruth Tam says in her article “How it feels when white people shame your culture’s food — then make it trendy,” “the same dishes hyped as “authentic” on trendy menus were scorned when cooked in the homes of the immigrants who brought them here.”

The disgust at Southeast Asian foods, particularly smell, has become such a common issue that the ABC sitcom, “Fresh Off the Boat,” had an episode on it, where they made fun of one of the main character’s lunches for smelling and looking differently.

Try New Foods

Go explore and try new foods! There’s nothing wrong with going to an Indian restaurant if you’re not Indian! You don’t have to try everything, but the things you do try, learn about where that food is coming from, its origins, its historical importance.

America is one of the world’s biggest melting pots, so why not go out and learn about the different cultures? As Sarah Jon says in her article, “Why Cultural Appropriation of Food is Bad,”

“Go seek out and experience all the food. When you get the chance, try everything – whether it’s in the various cultural enclaves scattering giant cities like LA or NYC, the local mom and pop shops with the immigrant owners who lovingly dish up their favorite home-country dishes, or the innovative establishments serving the coolest mash-ups of foreign dishes you’ve never heard of.”

One thought on “Cultural Appropriation and Food”

  1. I agree that trying new foods helps one learn about the culture significance behind it. Food contains many ingredients, unique yet specific to that certain dish. Each ingredient symbolizes an important element to that culture. I believe that food is a great means of communication, when we try something new, we are in a sense appreciating other ways of life. Collectively, the ingredients, the traditional way(s) the food is prepared, and the feeling that the food gives us when we ingest it, all heighten our appreciation for other cultures. I believe our moral responsibility in this world is to actively engage and learn about other ways of life much different from our own. What we achieve out of this is a better understanding of ourselves and that of others.


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