Last week, they published the most absurd article I've ever read on the whole internet:
1. "Asian-style" or "Asian fusion" food is racist.
2. Calling food "exotic," "ethnic" or "authentic," is racist.
3. Eating food from a different culture without understanding the culture's full history and traditions, is racist.
4. Eating food from a culture that experienced colonization is racist -- especially if the food in question is a "fusion" of the colonizer's culture and the colonized culture.
5. Thinking you're adventurous for trying a foreign new food is racist.
6. If you love Mexican food but don't care about labor or immigration issues, you're a racist.
The only point in the article I could even sort of relate to is the one about "repurposing" cheap ingredients from poor communities -- which, sometimes, can drive up the price (or down the supply) so much that it's literally like taking food out of poor peoples' mouths.
But the rest of it? Come on!
I'm not going to take a history class before my next order of kung pao chicken. Understanding the colonization behind curry is going to undo the suffering of past generations. It might enhance my enjoyment of the food (knowing more about the world around us makes us more appreciative and mindful), so it is something I might consider, if I ever have time.
But, unless there's a time-relevant, data-backed reason for me not to eat a burrito -- or, say, a Trader Joe's salad with a little quinoa on the side -- it's not going to hurt anyone if I enjoy an "authentic" or "exotic" lunch between a busy morning and an afternoon of meetings.
Another part of the article I thought was stupid:
Like early explorers “discovering” spices on their quests for new trade routes, some diners today are on similar quests to “discover” different ingredients and cuisines.
It’s great when people want to try foods they’re not used to or when they’re open to eating different things, but what ends up being problematic is when people want to be rewarded for their bold, adventurous experimentation with another culture. Where people can now literally check in on an app and receive a badge for their food adventures, but others want bonus real life adventure points.
When people think they’re being adventurous for trying food from another culture, it’s the same thing as treating that food as bizarre or weird.
The person outside of the culture becomes the person with “insider”knowledge about this exotic, other culture. The theme of “Westerner as cultural connoisseur” is rooted in imperialist ideas about discovering another culture and then making oneself the main character in the exchange. “I was transformed by my trip to [fill in the blank].”
Just like if they "discovered" a cool new restaurant, I'd want them to tell me! (How is this anything but a win-win? We get to try cool new foods -- and the restaurants get new business. Which is great -- running a restaurant is sooooooo hard!)
Also, from a strictly psychological standpoint, people spend a lot of time on autopilot. Something like 90% of what we do is automated -- and we don't even realize it. So when someone actively sets out to try something new -- yes, that is cool. They get cool points with me for not just going to the same old place and ordering the same old thing. After all, as I wrote in Life Hack: Do What You Do When You Travel While You're At Home, "Life is only an adventure if you make it one." You should live like you're traveling. You should adopt a mindset in which you see yourself as brave, adventurous and excited to explore the world around you. Besides, who says you can't learn anything about a culture just by going to an Asian grocery store or a Middle Eastern restaurant? Some of the coolest conversations I've had have been with the strangers I ordered my food from.
So, yeah. Unless my food choices are depleting the oceans or taking food out of the mouths of poor people, you can go ahead and back off. Eating foods I like -- and trying new ones when I'm feeling adventurous (err... curious? Is "curious" racist?) -- is a personal choice, which has no bearing on you.
For more, check out I Used to Think Cultural Appropriation was "Wrong." Now, I'm Not So Sure.