I have a confession to make. It’s been awfully quiet in here because I’ve been trying to process some things and I wasn’t sure what direction I should take with SalutNutrition. Recently a couple of articles have been popping up on my Facebook Newsfeed about the topic/idea/concept of cultural appropriation and food culture. There are many different opinions on this and it’s such a charged topic. To simply put it cultural appropriation can be defined as taking parts of another culture that is different than your own and using it for your own profit/benefit/humor, etc. Most of the time this term is used to refer to the “white majority” culturally appropriating the ethnic minority, although technically minorities can culturally appropriate other ethnic minorities. One example of cultural appropriation can be seen during Halloween when people have culturally insensitive costumes for example dressing up as a geisha, native american princess, “gangsta” rappers, or as a Mexican. This term is also used when it comes to music, celebrities, or clothing but it isn’t usually used when speaking about food.
So the first article I read was about an Vietnamese-American woman who was upset that the foods she was once ridiculed for as a child is now the latest fad or hip thing. While reading her article I couldn’t help but to remember during my dietetics training in a cultural foods class seeing the looks my classmates gave me when I shared that one of my favorite dishes from my culture was goat meat.
The second article I read was about Oberlin University and how some of the Asian students felt that the cafeteria was culturally appropriating their food traditions when there was “Asian Fusion Night”. As I read these two articles and academic articles on cultural appropriation I felt my head metaphorically spinning. I couldn’t help but wonder where do I stand in this conversation as a food & culture blogger. In a sense am I the same as the chefs who are using ethnic foods as their niche in their craft. Am I culturally appropriating when I put an “Asian twist” to a traditional Mexican dish? When I eat the latest foods am I taking away from a group of people? (My neighbor has shared with me that when she was growing up in Bolivia quinoa was considered food that the poor people ate. However, since the market for it has grown in the USA poor people can’t afford quinoa anymore.) I’m fully aware that our food choices are more for our existence. It is also a political statement. Because of this I’ve put a burden on myself when it comes to celebrating a culture. I often think to myself how do I celebrate this culture without being culturally insensitive.
This month is Irish Heritage month and I took so long to decide how I wanted to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day that I ended up not doing anything at all! I knew Irish culture was more than just drinking Guinness and eating mashed potatoes with corned beef but didn’t know how celebrate St. Paddy’s day while being culturally sensitive and “authentic.” I had this similar experience for Black History Month as well (but that’s another topic for another day). So in the end, in an attempt to not culturally appropriate Irish culture I ended up not being able to share with you all the rich food culture that is found in Ireland.
After a while of pondering, reading a fair share of articles, and discussing with my partner the complexities in my mind it finally hit me. SalutNutrition is my journey navigating food, culture, and wellness! I shouldn’t be so afraid to break boundaries and dare to discover. A part of what makes the USA unique is that it’s a melting pot of different cultures. I think that it is great to embrace new cultures. I think that when you are using elements of another culture it is important to credit them and to think about the many different aspects of the culture that you are being inspired by.
I can go on for days on this topic. So what say you? Have you heard of cultural appropriation before? Do you think that this idea/concept should be applied to food ?
Until next time,