emef: (boarding school AU)
mf ([personal profile] emef) wrote2016-11-01 07:48 pm

today in questions that can't be answered in a handful of tweets: cultural appropriation of food

Right, so, the question is: can you culturally appropriate food.

My immediate instinct is to respond "sure" but obviously the issue is: I know maybe a little more than average about food and I have a fairly decent idea how to unpack all kinds of aspects of food, but the notion of cultural appropriation is something for which I have few tools. So, idk. Be kind.

Anyway if you go with the definition of cultural appropriation as, culture A adopting someone culture B uses/does, and like, think of it as Not A Good Thing when culture A is dominant and is depriving, either directly or indirectly, culture B of its identity or even intellectual property, livelihood, or just the credit for having the awesome idea of using/doing the thing, then here are some examples of culturally appropriating food.

The thing that immediately came to mind was potatoes, because that's what I was reading about yesterday.

The potato plant is from the Andes, and in the first text I read, it is described as having been consumed by "indians" for millennia, until is was "discovered" by "Spanish conquistadors" and taken back to Europe (and then, blah blah, eventually dragged back across the Atlantic to, among other places, Quebec.) I shit you not, that is what the website of the Producteurs de Pommes de Terre du Qu├ębec actually says. The text then goes on and on about how Frederic the Great championed the potato in Prussia, and how instrumental Prussia's agricultural policy was, and then it makes an even bigger deal out of French agronome Auguste Parmentier.

So - with my limited social science knowledge, I feel unqualified to explain why/how the actual bringing of a plant from one continent might be described as cultural appropriation, because I'm not super comfortable claiming to know the first thing about the variety of people chilling in the Andes in the 15th century. BUT. The notion of describing the potato as being "discovered" by violent Spanish dudebros, and then making the entire topic of potato consumption about European insightfulness/creativity/sagacious choices, seems pretty cut and dry. At least, from where I'm sitting.

So yeah I hope I'm not misunderstanding the concept of cultural appropriation! Plz to be commenting, if I am. Also hit me with more questions about food/agriculture at any time.
venusinthenight: joan watson listening to sherlock (elementary - joan sits and listens)

[personal profile] venusinthenight 2016-11-02 01:51 am (UTC)(link)
The whitewashing of the origins of the potato isn't cool at all, and the aftermath of it being introduced to Europe is definitely icky and gross. So the Europeans definitely engaged in cultural appropriation back then.

You may find this piece from Everyday Feminism useful...
http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/11/foodie-without-appropriation/
hedda62: my cat asleep (Default)

[personal profile] hedda62 2016-11-02 11:43 am (UTC)(link)
I would say (take with many grains of salt, something that at least in its non-Himalayan form can't be culturally appropriated) that the act of taking potatoes from South America to Europe isn't in itself appropriation. It's part of a whole conquistador-colonial nastiness, of course, but otherwise it's just "cool, new foodstuff." That word "discovery" puts the historians in the appropriation camp, but not necessarily the explorers themselves.

I tend to think of food-culture appropriation as having more to do with putting traditional foods (in particular, preparations of those foods) into a context where the dominant culture is "discovering" them and making them "better" and usually charging a hell of a lot more for them. Like making a version of papas a la Huancaina with expensive ingredients and serving it in your highly-reviewed restaurant and then talking down the original as unsophisticated. But the historical context makes it more interesting, indeed. Just I would to hate to cook only with the ingredients my ancestors used that grew in their continent of origin!

Michael Twitty is always good on appropriation and cultural sharing in the African-American context - and not overreactive, either, which I appreciate.
Edited 2016-11-02 11:45 (UTC)
lian: Klavier Gavin, golden boy (Default)

[personal profile] lian 2016-11-06 03:21 pm (UTC)(link)
tbh I'm weary of people flattening the narrative to "only cook food of your own culture!1!" just like it's been happening with anything regarding cultural exchange lately in US-domianted discourse.

By which I mean that I absolutely think that food can be appropriated but it's a matter of the cultural narrative around it, not the food at all. Which, obviously! but I don't see the discourse recognizing that. So I'm sorta unhappy with using the term "cultural appropriation" but otoh I don't have the tools to find a better shorthand.

Like I have no trouble whatsoever with people doing faux-Bratwurst and Sauerkraut versus the supremacist-ish "Europeans! cultivating potatoes!" thing. Or that time I read a white US chef pontificating about How To Properly Eat Pho. Haha.

But cultural cachet or politics of food just interests me.

(A writer I used to respect revealed his racist id when he bemoaned all those Muslims and Foreigners destroying Haute Cuisine what with their reluctance to splurge on Wine. Barbarians not Respecting Our Food and Destroying Our Culture! He said it much more intellecutaly, of course. It was embarrassing. The only time I ever considered sending a letter to the editor.)

On a personal note potatoes are delicious sooo I'm gonna make some mhh