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.

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