Just a thought not fully formed…

I’ve been thinking about cultural appropriation specifically about food after some comments I’ve seen on curry and avocado toast. And a trip to Spitz that didn’t turn out well.

My grandparents were newlyweds during WWII, they didn’t have access to crops from “enemy” countries. Same with a lot of spices. They were suspicious of “foreign” things because that’s where the war was.  Some of the recipes from women’s magazines at the time warn against using Asian spices.

They didn’t share any of those “enemy” things with their baby boomer kids who discovered a lot of things like mangoes and spices when refugees came after the Vietnam.  Refugees bring great new things with them, but if you’re suspicious of refugees, you also don’t try the new things.

As more immigrants move into areas, more ethnic restaurants pop up to meet community needs. You can tell who the racists are when they start complaining about not having any “good” or “normal” places to eat.

But immigrants can’t always get the same ingredients in the US as they got at home (any other Finns smuggle in makkara?) which leads to adaptation to get a similar flavor or texture to what you had at home.

Children going to school with more diverse people discover new foods and flavors (Rosemary Wells Yoko, anyone?). The more diversity children experience growing up, the more they can bring those experiences back to their parents, and both generations learn (as long as there is a growth mindset, but that’s another topic).

I personally love discovering new flavors. But I’ve also run into situations where I’ve been told that hot spices are sinful (still looking for the scripture on that one). It’s got me thinking of Anthony Bourdain and how he tried to reach and learn about others through food.

It’s also got me wondering how society has used food to enforce racism and systemic discrimination.

Was there a food you were told to avoid without being given a clear reason? Also, how has food changed over time for you?

That last question comes up because I was looking at a museum piece from the 1800s, and they talk about the lobster and oysters being a succulent meal. But at the time period, when it was painted, those foods were poverty and prison fare. No one with money would have eaten lobster. It wasn’t until the early 1900s that lobster became a delicacy instead of the cockroach of the sea.

It also reminds me of the cottage cheese and yogurt industry. In the 1970s, dairy manufacturers and women’s magazines began advertising cottage cheese as a way to lose weight (anyone or their mom do the cottage cheese diet?). Then, manufacturers discovered yogurt was cheaper to make, and now yogurt is the diet breakfast of choice.

Now, I’m hungry. I think I’ll go fix something to eat from a forbidden food list.

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