In this day and age of constant sharing—status updating, tweeting, retweeting, reblogging; the new interwebs vernacular goes on—does it matter who gets to cook and write about another culture's cuisine?

By Rosin Saez
August 11, 2016

We do a lot of food writing here at Ethnic Seattle if you haven’t noticed. Heck, our Ethnic Business Coalition executive director Taylor Hoang is a chef herself who owns several restaurants. So, it’s no surprise we have a lot of feelings on food. Who doesn’t? Food culture is culture itself, after all; it’s a cross-cultural form of communication but instead of speaking, we’re eating. It sounds very strange to say that we “eat culture”, but in a sense we do.

All that to say, we often, especially in such a diverse city as Seattle, have opportunities to take in culture through cuisine. And in this day and age of constant sharing—status updating, tweeting, retweeting, reblogging; the new interwebs vernacular goes on—does it matter who gets to cook and write about another culture’s cuisine? 

That’s the question writer Laura Shunk, who’s lived abroad in China for the past year, asked on Food52.

“A few years ago, New York had an annual balut-eating contest, daring diners to house fertilized duck embryos popular in many Southeast Asian nations as fast as they could. The Travel Channel airs a show called “Bizarre Foods,” and bills it as an exploration of other cultures via the weirdest regional specialties host and creator Andrew Zimmern can find. Outlets as diverse as National Geographic, USA Today, and Buzzfeed have run columns asking travel journalists, “What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten?” Eating clubs fetishize dining on odd animal parts or racy chilies or fermented vegetables; restaurateurs and chefs scour the globe for inspiration that hasn’t yet hit mainstream eating consciousness; and writers rush to collect street cred by “discovering” “new” cuisines and ethnic enclaves[…]

I hadn’t been [abroad in China] long when campus protests erupted across the States, bringing to the forefront, among other issues, a roiling conversation about cultural appropriation, which, as transgender writer and activist Julia Serrano masterfully articulates, takes issue with white Americans profiting off of cultural contributions made by minorities and outside groups, while erasing those groups from the cultural historical record in the process, or worse, denigrating those groups by perpetuating negative stereotypes.”

Read the full article, Who Has the Right to Capitalize on a Culture’s Cuisine?, at the Food52 website.