That time when your culture’s food suddenly becomes the “it” thing.
by Alexander Quebec
Filipino food is trendy, it only took 90 plus years of Filipino immigration to America to make that happen, but whatevs.
I have a hard time accepting that fact though. In the early to mid parts of the 20 century, the same monolithic message has been repeated over and over again to all newly arrived immigrants to America in the Borg-esq tone: “Assimilate”. Thanks to the civil rights movements and others, however, new generations are now discovering and embracing the respective cultures of those who came to this country before them to enjoy a better life. The generations that are emerging are just now discovering what it means to be Filipino, or Mexican, or wherever they came from.
Food is just one of those things that often gets into the spotlight. Granted, it seems like a very innocuous thing, but in reality, it’s more important that people realize. It sustains people and helps them grow, gives them a link to a land they may or may not see in their lifetimes.
On the one hand, I think it’s awesome. I love the idea of broadening someone’s horizons food wise, I love expanding someone’s culinary repertoire. I love introducing something I grew up with to those curious to even give it a try. I love learning how to cook a recipe from both of my grandmothers, then try my best to recreate it for friends for dinner. This is the kind of cultural exchange I enjoy, the kind backed by a desire to preserve whatever knowledge there is, fueled by a desire to create a connection between others who may not have an opportunity to explore this new cuisine otherwise.
What I don’t appreciate are the rude comments, the off handed remarks and the backhanded compliments that almost make references to dog eating and Fear Factor. It only takes a few specific foods items to demonstrate who really controls the dialogue when it comes to topics on food and culture in this country. I remain vigilant not to make comments on those things though, because I know the annoyance jokes made about Filipino and Asian food in general can cause. Why return the favor if it’s only going to make things worse? It certainly won’t add to the dialogue about race in this country.
I’m also not here to say that a chef of one race can’t cook the food of another, it’s when that chef works with it, utilizing only superficial aspects in attempt to create the newest, hottest thing, and then not pay any dues to the originating culture. It’s also when you have people eating at that one place because it’s “Exotic” enough to win points in an unfair and arbitrary game among their peers in an effort to be as “adventurous” as possible. We’ve done it before in the past, and it’s time to put an end to that practice.
You might be asking me, why are you so upset about something like this? It’s simple; cultures are unfairly mistreated and appropriated all the time, and yet, no one aside from the offended party acts like it’s a big deal. When you appropriate a culture, you rob a group of people of their dignity and their right to co-exist among others. You take away their humanity for your enjoyment and substinance, almost offering nothing in return. That isn’t right and it isn’t fair.
So, if you’re going to enjoy the cuisines of both of my cultures, or any culture for that matter, don’t do it because it’s “the new thing” and expect it to fit completely within a context that’s comfortable and familiar to you, because you will be disappointed. Instead, come with an air of curiosity, respect the process in which it is made and the people who make it and everything will be just fine. Keep an open mind and know that the world you live in is a much bigger place than what it used to be, so it’s time to start acting like it.
The views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Caliplate.com, it’s staff, partners, affiliates or sponsors.
Photo credit: casamanila.ca