Recall the Portland-based burrito business that shut down due to “cultural appropriation.” Well, it seems white people shouldn’t be allowed to own and operate any food service if it’s offering ethnic food—and an index is being compiled for that.
Yes, the aforementioned-philosophy opponents are in the midst of adding to an informative index of “white-owned appropriative restaurants.” Thus far, this project points out many, Oregon-based culinary businesses committing this God-awful social-justice crime—another weapon for the “white-supremacist culture.”
Within this Google Docs-facilitated index is nearly 60 dining spots in Portland, the white restaurateur’s identity and what the respective menu entails—e.g., Burmasphere “was founded by a white man who ate Burmese food in San Francisco.” The index avails competitors (ethnic folks) and advises diners to visit the real deal. (Because that’s not racist at all.)
“This is NOT about cooking at home or historical influences on cuisines; it’s about profit, ownership, and wealth in a white-supremacist culture,” the index compilers wrote. “These white-owned businesses hamper the ability for POC [people of color] to run successful businesses of their own (cooking their own cuisines), by either consuming market share with their attempt at authenticity or by modifying foods to market to white palates. Their success further perpetuates the problems stated above. It’s a cyclical pattern that will require intentional, behavior change to break.” (And in no way does it lend to multiculturalism when white people find interest in learning to cook foods from other countries. God forbid one culture learns from another.)
This index oddly appeared shortly upon the Kooks Burrito issue in Portland. Before it all went down, Kooks owners Kali Wilgus and Liz Connelly simply wanted to convey their passion for legit, Mexican food from their time spent in Puerto Nuevo. “I picked the brains of every tortilla lady there in the worst broken Spanish ever, and they showed me a little of what they did,” Connelly said in an interview. “They told us the basic ingredients, and we saw them moving and stretching the dough similar to how pizza makers do before rolling it out with rolling pins. They wouldn’t tell us too much about technique, but we were peeking into the windows of every kitchen, totally fascinated by how easy they made it look. We learned quickly it isn’t quite that easy.”
Upon the Connelly-Wilgus interview, commenters were anything but understanding and open-minded. Even The Portland Mercury forgot it was a publication and took to accusing the ladies of stealing intellectual property. There was also Mic-journo Jamilah King’s crooked compliment of Kooks’ cooking being “either genius or the latest example of white folks profiting off the labor of people of color.” All that commotion unfortunately pushed the ladies into closing shop.
While the index compilers’ identities remain a mystery, they say “several people of color” put it together. In an effort to better understand the reasoning behind this index, a journalist attempted to contact them, but “sorry, we are not taking media inquiries” was the reply.
Many times, cultural appropriation is confused with non-ethnic folks taking an ethnic practice and failing miserably when trying their hand at it—Kooks was actually pretty successful. More, it may have been creepy to spy on the legit-burrito-pros, but those ladies invested their time in educating themselves on native-cooking practices. The indexed food joints might have done the same with their respective cuisine of choice—perhaps they hired sous-chefs who ethnically correlate with the food.
Regardless, here in the United States at least, it’s foolish and risky to hate on white-owned restaurants that have ethnic cuisine (especially well-known spots)—there will almost definitely be a loss of non-ethnic folks looking for new, dining experiences and into expanding their palatial knowledge. Cultural-appropriation haters might be happy with this tactic, but why ruin culinary arts for everyone—as well as the proprietor offering the deliciousness??