Please accept my apologies for the unduly long hiatus from blogging. I’ve got plenty of post ideas waiting in the mental queue: a number of posts reflecting on my experience in Australia, some more on gentrification in ethnic enclaves, and a review of Once Upon a Time in Cabramatta, among other things. I’ll also be writing something for Chinatownies, a new “magazine of Chinese food, culture and cities,” so I’ll keep you all posted when that comes out.
Today’s brief post is about food and social justice. My friend Miyuki Baker has written a thought-provoking illustrated post on the politics of culinary appropriation and the severely disadvantaged access that most of the world population has to sustainable and sustaining food. This sentence in particular caught my eye, as I had discussed a similar issue last year in a post on white male celebrity chefs and foreign/immigrant cuisines:
“…there’s a big problem when a white chef visits Senegal and uses words like finds, revives, realizes, evolution (also known to minority peoples as oppression) & unexplored territory. It’s a question of cultural ownership and who has the right to tell a story.”
Often we fail to recognize that food and access to food are shaped by the social structure we live in. Many of us recognize how the production of food is unequal, but how many of us stop to think about how the foods that end up on our plates are products of unequal exchanges? We celebrate bánh mì (Vietnamese sandwiches) as an iconic food of Vietnam and of Vietnamese overseas, but how did baguettes become a part of Vietnamese cuisine? How did the Vietnamese people come to be spread across North America, Australia, and Europe? Why do we embrace bánh mì and other Vietnamese foods but ask Vietnamese people living in our countries to abandon their language and customs?
Coming to terms with the inequalities of the food system should not preclude us from enjoying what we are lucky enough to have on the plates. Rather, thinking about these issues should provoke us to become more informed consumers and more critical participants in this unjust society.