Tuesday, December 22, 2015

"Cultural Appropriation" at Oberlin (Food Fight)

Gary Fouse

A food fight erupted at Oberlin College in Ohio last month. It seems that some students (mostly Asian or Asian-American) were not pleased at the campus cafeteria's attempt to serve Asian food. Not authentic, they claimed. (What else is new?) So now, we have a case of "cultural appropriation" to deal with-a micro-aggression, if you will.)


First of all, at the risk of stereotyping (a micro-aggression in itself) , I am a little saddened to find that some Asian-American students are jumping on the political correctness bandwagon. At UC Irvine, where I teach part-time, about half of the student body is Asian-American. For the most part, they don't join in the silly reindeer games that go on. They are too busy studying and enjoying their campus experience with more traditional pursuits.

At any rate, as one who has lived and traveled extensively overseas, and as one who appreciates all kinds of foreign cuisines, I appreciate how hard is to get authentic food (and beer) outside of the country of origin. For example, if you happen to be in Europe, I do not recommend trying any Thai or Chinese restaurants even if you can find them. The same thing goes for the US. If you want really good Chinese food, I recommend Chinatown in San Francisco, Los Angeles or New York. Mexican food? East LA or Santa Ana, California. Authentic German beer? The only place I know is the Hofbrauhaus in Las Vegas. They ship it directly from the parent Hofbrauhaus in Munich in barrels. Having lived in Italy, I have yet to experience the real thing in any Italian restaurant in the US.

Matter of fact, we just returned from a week's vacation at a plush resort in Puerto Vallarta. (That's in Mexico for all you UC Santa Cruz  Community Studies and History of Consciousness majors.) One night the main dining room featured Asian night with Chinese and Japanese dishes. There were also two restaurants there that featured Continental fare. Too bad the poor students of Oberlin weren't there. They would have seen a true case of cultural appropriation gone horribly bad. (The Mexican food, on the other hand, was excellent.)

By the way: If you are an American traveling abroad, I don't recommend trying a hamburger. You will be very disappointed. You should not, however, complain you are a victim of cultural appropriation. You know where they will tell you to go.

I guess what I'm trying to say is: If you are in Ohio and expect authentic Chinese food, you are out of luck. But you are not a victim of anything.

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