Proposed research question (with plan)
How to protect your cultural food from food appropriation.
In Johanna Blakley’s TED Talk, she reminded the audiences lessons that we could learn from fashion’s free culture. While the free culture has a huge impact across different creative industries. The food industry is innovative, creative and links closely to personalities. However, recipes can not be licensed because it is a set of instructions, it’s a fact. No matter how unique your dish is, you can not protect it from being reproduced by others.
Meanwhile, there are also issues around cultural appropriation in food. Many current studies have talked about cultural appropriation in fashion, music but little of them are about cultural appropriation in food.
Why is that and where is the line between culinary cross-pollination and cultural appropriation?
That is what this project will explore and try to find answers for.
Definition: taking a symbol or a cultural practice out of its original context and situating that practice so that it becomes devoid of its original meaning.
Fusion is a common thing in the food industry. Food is something you can experiment with. Like Johanna said above recipe is a set instruction, they act as guidelines. But in recent years with the popularisation of ethnic food, some chef’s experiments became offensive.
In many cases of controversial food appropriations happen when the reproduced chef changes the recipe without understanding the historical context and not taking the time to understand what it is.
Take the case of a food podcast host Dan Pashman‘s innovation idea “Bi Bim Bundt”.
Bibimbap is a traditional Korean rice dish served in a hot stone pot which keeps sizzling the rice even after the dish is front of you. You have to mix it to let the ingredients cook, and the rice becomes light brown and crispy.
In his podcast with Food Network star Sunny Anderson they were talking about “if the stone pot had more surface area, it would come into greater contact with the rice and you’d have more crispy rice to eat.”
“Immediately I pictured a bundt pan. Its trademark centre cylinder and fluted perimeter are the perfect alterations to the traditional dolsot, vastly increasing surface area, and thus stone-to-rice contact.
The Bi Bim Bundt was born. ” – Dan Pashman
Some were insulted by the idea.
Nick Cho, a Korean-American listener of the show, tweeted them that he was offended, so Dan invited him on his new show “Other People’s Food” to talk about food appropriation.
In the podcast NYU Professor Krishnendu Ray also highlighted the issues around cultural appropriation in food: “You can be white and an acclaimed chef you can play with other people’s food, but if you are not white or an acclaimed chef you do not have the freedom to do that.”
Cultural appropriation is when the dominant culture takes bits from the minority culture and make it their own. Cultural food is the memory to many people when a chef changes it without context that is when the community feels insulted.
Me as a food lover and Asian women from an immigrant city in China currently base in England have always questioned what counts as authentic food. Is there a way besides license it to protect certain food? Some may argue it is for the better to allow food appropriation because otherwise we will be limited to only the dishes we know from our memories there will be no innovation in food anymore, and the race of the chefs should not determine their cooking skill on cuisine from a culture they were born in.
Proposed format and why
I will carry this research by creating a video essay around this topic. I will interview acclaimed food bloggers, people from different ethnic groups about their experiences and opinions on Food appropriation.
I chose this format because it will be the best communication method with the audiences. The visual elements will help them understand the context(Especially what those food look like!) quickly, and the interviews will create a narrative and add a human touch to the video. The saying “A picture is worth a thousand words.” summaries why I choose to produce a video essay for my topic.