Free Write

The definition of cultural appropriation is “the act of adopting elements of an outside, often minority culture, including knowledge, practices, and symbols, without understanding or respecting the original culture and context.”  This is seen all the time in fashion, hairstyles, makeup, and in food. To be completely honest I have never thought about the cultural implications behind food. After the conversation we had in class I started to think more about this concept.

I love trying different foods and believe in the merging of different cuisines. I was born in Colombia and I love many different types of hispanic foods. But I am always uneasy when I bring my friends and they make a spectacle over something being exotic or weird. In my culture and in my home that food is not exotic- it is so normal to me and so normal to other hispanic people. For me growing up the idea of mac and cheese was exotic to me because my parents never introduced us to that type of food. While I understand being uncertain or confused by a type of food, I myself am a very picky eater but I try not to make make anyone feel bad for what they eat rather I try to learn more about it or respectfully decline it. Trying to understand something and decline it based on myself having a limited palate, but at the same time showing respect to the person who is offering me something so close to them.

I also see cultural appropriation when thinking about different restaurants. Me and my friends would eat at Qdoba a chain restaurant similar to that of Chipotle. One day I decided to take my friends to a Taco place in Brooklyn that is a tortilla factory and a restaurant at the same time. One of my friends as soon as he walked in he wanted to leave he was referring to the restaurant as dirty, and not restaurant like. He expected a restaurant that was very polished and decorated with the stereotypical Mexican restaurant decoration. He tried the food and ended up loving it and now we go all the time but it was a culture shock at first. And how seeing a cultural restaurant not appealing towards a generic American audience but to an audience of the people who know the food.

While listening to the podcast on NPR, I thought about what was said about translations. And the loss that they implicate to the culture they come from. And how ethnic food that is translated to mass produced at a grand scale at chain restaurants adapted to a foreign culture. At Smorgasburg they have arepa stands. I remember going and asking the person selling them for a specific ingredient salsa rosada which is basically ketchup mayonnaise and lime put together and she goes I have no idea that sounds gross. That is something so normal in my culture to eat with arepas, but this menu is catering to an audience that is not me- it is catering to a foreign. But at the same time it is slowly introducing a food to new audience is small steps and now more people are able to try arepas. Often times I don’t know where the line is drawn, I feel like with food there is a lot of gray area around cultural appropriation.

2 thoughts on “Free Write

  1. I think the connection between Colombian food appropriation and Mexican food appropriation falls along similar lines, the difference in the US is that there is much more Mexican people and food in the US because of history, and also proximity.

    That said, what you pointed out about ways people imagine Mexican food closely follows how they imagine Mexican people. I know the place you mentioned in Brooklyn, that spot is a tortilla factory, one of the oldest in NYC, but it has been surrounded by gentrification. They’ve had to adapt, but they also keep a lot of their own identity.

    The arepa spot you went to, well, if they didn’t know salsa rosada, that would tell you about how many Colombians either designed the menu or restaurant, or, they decided that the non-Colombian people who would go there would not like it.

    You’ll see lots of connections for Mexican and Colombian food this semester, but there are also plenty of differences as well. But as you understand more about Mexican food in the US, you’ll also understand the complicated history in the US about what it means to be Latinx on a larger scale, and how Americans imagine all Latin Americans as Mexicans.


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