Bombay Aloo has a variety of ingredients. Central is the potato. Tomato/tomato paste and chili powder are usually important too. These three ingredients are from the New World. Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors outlines the whole story about how so many different ingredients came to Indian subcontinental cuisines, whether it be from Central Asia, the New World, or Europe. If you want Indian food before Columbus, there are some temples that do serve recipes that date back 1,000 years, and so do not have new ingredients.
The foods of the Indian subcontinent are diverse, and all are synthetic. Bengali food, for example, has Mughal and European influences. And, it was shaped and reshaped by the prevalence of cooks and chefs from the nearby province of Odisha in the 19th century. Therefore, “modern Bengali food” is very different from what it was hundreds of years ago. And one hundred years from now it will be very different.
This context is important to understand the discussion about “cultural appropriation” and food. This is not a serious discussion. There are no serious people who take this topic as worthy of addressing. Rather, it’s something that a 24-year-old food writing intern will crank out “think pieces” on. They’re given a quota of “content” to generate, and so they will write thoughtless and uninformed pablum. That will trigger a reaction from the commentariat. Additionally, a small number of people will take the thoughtless piece seriously.
It is notable that I have never heard an Asian immigrant raised in Asia make note of “cultural appropriation” when it comes to food. Rather, it is always the deracinated children of Asian immigrants, or, highly assimilated immigrants who have internalized the folkways of the hegemonic white American woke culture. In other words, ironically, the preoccupation with “cultural appropriation” is a symptom of assimilation and intellectual colonization. Those who are comfortable with their cultural authenticity don’t mind others borrowing “their” culture, and do not reflect deeply when borrowing the culture of “others.”
So if cultural appropriation isn’t really championed by anyone, why do we talk about it incessantly? It may not reside in individuals, but it is in the air around us. It is a parasite in human nature.
- Someone who doesn’t care and is ignorant writes thoughtless copy deploying the buzzwords
- This is amplified by the “amen” choir of those participating in “woke Olympics”
- There is a counter-reaction by the anti-woke
- Which drives polarization between the two camps and “discussion”
- This seeds the next round of “think pieces” since lazy writers and busy editors know that they will “travel”