Is dining hall sushi cultural appropriation? | The Tylt
Last year students at Oberlin College in Ohio made headlines for complaining that food being served at its dining hall was "insensitive" and an example of "cultural appropriation." This week actress Lena Dunham, an alumni of Oberlin, weighed in via Food and Wine magazine saying "There are now big conversations at Oberlin, where I went to college, about cultural appropriation and whether the dining hall sushi and bánh mì disrespect certain cuisines. The press reported it as, 'How crazy are Oberlin kids?' But to me, it was actually, 'Right on,'"
At the heart of the complaint is the belief that offering up certain cuisines below par is actually an insult to a culture. "The undercooked rice and lack of fresh fish is disrespectful," Tomoyo Joshi, a junior from Japan, told the school paper, The Review. "When you’re cooking a country’s dish for other people, including ones who have never tried the original dish before, you’re also representing the meaning of the dish as well as its culture. So if people not from that heritage take food, modify it and serve it as 'authentic,' it is appropriative."
Then again, we are talking about college dining hall food. Cooking for hundreds of people ensures a low level of quality. It's not an insult, it's more just a logistical fact of cooking. Even more to the heart of the issue, defenders of the dinning hall might point out that most dishes we enjoy today are a result of different cultures coming together. The bánh mì, for example, which is cited as being appropriated by the dining halls, is itself already a combination of French culinary style with Vietnamese spices. There's no way to serve a bánh mì that isn't culturally appropriated!
It's definitely possible to take elements of a culture and misuse and abuse it, even unintentionally. And yes, it could be said that college dorm food is an insult to all of humanity. But is it cultural appropriation? We want to hear from you?
Is it #FoodAppropriation or should Oberlin students just #EnjoyTheFood?
Is dining hall sushi cultural appropriation?