For the love of ethnic clothing and ethnic food.

When I go on a trip, I bring back not a stupid t-shirt, but an ethic remembrance of where I was.  I bring back a method, a recipe, a way to cook the food of the place where I was, and the clothing.  And now they call me a rip-off artist and a social thief and a cultural appropriationist or misappropriationist or, as the Wikipedia definition says “the adoption of an element or elements of one culture by members of another culture” and they call it controversial when members of a dominant culture appropriate from disadvantaged minority cultures.

And besides my beloved cultural clothing, now they tell me I may not cook dishes from another culture.

Well, it’s just wrong, because your litmus test is just wrong.

I’ve cooked, reframed and worked with foods from other cultures since pa fell off the bus.   Are you guys nuts?  Do we not offer and appreciate our cultures through food?  Because I am not Dutch, does that mean I may not make cheese?  Or because I am not Greek, I may not make Greek yogurt, or I am not Hungarian, I may not make Hungarian goulash, or I am not French, so a death-ray will come from the heavens if I dare put my hand to a French crêpe or any of the 5 mother sauces.

Look a little deeper and you will see that I may make all of those things, but, it is black food that is cultural appropriation, if you dig into this thing.  And it is the fake Western African clothing they sell in the US that I may not appropriate.

I have some news for you.  The first sewing that I did next to my mamma’s knee, was a African kaftan, because it was simple but it shows up shoddy work fast, and it comes from many cultures.  It is intangibly deep   None of those cultures were harmed because I sewed a caftan at mother’s knee.  That was my school.  and I learned to make South African Chakalaka in South Africa itself and many of my recipes and methods come from a book, out of print now, which is Afri-Caribbean foods, methods and dishes and my callaloo blows yours out of the water, no matter which color you are, or which color I am.   People are mostly proud of their cultural foods and let me into their kitchens and let me try their dishes right under their own eyes, so I could get it right, just for the love of the cultural food.

If you want Jamaican patties, try my kitchen – you’ll be impressed.  A grilled Cuban sandwich – oh man .. I make those well and I can cook white fluffy rice, yellow rice and all Cuban style rice.  Many Latin Americans believe my tres leches cake is the best they’ve ever had!  From East Africa, given I have some good peri-peri, you may come and eat peri-peri  prawns or shrimp with me until your fingers fall off and your mouth is numb.

You’re not protecting a culture, you are breaking it apart, because you do not own plantains,  goat stews, roasted beetroot or fresh watermelon.  Food extends cultures, it builds culture and it does it with no violence (at least, not from my kitchen unless you come speaking about cultural appropriation with your own version of lunchbox racism and you’ll soon see a chef’s knife appear.).

I can wrap an African headwrap as well as you can, and I buy mine from China, and it perplexes me that you want to bury  your culture, instead of owning it and sharing it.  To even complain of cultural appropriation in food and clothing completely perplexes me.  These are issues for sharing.  And yes, a white chef may sell burritos. 

Cultures need to be shared and celebrated.  If you want to be forever forgotten, try and hold on to a food culture, or a clothing culture, for your few disciples.

I think we need to be much more blunt and start just telling the perpetually offended to “get a grip”. Society is not your personal therapist neither is it your self-esteem coach. The constant discussion about who finds what offensive and why is frankly insufferable.

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