Education

Menu Microaggression: College Students Declare Ethnic Food To Be Racist

Derek Hunter Contributor
Font Size:

Students at Oberlin College are complaining that the meals served in the dining halls are culturally insensitive just days after students released a massive list of 50 demands on the university in the name of justice.

[dcquiz] Asian students are upset with the College Dining Services’ (CDS) attempts to make ethnic Asian food, claiming their approximation is not authentic and is, therefore, an “appropriation” of their culture, The New York Post reports.

Diep Nguyen, a freshman from Vietnam, was originally excited the university served a Banh Mi Vietnamese sandwich. But then it “turned out to be a cheap imitation,” since they used different bread and coleslaw rather than pickled vegetables it was deemed offensive.

“It was ridiculous,” Diep lamented. “How could they just throw out something completely different and label it as another country’s traditional food?”

[dcquiz] The Oberlin student newspaper reports this is not an isolated appropriation. They claim the college “has a history of blurring the line between culinary diversity and cultural appropriation by modifying the recipes without respect for certain Asian countries’ cuisines. This uninformed representation of cultural dishes has been noted by a multitude of students, many of who have expressed concern over the gross manipulation of traditional recipes.”

Sophomore Prudence Hiu-Ying, a student from China, was so upset over what the CDS called “General Tso’s chicken” — a dish that’s not really served in China — that she “didn’t even try” it.

The Oberlin Review reports:

Perhaps the pinnacle of what many students believe to be a culturally appropriative sustenance system is Dascomb Dining Hall’s sushi bar. The sushi is anything but authentic for Tomoyo Joshi, a College junior from Japan, who said that the undercooked rice and lack of fresh fish is disrespectful. She added that in Japan, sushi is regarded so highly that people sometimes take years of apprenticeship before learning how to appropriately serve it.

“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,” Joshi said. “So if people not from that heritage take food, modify it and serve it as ‘authentic,’ it is appropriative.”

Bon Appétit, the company contracted with the school to provide food for students, claim to have meant no offense by the dishes. Still, some students want the issues addressed sooner rather than later:

Richard Tran, a Vietnamese-American College senior, suggested that Bon Appétit look into the history and original recipes of the foods they are trying to make, as there are food taboos within cultures they should avoid. Mai Miyagaki, a College junior from Japan, added that a meeting between Bon Appétit employees and international students could help alleviate tensions.

Director of the CDS, Michile Gross, said, “It’s important to us that students feel comfortable when they are here.”

Gross is planning on setting up a meeting with students soon to discuss the offensive culinary appropriations.