The gall of some people – Gordon Ramsay is embroiled in a row over his new Asian restaurant and cultural appropriation. This being one of the sillier ideas of the snowflake generation. Firstly, that there is some pure form of cuisine specific to the one culture, secondly that there’s anything wrong with lifting ingredients, recipes or ideas from one cuisine into another.
The most obvious point being that if humans didn’t do that we’d all be dead from starvation. No, literally. The two staple food crops in sub-Saharan Africa being cassava and maize. Both of which are imports from Latin America as part of the Colombian Exchange. As also part and parcel of that same exchange the Americas got horses – and mules, important for farming in the past – as well as cows, pigs, wheat, barley….We’d simply not be alive without appropriation of at least crops.
Gordon Ramsay accused of cultural appropriation over ‘Asian’ restaurant
And to say this over Asian food is particularly stupid. We all know that baguettes and croissants aren’t in fact French, they’re Austrian more than anything. Steak frites is English. And wait until we get to Asian food:
But Gordon Ramsay has now found himself caught up in a row over cultural appropriation after his new restaurant was accused of tokenism and lazy stereotyping. The award-winning chef is opening Lucky Cat, which he calls “an Asian eating house” inspired by 1930s Tokyo, describing it as part of his “long time vision”. During one of the venue’s preview nights last week diners were treated to dishes such as mini wagyu pastrami burger with ‘Asian’ chilli jam, English asparagus with a smoked ponzu emulsion and smoked duck breast with plum and Japanese nashi pear.
So, Asian food. Vindaloo is derived from the Portuguese vin d’alho so how about that for a bit of appropriation. Potatoes anything is of course part of the Colombian exchange. But we’re not talking about that kind of Asian, are we? So, Japanese:
In Japanese cuisine, yōshoku (洋食 western food) refers to a style of Western-influenced cooking which originated during the Meiji Restoration. These are primarily Japanized forms of European dishes, often featuring Western names, and usually written in katakana. It is an excellent example of Fusion cuisine that is flourishing.
Created in the Meiji era, it may not have as long a history as Washoku (Japanese traditional dishes), yet there are yōshoku dishes which have themselves become traditional Japanese fare. Yōshoku is considered a field of Japanese cuisine, including such typical adapted meals as katsu, beefsteak, korokke, naporitan, Hayashi rice and curry rice (Japanese curry). Many of these meals are even assumed to be washoku. Yōshoku began by altering Western recipes for lack of information about foreign countries’ cuisine, or adaptions to suit local tastes, but over time, yōshoku also evolved dishes that were not at all based on European foods, such as chicken rice and omurice (omelette rice). Elaborate sauces were largely eliminated, replaced with tomato ketchup, demi-glace sauce and Worcester sauce.
So you can stick that cultural appropriation idea in your toque and fry it with your tempura – actually, a borrowing into Japanese cuisine from Portuguese.