This time last year I discovered I had a very serious illness. My life abruptly came to a halt. I stopped going to school, and took a disability leave from my job. All of a sudden I had time to watch TV.
One of the things that I love to do is cook. Suddenly I had time to watch the food network. In fact it turned into quite the obsession for me. I went to their website and downloaded recipes that I wanted to try. I even developed favorite chefs. I was delighted with my little culinary world until I noticed one LARGE glaring omission. The lack of people of color.
The chefs are dedicated to making food from across the globe. In fact in a single day it is quite possible to see dishes from Turkey, China, India etc. There seems to be a push to offer international cuisine. So here is my question….if the network is so into multiculturalism why are there so few chefs of color? On their website you will find a listing for only three shows that are hosted by people of color and two of them are hosted by the same person!
I am not satisfied with seeing white people cook “ethnic” food. I am not satisfied with the occasional traveling show focusing on events like Caribana to show racial solidarity with people of color. Bobby Flay can dance (badly at that)while he prepares Jerk Chicken, but let us not forget that this is a Jamaican dish. You know Jamaica, an Island in the Caribbean largely populated by, you guessed it BLACK people. Why should I accept these chefs as experts on dishes derived from my culture? Did they wake in the morning to the smell of fried dumplings, saltfish, fattened up corn beef, banana pancakes etc? I think not. These were the smells that emanated from my mothers kitchen.
There is a deep and abiding connection with food and culture. When we come together to share a meal, we are sharing more than just the food in front of us, we are sharing traditions, and teaching our children their history. When I stand in my kitchen, and make the same food that my grandmother made over sixty years ago I am offering my children a connection to their past, one that is specifically linked to the nurturing of my mother and her mother before her. It is a link created, and maintained by the women in my family.
My culture is more than a culinary vacation for the adventurous. It is real and meaningful to me. Part of living in a multicultural society should not mean the ownership of others, of cultural links and traditions. Show me that you respect my culture and identity by honoring people like me. Taking our recipes, and profiting from them shows an inherent disrespect. This is beyond invisibility, it is outright thievery. You have no right to take without asking. You have no right to share what is not yours. You have no right to colonize through invisibility….I am the subaltern, and I have spoken.