Why is it that people are willing to spend $20 on a bowl of pasta with sauce that they might actually be able to replicate pretty faithfully at home, yet they balk at the notion of a white-table cloth Thai restaurant, or a tacos that cost more than $3 each? Even in a city as “cosmopolitan” as New York, restaurant openings like Tamarind Tribeca (Indian) and Lotus of Siam (Thai) always seem to elicit this knee-jerk reaction from some diners who have decided that certain countries produce food that belongs in the “cheap eats” category—and it’s not allowed out. (Side note: How often do magazine lists of “cheap eats” double as rundowns of outer-borough ethnic foods?)
Yelp, Chowhound, and other restaurant sites are littered with comments like, “$5 for dumplings?? I’ll go to Flushing, thanks!” or “When I was backpacking in India this dish cost like five cents, only an idiot would pay that much!” Yet you never see complaints about the prices at Western restaurants framed in these terms, because it’s ingrained in people’s heads that these foods are somehow “worth” more. If we’re talking foie gras or chateaubriand, fair enough. But be real: You know damn well that rigatoni sorrentino is no more expensive to produce than a plate of duck laab, so to decry a pricey version as a ripoff is disingenuous. This question of perceived value is becoming increasingly troublesome as more non-native (read: white) chefs take on “ethnic” cuisines, and suddenly it’s okay to charge $14 for shu mai because hey, the chef is ELEVATING the cuisine.
One of the entries from the list ‘20 Things Everyone Thinks About the Food World (But Nobody Will Say)’.
Real. As. Fuck.
And real talk, I wish there was a Clueless Whitebread Muhfuckas filter on Yelp, because they stay talking stupid shit about places around my way.
Let’s also talk about how if there is a white face in front of these foods, that person can get more money because this is now a “sophisticated version made by whiteys”, but if people are doing their own shit it needs to be cheap like it is back in the country.
Same thing about soul food being horrible and cheap and harmful to your health until some pasty trick decides to put it on the menu in their mediocre ass white table-cloth restaurant where they charge $20 for a plate of turnip greens and corn bread!!
There is a possibility that immigrants sold food like that from their homeland cheaply, and that because it was originally cheap and has largely stayed that way, people think it should be cheap. Maybe these immigrants were just trying to make a living in a new country and realized that selling expensive food wasn’t the best way to do that. There is a possibility that not every single fucking thing that you perceive is bad is a result of horrible white people. There is also the outright bullshit comment above that would implicate soul food was ‘appropriated’ from black people, even though white people have eaten it for centuries too. Not to mention that one can very easily find cheap Italian food. Are you familiar with pizza?
Here’s the thing.
Suppose you’re into French food, right? And you want something inexpensive, that’s authentically French. You could go to a cheap crepe place and get a crepe and call it a day. Cool
But suppose you want something more high end? That’s fine - there are options. Nice, white tablecloth joints with foie gras galore and highly-trained waitstaff.
Those two places, by the way, are both almost guaranteed to be owned by white people. Not necessarily French white people, but white people. And based on numbers, it’s highly likely that the head chef at the expensive place is also white.
Now suppose you want Mexican food. Want something inexpensive? Cool. Head to a neighborhood with a significant Mexican immigrant population, and it should be easy to find. And that restaurant (or food truck, in some cases) is probably run by someone from that ethnic community.
Suppose you want high-end Oaxacan cuisine, though? At a nice sit-down place with Michelin or Zagat writeups? (Because some folks are into that, and want to go to a place with an impressive wine list, or a string quartet playing while they eat, or whatever. It’s not my thing, but that’s some folks’ taste.) Chances are, that restaurant is also owned by white people. Chances are, the head chef there is also white. (Rick Bayless is a good example of a white dude who’s made his reputation on high-end Mexican food.) Maybe some of the back-of-house employees, the ones who get paid the least and do the drudge work of cooking the food served, are Mexican, but nobody sees them. They don’t get recognition, and they don’t get the paychecks that come with that recognition.
That’s the issue. This isn’t about some “ugh, everything bad is white people” grousing (and how you took it that way, I’m assuming, is based on your own biased reading) - this is about who gets recognized for doing what. Who gets credit. Who gets paid.
And if you think I’m full of shit for saying that, get at me when you can find a Mexican American chef of Bayless’ level of fame, with their own PBS cooking specials and cameos on Iron Chef America.
I’m not even going to touch that comment about pizza, because it’s disingenuous as fuck, considering that pizza is for the most part closer to street food than high-end restaurant fare.
Yes, everything said and to add: when ethnic food gets touched by white hands, it is immediately cleansed or some shit, like subbing out “inferior” ingredients for “better ones,” but hey, it’s still really authentic. But honestly, what the fuck do white know about the authenticity of a food anyway. Okay, you were a fucking tourist in Thailand or India or China or some other non-western country for a few weeks or more, you still don’t know shit about how important the food is to that culture, you just eat it and think you are blessed with some knowledge about how brown ppl’s food should taste and be made.
I was looking for a recipe for congee bc I need some comfort food atm, but it takes an upwards of 2 hours to make, so egg drop soup it is.