Thanks For The Tacos. Now Go Home.

Sign outside a restaurant that says "Free Nobel Prize with every order of shrimp tacos"

Publisher’s Weekly has an interesting piece up about the rise of non-mainstream cuisine on the American foodscape (kill me for using that word), contrasting the rise in Vietnamese, Cajun, Mexican, etc. recipes and cookbooks with our current desire to drive out many of the people who brought these cuisines here. PW sees this as evidence that the food world is more welcoming than say, Arizona:

[T]here are no borders in the American kitchen. Surveying the cookbook market and the culinary scene in 2010, it’s clear that American cuisine is more diverse than it’s ever been, a true—and delicious—reflection of our country and what makes it great.

Oh, bullshit. Seriously? Cherrypicking things like recipes and fashion statements from other cultures is a fine colonial tradition, one that is not any less exploitative if the colonies are within one’s own borders. It’s nice that A Taste of Lebanon is selling well, but how many people can find Lebanon on a map? Are we supposed to think people are eating fried kafta and talking about how Suleiman jailed three people for denigrating him on Facebook? (And before you think that is some craaaazy Middle Eastern move, a school in Florida tried to do it to a teen who said her teacher sucked!) Also think about it this way–people are immigrating here and bringing us these delicious foods because we, a superpower, are not helping them to end the conflict and problems in their own countries. We are in fact, in most cases making it worse.  But hey, thanks for the tacos. Now go home.

What really infuriated me about this piece was the closing quote, from one Anthony Bourdain:

The kitchen is still a place where you are judged on how well you do and nothing else. It’s kind of wonderful. It’s the last meritocracy.

Apparently Anthony Bourdain has not noticed that “the kitchen” is still mostly full of straight white dudes. And they can eat all the international cuisine they want, but that still won’t make it a meritocracy.

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  • Meatball

    Seriously misread kafta as kafka.


  • TheJoe

    The kitchen is mostly full of Mexican dudes. Do a survey…Any Town, USA. It’s the straight white kitcheners that get the column, the book, and the show.


    • Snacktime

      Sorry Joe, obviously the browns just don’t cook well enough to actually run a restaurant or write a cookbook or have a show. It’s a meritocracy!


  • Meatball

    I am fairly certain I don’t know enough about this topic (scientifically), but I have never seen a restaurant’s kitchen with just a bunch of white dudes.


  • TheJoe

    Now a kitchen full of Mexigays…point me in the direction of that feast.


  • colin

    Where are you getting your information from? “Apparently Anthony Bourdain has not noticed that “the kitchen” is still mostly full of straight white dudes.”


    • Snacktime

      Dear Colin, when I put “the kitchen” in quotes I was making the point that, while many nationalities, genders, sexualities and ethnicities work in restaurants, the famous chefs and restaurateurs of the food world are all still mostly straight white dudes. I hope this clears things up for you.


  • colin

    My point in the first post (which was curiously deleted) was that I, as well as many people I know, work in kitchens. I am neither straight nor white and though I’m not necessarily championing Bourdain, he was saying talent dictates the hierarchy in the kitchen. You putting quotes around his words changes the argument to suit yours. I understand what your saying but then we have to agree there are two different arguments going on here and therefore I’m not quite sure why his words would have infuriated you in the context in which they were stated. Especially since I’m assuming you have never held a job in that environment.


    • Snacktime

      Oh Colin. Never assume. Also, it is complete bullshit that “talent dictates the hierarchy in the kitchen.” That is exactly my point. Because that would mean that brown folks, women, trans folks, gays, etc, who work at the lower levels in the hierarchy are innately less talented than the white guys at the top, and that the white guys who are there did not have any advantages or privileges to help them get there. That would be a meritocracy! But that is not the case. See also: the Senate. Also full of white guys! But I don’t think that the white guys who are in the Senate are there because they are more politically talented than non-white non-guys. I think they are there because they have advantages that non-whites and non-guys have.


  • colin

    Are we talking about the Senate now or kitchens? Are you saying that no women or people of color are at ‘the top’ in kitchens or own their own businesses?


  • colin

    No, I understand the word ‘mostly’. You’re clearly in a pissing match and I’m assuming because my name is Colin that you think I’m a man.(wrong) I have worked with amazing and talented people of all races, genders, sexualities. I’ve worked since I was a kid in kitchens, dishwashing, then prep cook and up from there. I have seen people work their asses off and open amazing places. Two of the most badass ones were Ana Sortun of Oleana and Barbara Lynch of 9 Park who climbed their way up because of their talent, they have books and awards and their own restaurants because of their talent. If you weren’t so unbending and one-sided in what you’re saying I’d have an interest in continuing this discussion.


    • Snacktime

      I don’t actually think we are in that much of a disagreement. Just because the food world is not a meritocracy devoid of racism, sexism, classism, etc, doesn’t mean that some members of oppressed classes can’t rise to the top, like the ones you mention, and that those people aren’t talented. Obviously that happens, but it doesn’t absolve the system of its structural inequities.