It’s a delicious thing, Winston

 

Epicurious is rewriting its recipe archives to ensure that none of the listed ingredients or dish descriptions cause Harm. Someone might encounter a word from a 1973 recipe that grates against their sensibilities, minces their nerves, adds a soupçon of rage, and they would be shook, and possibly could not even. 

Since July, the small staff at Epicurious, a resource site for home cooks, has been scouring 55 years’ worth of recipes from a variety of Conde Nast magazines in search of objectionable titles, ingredient lists and stories told through a white American lens.

Does “objectionable” refer to everything? Titles, lists, and stories? If so, is the fact that a story was told through a “white American lens” sufficient to make it objectionable?

“It came after Black Lives Matter, after a lot of consciousness-raising among the editors and staff,” said David Tamarkin, the white digital director for Epicurious. 

Aren’t you glad that everyone’s race is identified in stories these days? It tells you how you should interpret what the person says, thinks, and does. 

“It came out of conversations that we had about how we can do better, where are we failing and where have our predecessors failed?”

Called the Archive Repair Project, 

Ugh. What is it with the Left and Newspeak? The Archives, which faithfully and truthfully reflected the era, are broken, because they do not reflect this era. And thus they must be repaired. 

“Being such an old site, we’re full of a lot of ideas about American cooking that really go through a white lens,” Tamarkin said. “We know that American cooking is Mexican American cooking and Indian American cooking and Nigerian American cooking, that that’s the kind of cooking that’s really happening in this country every day.”

That’s quite true. The question is whether everyone is staying in their lane, and not appropriating cultures outside of their own. 

One of the first issues “repaired,” he said, was use of the word “exotic.”

“I can’t think of any situation where that word would be appropriate, and yet it’s all over the site,” Tamarkin said. “That’s painful for me and I’m sure others.”

Painful. 

The definition of “exotic”: “originating in or characteristic of a distant foreign country.” So an American recipe in 1962 describing food from a distant foreign country as “exotic” would not be inaccurate, would it? Ah, but if there were people in America at the time making the dish, then the use of the word would smite them with the great wide Otherizing Beam, and thus someone in 2021 would conclude that Spanish or Korean people were not seen as wholly American in 1962. 

Is it possible that the mainly-WASPy mainstream did not see them as wholly American in 1962? Aren’t we told that they weren’t? If so, perhaps leaving the word “exotic” in place with a note about the recipe’s publication date respects an artifact of the past and the discerning intellect of the present-day reader, which can encounter elements of the past without feeling their marrow turn to ice.

While I am not an epicurean, I have some experience with old cookbooks. Let’s look at a cookbook from the era. 

Now we get to the internecine struggles.

He noted: “Certainly there will be times when our edits do not go far enough; some of our repairs will need repairs.”

For Bon Appetit, that’s exactly what happened when an outcry among readers led it to make multiple changes including the headnote and references to Haiti on a pumpkin soup recipe put forth by Chef Marcus Samuelsson, a guest editor. The magazine referred to it as soup joumou, a beloved Haitian staple that symbolizes the country’s bloody liberation from its French colonizers.

It was not soup joumou, but was intended by Samuelsson as an homage. The magazine adapted an entry from one of his cookbooks, “The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food.” Both Bon Appetit and Samuelsson, who is Black, apologized after calls of erasure and cultural appropriation.

The soup was not joumou, but was intended as an homage. To Haitian cooking. By a Black man.

I found it; the recipe now has an editor’s apology. We live in an era where recipes are prefaced by apologies.

Some of the comments made on the pre-apology page:

This is a disgrace! Not an accurate representation of our culture and is disrespectful. This recipe is white-washed and should be removed!

This is not a Haitian Soupe Joumou. Removed it immediately. The recipe are all wrong. Before you post anything about Haitian food, please do your research and talk to a real Haitian person.

Another comment links to a YouTube video where the chef who made the recipe learns about the tradition and preparation from a Real Haitian Person. Doesn’t matter.

I think it’s entirely correct to say “I made changes to the recipe that alter the essence of the dish and hence it should not be called by its original name.” If your “take” on pizza is a bowl of tomato soup with croutons, best not to call it pizza. But this is not, as one comment says, erasure. NO ACTUAL SOUP, PERSONS, OR SOUP-CONSUMING PERSONS VANISHED FROM THE EARTH. 


The Bon Appetit story is actually much larger, and while I won’t go into it here, let’s just say the magazine was ROCKED by allegations last year, and people were unhappy, an editor who did brown-face at a party was fired, and everyone pledged to Do Better. The Archive Repair is part of that. Well. There’s a hugely popular podcast called “Reply All,” which covered internet culture and quirky things. In one series they went to India to confront phone scammers; in another, which might be the apogee of the podcast art, they tried to figure out whether this guy who swore he knew a song no one else remembered was nuts, or right. (Trust me: it’s just fantastic.)

Recently Reply All started a four-part series about the Bon Appetit controversy, and many listeners – who are almost universally ardent – found it off-putting, or wished that a show about the internet would be, you know, more about that. It seemed as if the show, (part of the Gimlet network, hosted by Spotify, so a big deal) had decided that it needed to be more Socially Conscious. Okay hey great but you know there’s not exactly a shortage of that, I loved the days when you did a podcast every week about how your boss doesn’t get Twitter memes. One of the hosts waded into the show’s subreddit, and did some chiding. It did not go well.

And then.

Turns out there was a unionization battle, a “clubhouse” attitude from the podcast hosts who didn’t want to share (and I think they’re perfectly entitled to do what they want), feelings of erasure and marginalization, and so on.

A never-ending spiral of accusations, victimization, virtue attained by demolition, virtue removed by those who find in you the flaws you found in others. It’s exhausting. It’s as if they’ve summed a vision of the future where two secret policeman are on opposite sides of the door, demanding the other open up and submit to arrest.

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  1. Jules PA Member
    Jules PA
    @JulesPA

    I mean what to do about French Toast?

    Snow Days are first ruined by online school, and now Bon Appetite says, “Non, nein, nyet.”

    I hear the French don’t even know what French Toast is, why can’t we keep it?

    Is Bon Appetite an American magazine? Then why isn’t it Bawn Appetteat????

    Talk about about appropriation.

    And Jacques and Julia?

    It’s off with their heads, too.

    At least beheading is cross cultural. 

    Prove me wrong.

    Oh, and, by the way, No rice and beans for you either. You did not grow that.

     

    • #1
  2. Jules PA Member
    Jules PA
    @JulesPA

    @Lileks, you are awesome. You make insomnia fun again.

    • #2
  3. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    I’m sorry, but I cannot read tis post without a full DNA workup of the author, else how shall I ever be able to detect cultural misappropriation?

    • #3
  4. Jules PA Member
    Jules PA
    @JulesPA

    Percival (View Comment):

    I’m sorry, but I cannot read tis post without a full DNA workup of the author, else how shall I ever be able to detect cultural misappropriation?

    Hope he didn’t get the vaccine…😉 

    • #4
  5. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge
    Fake John/Jane Galt
    @FakeJohnJaneGalt

    James Lileks: It’s exhausting

    This pretty much sums up the Left. Do they not have better things to do with their lives but rewrite the past and twist the present. It is like being in a bad relationship with somebody you can not divorce, forever stuck in a passive aggressive loop for eternity.

    • #5
  6. CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill Coolidge
    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill
    @CarolJoy

    Jules PA (View Comment):

    I mean what to do about French Toast?

    Snow Days are first ruined by online school, and now Bon Appetite says, “Non, nein, nyet.”

    I hear the French don’t even know what French Toast is, why can’t we keep it?

    Is Bon Appetite an American magazine? Then why isn’t it Bawn Appetteat????

    Talk about about appropriation.

    And Jacques and Julia?

    It’s off with their heads, too.

    At least beheading is cross cultural.

    Prove me wrong.

    Oh, and, by the way, No rice and beans for you either. You did not grow that.

    Bravo.

    The first time I ever watched Julia Childs was in 1978, and she was saying, clear as can be: “You beat your eggs the way you beat your children – firmly and with a strong hand!”

    I didn’t think this could be the renowned woman chef I had heard so much about. I figured she was a substitute for Childs that day. Witty and so much fun. I kept hoping the network kept her on as a substitute chef for when Julia couldn’t make it in.

    Can you imagine the hysteria these days if a chef told us to beat our eggs the way…??

    I can’t imagine her reaction to any of this. But she wouldn’t put her spatula down and accept it, that is for sure.

    • #6
  7. CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill Coolidge
    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill
    @CarolJoy

    Everyone commenting here is ignoring how the Left spent so much time on that wonderful cause of eliminating plastic straws from the dining experience!

    I mention it just in case people think they have not contributed s-o-m-e-t-h-i-n-g to the overall betterment of the world.

    • #7
  8. Hartmann von Aue Member
    Hartmann von Aue
    @HartmannvonAue

    Und um Gottes Willen, hört gefälligst auf, Wurst aus Wisconsin Bratwurst nennen und jeden beliebigen Braten aus einer deutschen Küche “Sauerbraten” zu nennen. Tafelspitz gibt’s auch! Und Hotdogs sollt Ihr alle ab sofort nur und immer “Wiener” nennen!

    Tod der Kultural Appropriation!!!!

    And don’t get me started on Bier…./end sarcsnark

    • #8
  9. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    In a time of pandemic, we still, don’t have enough real crisis

    • #9
  10. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Jules PA (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    I’m sorry, but I cannot read tis post without a full DNA workup of the author, else how shall I ever be able to detect cultural misappropriation?

    Hope he didn’t get the vaccine…😉

    Do you suppose that the vaccine will screw up DNA results?

    • #10
  11. Kozak Member
    Kozak
    @Kozak

    • #11
  12. Kozak Member
    Kozak
    @Kozak

     

    The Left has turned 1984 from a novel to a users manual.

    • #12
  13. Vance Richards Member
    Vance Richards
    @VanceRichards

    James Lileks: “It came after Black Lives Matter, after a lot of consciousness-raising among the editors and staff,” said David Tamarkin, the white digital director for Epicurious. 

    When I saw the police kneeling on George Floyd’s back, I couldn’t help but think what would have happened if those officers had read better cookbooks? Sorry Frugal Gourmet, but teaching us recipes from a White point of view just won’t work anymore.

    • #13
  14. OkieSailor Member
    OkieSailor
    @OkieSailor

    Fake John/Jane Galt (View Comment):
    stuck in a passive aggressive loop

    Passive? Apparently you haven’t been cancelled yet. There is nothing passive about it.

    • #14
  15. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil Fawlty
    @BasilFawlty

    Don’t even think about mentioning Brazil nuts.

    • #15
  16. Ed G. Member
    Ed G.
    @EdG

    This is why I say that we should not hesitate to call the progs and dems racists. They are racists. We should start labeling them correctly. Perhaps the truth will stick even half as much as their lies about conservatives have stuck.

    • #16
  17. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    We don’t dare cook “white rice” any more. It must be removed from all grocery store shelves . . .

    • #17
  18. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    Roman Genn, the Soviet-born artist for National Review made an interesting observation on Dave Carter’s podcast:

    I think that’s spot on. 

    • #18
  19. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    James Lileks: What is it with the Left and Newspeak? The Archives, which faithfully and truthfully reflected the era, are broken, because they do not reflect this era. And thus they must be repaired. 

    @jameslileks, that’s it, in a nutshell. Nothing happened before I was born, and if I was born before about 1992 (which I was), then nothing happened until I was 38 or so. And if, by unfortunate accident, something did happen before time began, then it wasn’t good, and it must be rectified. And we can do that now because, Google.

    Thanks for this post. And for making my “knitting wars” post from last year your post of the week at the time. I took a bit of heat (not here) for thinking that the activities of a bunch of old ladies of both many genders and at least two sexes, as they weighed in on the woke wars had any relevance at all to our daily lives, as I thought they might. Some ill-advised person even called my remarks about the knitters “stupid.” Men have been shot–metaphorically speaking, of course I’m not advocating real violence, please don’t cancel me–for less. Paging Karlyn Borysenko, who did a much better job of marketing her outrage to the masses than I did myself.

    It’s getting ever more difficult to get up in the morning and find an activity I can exercise my supremacist and privileged chops on. So I think I’ll stick to gardening.

    (Oh, hang on. That little man who sits on my shoulder and whispers into my ear “Remember: thou art mortal,” is trying to get my attention.)

    Oh. Not gardening.

    That’s racist too, don’ cha know?

    (James Wong is so oppressed by the systemic racism of the UK gardening industry that he’s been a popular presenter on the BBC program Countryfile for years, as well as the star of several other award-winning shows, and he regularly appears on British radio.)

    So, failing all else, I’m off to peruse my late 1980s printed copy (cancel that!) of the Usenet Cookbook to see if I can find something offensive (or at the very least, culturally appropriative) to make for dinner.

    Ah. “Cornish Game Hens Basted in Tarragon Butter.” Do I think these little fowl have ever been anywhere near Cornwall? How dare they?

    #CornishGameHensArePeopleToo

     

    • #19
  20. CTChapin Member
    CTChapin
    @CTChapin

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):

    Und um Gottes Willen, hört gefälligst auf, Wurst aus Wisconsin Bratwurst nennen und jeden beliebigen Braten aus einer deutschen Küche “Sauerbraten” zu nennen. Tafelspitz gibt’s auch! Und Hotdogs sollt Ihr alle ab sofort nur und immer “Wiener” nennen!

    Tod der Kultural Appropriation!!!!

    And don’t get me started on Bier…./end sarcsnark

    Thanks to Google Translate I was able to appropriate this for various nefarious purposes.

    Gut gemacht!volume_up

    • #20
  21. Goldgeller Member
    Goldgeller
    @Goldgeller

    This woke stuff is crazy and insane. I don’t have a need to try and say too much more because most of the posts before me have made the interesting/salient points. I’m surprised at how much I’m still surprised at how deep this game goes. Recipes? Really? Alright then. 

    • #21
  22. Linguaphile Member
    Linguaphile
    @Linguaphile

    Reading this, I kept thinking: this must be satire!

     

    • #22
  23. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Linguaphile (View Comment):

    Reading this, I kept thinking: this must be satire!

     

    Satirists can’t keep up.

    • #23
  24. Jimmy Carter Member
    Jimmy Carter
    @JimmyCarter

    This looks like a recipe for disaster. 

    • #24
  25. Jules PA Member
    Jules PA
    @JulesPA

    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill (View Comment):

    Everyone commenting here is ignoring how the Left spent so much time on that wonderful cause of eliminating plastic straws from the dining experience!

    I mention it just in case people don’t think they have not contributed s-o-m-e-t-h-i-n-g to the overall betterment of the world.

    I went to a restaurant last Friday. First time out in a year, with my sister, who lives 60 miles way, but in a neighboring state. 

    I had a paper straw. Blech. 

    Funny, they offered a qr code menu or paper. 

    I enthusiastically said, “oh, I want paper.”

    I selected it because it was mutual distance, and not a Chain. The meal was very good, but there was an underlying vibe. If hipster. I probably won’t go back, but I would not bad mouth it. 

    • #25
  26. Jules PA Member
    Jules PA
    @JulesPA

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):
    sarcsnark

    💞😘

    • #26
  27. Jules PA Member
    Jules PA
    @JulesPA

    Percival (View Comment):

    Jules PA (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    I’m sorry, but I cannot read tis post without a full DNA workup of the author, else how shall I ever be able to detect cultural misappropriation?

    Hope he didn’t get the vaccine…😉

    Do you suppose that the vaccine will screw up DNA results?

    We shall see. Or maybe not. 

     

    • #27
  28. Jules PA Member
    Jules PA
    @JulesPA

    Kozak (View Comment):

    No-LiKee

    • #28
  29. Jules PA Member
    Jules PA
    @JulesPA

    Basil Fawlty (View Comment):

    Don’t even think about mentioning Brazil nuts.

    So many Brazil things, not related to cookingI mean, Donna Brazil? Is she Brazilian? Did she start these Brazilian grooming procedures???

     

    • #29
  30. Jules PA Member
    Jules PA
    @JulesPA

    Stad (View Comment):

    We don’t dare cook “white rice” any more. It must be removed from all grocery store shelves . . .

    Well, food shortage, so one bag at a time.

    • #30