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Pan

eGullet Society staff emeritus
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Everything posted by Pan

  1. Pan

    "Ethnic" food

    it does to me. i stated as much a bit back. it is surely not nonsense when i use it in conversation with friends. all sorts of phrases have meanings other than their literal one. it works for me. i'll go on using it and not doubt offending countless. i'm still failing to see the real issue here. i have no doubt that there *is* an issue, but i'm not sure these posts have explained it very well. can we take a poll of how many people are referring to the people who cook the food rather than to the food when they use the word "ethnic?" you gotta be kidding me. this hyper-sensitivity to this type of thing never ceases to amaze and baffle. Considering how many of the cooks in New York restaurants of all sorts of descriptions are Mexicans, I don't think that the ethnic identity of the people in the back of the house (who are unknown to most customers or potential customers of restaurants) is the thing that causes people to call the restaurants "ethnic" or not to call them "ethnic" (as "non-ethnic" wouldn't normally be used for the unmarked category).
  2. Pan

    "Ethnic" food

    I looked at the link you gave. I never knew people were using "R&B" in such a misleading way. Having a "Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles" category is almost as bad as having a "Swing/Heavy Metal" category.
  3. At a certain point, I got a Keralese cookbook (I think it was) for my father, one of those little paperback cookbooks published in India for Indians. In its recipes, it often called for drumsticks and padwals or padvals (I forget the exact spelling). At some point, we figured out what drumsticks were, but I forgot. I don't think we ever figured out what padwals are. What are these things?
  4. Pan

    "Ethnic" food

    i'm having a hard time reconciling these two statements. edited for clarity. I'll try to clarify. The word "ethnic" is not a bad word. It's problematic to me only when "ethnic" is reserved for others, not for the ethnic group the speaker is a member of nor those ethnic groups considered tacitly or explicitly by the speaker to be prestigious. Do you see what I mean? Virtually everything is ethnic because we all have ethnic identities, but that meaning of "ethnic" would make total nonsense of the phrase "ethnic food," so the logical conclusion is that the phrase has a meaning other than its literal one.
  5. Pan

    "Ethnic" food

    That expresses my feelings pretty well. The treatment of some national and regional cuisines as being defined by not being "normal" food is problematic to me even when no negative inference is intended.
  6. Pan

    "Ethnic" food

    I agree. It's in no way strictly racial, except perhaps for those for whom it is (I'm gathering that perhaps there are some who don't consider any "white food" ethnic; I hadn't known that).
  7. Pan

    "Ethnic" food

    It's definitely inoffensive, but it isn't a general category for all "black" music or even all "non-serious" black music. Rhythm & Blues is a genuine style, and I would characterize it as a style of pop tunes over blues chord progressions, plus some slick amplification and mixing. Compare Soul Food, for example. OK, there have been long debates over what that is, too, but it does describe traditional black food (and, to an extent, related white food) from the South, and though that's a recognizable style, too, on second thought, it may be a good deal broader as a category than R&B.
  8. Pan

    "Ethnic" food

    Stop right there: Are you accusing anyone of making such a generalization? Out with it, man!
  9. Pan

    Prune

    Thanks for the great review. I'm now tempted to check the place out. I have to say, though, that while microscopic, expensive portions are infuriating, tremendous portions aren't always the best thing, either. I remember writing a review of the Italian place on 10th St. just west of Av. B and saying something to the effect that it was good that the appetizer and main dish weren't too big because that left room for a dessert (the chestnut flan) that was by far the highlight of an otherwise good meal. Bux responded to the effect that my remark demonstrated that I like to dine, not just eat. Suzanne, your review makes it amply clear that you are clearly someone who likes to dine and not just eat, if that were ever in doubt. So would you not have rather that the portions were a bit smaller?
  10. Pan

    "Ethnic" food

    The cuisine can be immigrant cuisine as long as the foods and dishes remain relatively true to the original ones ( lets not even approach the *authenticity* argument here ). The people themselves can assimilate to their hearts' content. Take me, for instance. I would describe myself as second generation American and my kids third. We certainly are not immigrants, only the original generation would be that, but the cuisine of my grandparents survives to some extent and would be considered immigrant cuisine. I don't see anything negative about the term immigrant. Your points are well-taken, Stefany, but I'm not sure everyone would agree that "immigrant culture" is not pejorative, for the reasons you stated.
  11. Pan

    "Ethnic" food

    I'm not sure it isn't pejorative. For how many generations is one a member of an "immigrant culture"? I think Vengroff really went to the heart of the issue when he said, about "ethnic" cuisines: And that's the problem to me, in addition to the question of exactly what it isn't. After all, is Diwan not a restaurant of an "immigrant culture" in the U.S.? "But it's upscale," some will object.
  12. Pan

    "Ethnic" food

    Good thought, but the British who turned into the "White Anglo-Saxon Protestants" in the U.S. were also an immigrant culture. So were the Irish, and is Irish cuisine "ethnic"? I'm not sure it's regarded that way. If you read my original post I had specified *poor* immigrant groups and the level of deviation from English food, the original immigrant cuisine of this country. I did read your original post, but my objections stand. Also, what about the Koreans, most of whom came here with money, not poor?
  13. Pan

    "Ethnic" food

    That's not bad, but note that it would also encompass Southern food, places featuring New England dishes like Boston Clam Chowder, and French food. But "regional" as compared to "international" (which I think would mean eclectic, rather than clearly French) does make sense as a somewhat specific and non-loaded term. Perhaps "regional," "international," and "fusion" (which is a conscious attempt to combine two or more cuisines, rather than an eclectic mixture of elements from different cuisines according to the creativity of the chef?) What do you think? "The 50 best inexpensive regional-food restaurants in New York"? The only problem is that the expression "regional-food" is longer than "ethnic," and otherwise, "regional" could seem to be referring to a region within (in this case) New York City, rather than a region somewhere else, if you see what I mean.
  14. Pan

    "Ethnic" food

    Good thought, but the British who turned into the "White Anglo-Saxon Protestants" in the U.S. were also an immigrant culture. So were the Irish, and is Irish cuisine "ethnic"? I'm not sure it's regarded that way.
  15. Pan

    "Ethnic" food

    Same problem: Everything is cultural.
  16. Pan

    "Ethnic" food

    Well, I've never had any reason to use it. I refer to, for example, Latin American cuisine(s), Asian (usually with some qualifier, e.g. East Asian, Southeast Asian) cuisine, Indian cuisine (referring to the whole subcontinent, often), Caribbean cuisine, and so forth. But then, I'm not a food writer. Part of the problem is the very imprecision of the word. I see that some people in this thread consider Italian food to be "ethnic" and some people don't. I always thought it was considered an "ethnic" cuisine, though it's so widespread and popular, but perhaps pizza by itself, when bought from pizzerias and especially from a chain like Pizza Hut or Domino's, is no longer considered "ethnic" and eggplant parmigiana in a "full-service" Italian restaurant is. Perhaps you could discuss a context in which "ethnic food" seems to you to be the clearest term that could be used.
  17. Pan

    "Ethnic" food

    Another point against the idea of ethnic as applying only to groups of people who started out in the U.S. as penniless peasants: I believe most of the Koreans who started coming to the U.S. en masse in the 80s (and perhaps the 70s) came with money and immediately established themselves in business (mostly fruit & vegetable stores and cleaners). Does that make Korean food "non-ethnic" in the U.S.? I doubt it!
  18. Pan

    "Ethnic" food

    I hate the term "politically correct," both because it was originally a Communist (originally Maoist?) term and because it implies unthinking adherence to a rigid political line today, as well. But that aside, my point really deals with both counts. I consider it inaccurate to have a "non-ethnic" category because I believe that everything is more or less relevant to an ethnic context, since human beings generally have some kind of ethnic identity, but I also object to the patronizing tone and code-word aspect of the expression "ethnic food." Fat Guy: My claim is subtler than that sounds to me. I'm claiming that most of the people who use "ethnic" to indicate a marked category of food (as opposed to the unmarked category of "non-ethnic") are non-racists who are nevertheless in most cases unthinkingly using a code word for "non-normal," "non-mainstream" - in other words, "other." And the again often unspoken implications of cheap, low-class food give the term "ethnic" a certain type of unprestigiousness in comparison to the normal and thus implicitly approved "non-ethnic" category. One doesn't have to be a racist to exhibit some forms of thinking that are more or less dim echoes of Cultural-Evolutionist thinking.
  19. Pan

    "Ethnic" food

    And I can't think of any Burmese or Indonesian neighborhoods in any U.S. city I know of, yet Burmese and Indonesian cuisines are considered "ethnic," n'est-ce pas?
  20. Pan

    "Ethnic" food

    Steve, I'm not sure how many people would agree with your perception that Anglo-Caribbean cuisines aren't "ethnic." I think they're as "ethnic" as Indian or Chinese or what have you, but then I also consider French food and American food ethnic, so I'm not that useful as an example for this usage question.
  21. Pan

    "Ethnic" food

    I agree, Suvir. Price point is an absurd criterion to use in determining whether something is "ethnic" or not.
  22. Pan

    Banjara

    OK, I'll do it.
  23. Pan

    "Ethnic" food

    Thank you for your compliment, Steve. Both your response and Torakris's tend to reinforce my point that the word "ethnic" is really a code word that can be regarded in a certain light as an implicit putdown, and perhaps even in some ways a more or less dim echo of racist Cultural-Evolutionist terms like "uncivilized" and "primitive." I think that what prompted this post from me was the confusion in the following thread (see link) about whether upscale Indian food can or can't be called "ethnic," or whether it should or shouldn't be included in a discussion of "ethnic" food: Ethnic food recommendations in NYC. It's not like anyone has been accusing the food Diwan serves of being inauthentic; it's that for some people, there's clearly a cognitive dissonance between the prestige of "upscale dining" and the "commonness" or even "low-class nature" [my words, not quotes from anyone] of "ethnic food." Naturally, I don't want anyone jumping to the conclusion that I'm accusing people who use the term "ethnic food" are all racist troglodytes, LOL!! But still, something perhaps not fully acknowledged and confronted is going on here. [Edit for punctuation and clarity]
  24. See this thread if you'd like to discuss the meaning and usefulness/uselessness of the term "ethnic food": "Ethnic" food?
  25. Many Americans seem to know what they mean when they speak of "ethnic" food. It appears to me that it covers food that is in some way viewed as not fully "mainstream" or "high-class," regardless of how popular or widespread it is in the U.S. today. In other words, it usually excludes that which is called "American food" in the U.S., but it also tends to exclude French food, which occupies a unique position at the top of the fine-dining totem pole. As the son of an anthropologist, I see the use of "ethnic" as demonstrating that the thing being discussed is a marked category, a "not-American, not-French" foodstuff. But I tend to consider everything ethnic, just as I consider everything cultural (repeat after me: "Beethoven is cultural music"). What's not "ethnic" about American food or French food? Why is Chinese food more ethnic than Provencal cuisine? How are Maryland Chicken, Boston Chowder, Philadelphia Cheesesteaks, and Southern Pecan Pie anything other than regional ethnic American foods? Finally, why on Earth do we continue to use such a designation as "ethnic food," and is it really fundamentally more useful than the obsolete designation of records produced and marketed for the black community as "race records" (assuming that you, like me, do not favor reviving such a term)? I'd like some responses not only from Americans and residents of the U.S. but also from Canadians, Britons, and anyone else who would like to discuss this from their perspectives. Perhaps we can have a cross-cultural (and cross-ethnic) exchange on the uses of the term "ethnic food," and any related terms used around the world.
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