Cultural appropriation

So many chefs and celebrities over the years have been accused of cultural appropriation. Some of it is legitimate, and some of it may be a bit off base. Famous chef and cookbook writers like Ivan Orkin, the owner of Ivan Ramen, and the British chef and cookbook writer Fuchsia Dunlop, who was educated at the Sichuanese culinary academy and is the author of several acclaimed Chinese cookbooks that vary by region of China, have both been accused of it. The thing about both of them is that they both have made seemingly complex cuisines more understandable to Asian Americans like myself, who oftentimes struggle to understand how to “bridge the gap” between Eastern and Western culture. Ivan Ramen introduces new techniques to the humble ramen bowl by introducing rye as an ingredient in ramen noodles. Fuchsia Dunlop tries to use more modern techniques in Sichuanese and Hunanese cuisine while preserving flavors, and even writes a memoir that helps me understand the nuances of a culture that I’m supposed to claim as my own, even though I’ve grown up here in the U.S. She’s actually studied the language and the history of China, and tried to understand the language nuances and cultural differences in a way that someone who isn’t Chinese in China can understand. It’s people like Ivan and Fuchsia who have helped me better understand these Asian cultures, one of which I’m supposed to identify with. But in China as in the language, everyone outside of China is an “outsider,” even those who are ethnically Han Chinese.

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