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Culture Grocery Packaged Food

Aunt Jemima’s Retires As Food Brands Acknowledge Racist Stereotypes

After over 130 years, Aunt Jemima’s brand and logo, based on a racial stereotype, will officially be retired.

Photo: Mike Mozart // Flickr

Quaker Foods, who owns the brand of syrups and other breakfast products, made the announcement in a press release. In the statement, Quaker Foods North America VP and Chief Marketing Officer Kristin Kroepfl acknowledged the racial origins of the brand, saying that “while work has been done over the years to update the brand in a manner intended to be appropriate and respectful, we realize those changes are not enough.”

The Aunt Jemima logo is based on an economic and racial stereotype has long been used against Black communities in the United States. A caricature of African American women, it has been used across time to claim that Black women were “happy to be slaves” or “only fit to be domestic workers,” as put by an essay on the stereotype by Ferris State University.

Both the logo and the name have been used since 1889, based on a song from a minstrel’s skit that included the caricature. Editorials from papers like the New York Times have called for getting rid of the logo and name for years, and amidst the current global Black Lives Matter protests, the conversation has been enough to finally convince Quaker Oats to rework the brand.

In the last quarter of 2020, bottles of the syrup will have the logo removed and the name reworked to something currently unknown. Meanwhile, Quaker’s decision to retire the Aunt Jemima Brand has led other products who brand on racial stereotypes, like Uncle Ben’s and Mrs. Butterworth’s, to overhaul their logos and packaging as well.

Categories
Culture Opinion

Uncomfortable ‘Black Lives Matter’ Dinner Conversations That Are Necessary

dinner

There’s so much to unpack about this year. We have a raging pandemic, an unsuitable President in the position of leadership, and record high death and unemployment. Overall, a melting pot of unrest, fear, anger, impatience, stewed with a strong sense of feeling unacknowledged. Sirens, explosions and chants soundtrack the nationwide protests. Determined to be heard, those on the front line brave tear gas, rubber bullet and baton.

As we begin our second consecutive week of city-wide protests here in Los Angeles, efforts are being made globally in support of not only justice for George Floyd, but the many lives taken at the hands of police brutality for generations. Black and Brown, White or Yellow, and everything in between; each of us are experiencing first hand what lies behind the veil; a slow reveal of systemic oppression. While intersectionality has existed in many forms over the years, today, our access to witness police brutality in real-time has sparked an overwhelming intersectional, international response that has never before occured.

Fighting for a cause is not easy. It takes courage to voice an unpopular opinion about injustices, to challenge the status quo and to attempt to inspire change in your fellow human beings. No one likes being told what they believe is wrong, especially if they’ve believed it for most of their life. Systemic racism runs centuries deep, so to educate another about its impact requires lots of patience. It requires lots of self-education as well.

Protest doesn’t just reside in the streets, it also has a place in our daily interactions with friends and family, at home or over dinner. Being accustomed to our social routine makes having those “dinner time” conversations challenging. We all have that overt racist relative that for all our lives, we’ve made the excuse, “Oh that’s just how they are.” Other times the racism is less overt and more rooted in a misconception of class inferiority and privilege. Nevertheless, we can no longer allow fear to impede the change we know deep down is necessary.

I’d like to share a quote from Margaret Renkl of The New York Times, “And the problem with writing off people who don’t recognize this country’s pervasive and enduring culture of white supremacy, much less the ways in which they themselves benefit from it, is simple: Being called a racist almost never causes a racist to wake up. Being called a racist almost never causes a racist to say, “Oh, wow, you’re right.”

So how do we have these uncomfortable conversations with close friends and loved ones? How many more family dinners can we have where we allow racist remarks to go unchecked, simply for the sake of not ruining everyone’s meal? These are some questions we’ve asked ourselves here at Foodbeast. With our unique family dynamics and cultural experiences, there seems no single way to approach this conversation. Thinking more about this, I felt that maybe by just sharing personal experiences, we could help to inspire others who are similarly wanting to speak up but unsure of the best method. This is a convo many of us have had or will need to have, so I decided to reach out to close friends as well as fellow Foodbeast fam to share their uncomfortable dinner conversations:

“Yesterday, our city had a scheduled peaceful protest. This was the first time that I really paid attention to my parents’ media consumption. They only have Facebook and watch traditional news from Spanish TV channels. I realized that they haven’t seen any of the peaceful protesting, the policemen that instigate violence, the white looters who destroy cities in the name of BLM, the repeated incidents throughout the country. I took some time to show them some things on my Twitter feed, and reminded them that this stuff is coming from real people on the scene, whereas the stuff that they’re watching is coming from sensationalized news. Although they were surprised, I think I was the one who had a bigger moment of realization. Members of my immediate and extended family are not consuming the same news that I am, and it’s my responsibility to direct them to those sources. As light-skinned Latinos, we don’t have conversations about colorism or American racism in regards to the Black community. I’m now actively responding to them more on Facebook & sharing more about BLM.”


“I call out my family on pretty much everything. Asian families have a deeply rooted anti-Blackness, so anything involving Black people they blame it on them – saying how they’re scary, they’re violent, etc. I try to educate by talking about the bigger picture, how the media frames black people as antagonists, how it’s unfair how we are so anti-Black without questioning why. Of course I’m either met with silence or resistance.”


“The conversation was with my boyfriend and mom regarding looting and rioting. I had to explain to my boyfriend the dangers of telling a non-Black person that you don’t agree with the looting and rioting. Now my mom thinks, “See he is Black and he doesn’t like it either.” Well obviously he doesn’t want his neighborhood fucked up like the riots and Black and Brown business owners suffering from it, but when my mom hears that, she hears “He hates all looting and rioting.”

And I make my case for why looting and rioting happens – deeply embedded in the country’s history, wealth gap, history of ownership and private property and the disparities for Black and Brown folks. And my boyfriend is like, “Yes I get it but I still don’t think they should be fucking up OUR shit.” So I’m like, “You need to make that very clear to my mother.” And my mom said, “No, I get it.” And I know her ass doesn’t.”


“Whenever I have these conversations with my mom, she meets it with resistance (from deeply rooted racism), but the more I talk, the more I explain, the more she listens. But I do remember an instance where she responded to my conversations with, “Oh so now you’re gonna go date a Black guy?” and I got angry because she missed the point. But with more conversations, more calling out, the more I see her think. I had a more broad talk with her when we were talking about the COVID protests, how white people use their privilege to protest their “rights being taken away”, the way that they haven’t been oppressed and how that’s the main issue at hand. It’s never been about how Black people are “bad,” it’s been about how society responds to privilege and the layers of systemic racism. These convos are just going to have to keep happening for change to happen.”


“I talked to my friend who only dates Black males and wasn’t doing anything about this movement that was uncomfortable. She ended up listening to me but I told her, “Hey you’ve only dated men of color the entire time I’ve known you and you are dating one right now…and you’re letting all of these things happen and you can’t even show up when I ask you to come with me to make a difference. It makes me mad that you complain about white people all the time but at a time that it really matters you care more about yourself and your own comfort.”


“I have a friend that used the n-word while I was on the phone with them, the catalyst being a hit-and-run accident on the freeway while raining.

I’ve never had the courage to talk to them about it. I’m deathly afraid because I fear it will destroy a friendship of hundreds of positive experiences together. A friendship that’s had an insanely positive impact on my life.

I believe I’m gathering the courage, but to be honest, I’m so afraid that I can’t stop crying while writing this.”

As you can see, there is no perfect way to go about broaching the sensitive subject of racism. The conversation you have with your elders may be different than the one you have with those in your age group. The common thread in all of these stories is that it requires patience and persistence. Your food might get cold in the process.

New information uproots, shifts and transforms. How that experience feels to us is dependent on our willingness to accept change. Equally important is the messenger. We’re experiencing probably one of the most pivotal moments of our lifetime where if we want real change, it requires real action. Not selfish action, but mindful action. At Foodbeast, we’re working each day to learn how to better support that change. Below are some links that discuss ways to help you break the ice as these necessary conversations are had:

How To Tell Someone You Love They’re Being Racist

How To Talk To Your White Family About Racism

How To Talk To Your Friends And Family About Race

Teaching Tolerance

Categories
Culture Opinion Packaged Food Restaurants Science

If You’ve Ever Hated MSG, You Might Be Guilty Of Racism

When it comes to the ingredients despised in the foods we eat, I’m disappointed that MSG is still on that list. Its safety and science have been debunked more times than Obama’s birther scandal, and yet, people still have a fear and hatred of it. So much so, in fact, that the term “Chinese restaurant syndrome,” a boy-cried-wolf moniker that’s used to often falsely accuse these businesses of spiking their foods with MSG and making people sick, is still prevalent in society.

If you’ve ever despised an Asian restaurant for using MSG, alleged or otherwise, you’ve been guilty of these racist thoughts. It may not be necessarily your fault, though, as this resentment towards a group of cultures for using this ingredient is one that’s been embedded deeply in the roots of today’s status quo.

The negative and racist thoughts towards Asian restaurants come despite the fact that MSG is the key component of umami, a term to describe savory and rich flavors. Folks LOVE modern restaurants that advertise umami, yet mentioning the compound that causes that taste sensation elicits nothing but negativity.

Laotian chef Saengthong Duoangdara, a personal chef, Laotian cuisine authority, and advocate for MSG, claims that uncertainty behind utilizing MSG still exists, despite all of the scientific data suggesting otherwise. “Most of my non-Lao clients prefer their food without MSG,” says Duoangdara, who has recently talked extensively on Laotian food on Foodbeast’s The Katchup podcast. He also notes that a lot of Lao restaurants today avoid using it in their food to “cater to Westerners,” but “when it comes to my cooking classes or personal chef clients, I’ll usually give them a brief history of MSG and let them know that it is safe to eat in moderation.”

Why is this the case? Partially because MSG has become deeply embedded in our culture as something to fear and shy away from while the linkage between it and umami has yet to be fully connected by society. However, MSG is predominantly used to target Asian restaurants and Asian foods and denigrate them. By understanding the controversial history of MSG, however, we all can hopefully make it a part of today’s food conversation and culture to embrace the ingredient for what it provides to our palates.

One of the key parts of that history to understand is that prior to its negative association with Asian restaurants, Americans were infatuated with MSG. After scientist Kikunae Ikeda isolated the compound from sea kelp in 1908, the company Ajinomoto was founded to commercialize and market the compound. Japan’s consumers took to it almost immediately, and by the 1930s, it had spread to China, Taiwan, and the United States. Even countries like Laos caught on to the hype, with Douangdara noting that several Laotian dishes today still rely on MSG, like gaeng nor mai bamboo stew and sai oua Laotian sausage.

According to Thomas Germain, author of A Racist Little Hat: The MSG Debate and American Culture, it was Chinese immigrants that were chiefly responsible for MSG’s move to the States. Initially, US consumers loved MSG and Chinese restaurants, and were particularly supportive of them during World War II following Japan’s invasion of China. By 1947, MSG had hit the mainstream and was actually a product called Ac’cent that you could find in grocery stores.

So what changed in American society that turned MSG into culinary public enemy #1? Mainly, it was the US’s feelings toward China, especially after Mao Zedong came to power and the nation was labeled as Communist. However, a confluence of events continued to build the association between China and MSG, eventually leading to its demonization.

The first nail in the coffin inadvertently came from Chinese immigrant Dr. Robert Ho Man Kwok and his 1963 letter to the editors published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Kwok complained of symptoms suffered while eating at American Chinese restaurants that he never experienced at home. These symptoms included palpitations, a numbness of the neck, and general weakness. One of the potential culprits he named in the letter was MSG, and although there was never an official linkage, that’s where the speculation began.

What made matters worse was the title the NEJM ran Dr. Kwok’s letter under: “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome.” Suddenly, a linkage now existed between Chinese restaurants and something that made people sick. That combined with the growing anti-Chinese sentiment that resulted from its Communist regime made it easy to start pinning the blame on a single ethnic group.

Following Dr. Kwok’s letter, several more instances occurred complaining of similar symptoms, and studies began to appear that linked MSG to Chinese Restaurant Syndrome. These further increased public animosity to Chinese and Asian restaurants despite the fact that the rest of the food industry used it en masse as well. Following the initial hype of MSG, its umami component became favored by food processors, including Frito-Lay, who added it to their seasoning for Doritos. You can also still find MSG in many fast food items today.

What made this fear and racist connotation mainstream, however, was a piece published by the New York Times in 1969. While it focused on the consumption of dog and snake meat in Hong Kong, its final section consisted of quotes from chefs on the island talking about their usage of MSG. And thus, a connection was made between dog meat, MSG, and the possibility of unknowingly eating either in a Chinese restaurant.

“The Times didn’t make this explicit,” wrote Germain, “but the implication is clear: in the same way the sneaky Chinese might trick you into eating dog, they were just as likely to hide MSG into your food.”

The thing is, most people hating on these restaurants for their usage of an umami bomb are being hypocritical. “When someone approaches me with a negative perception about using MSG,” says Douangdara, “I tell people that MSG is naturally found in many ingredients like tomatoes, mushrooms, and cheese. It is even found in non-Asian manufactured foods like stock cubes, chips, condiments, and snacks.”

MSG is still widely used in the food industry today despite public perception, as it’s the key ingredient to enhance the flavors of many of our favorite foods. Doritos, ranch dressing flavored Pringles, KFC fried chicken… the list goes on and on. We snatch these up and eat them by the handful, and yet, we get skittish around Asian restaurants that use it.

In fact, MSG is naturally in almost every single food we eat. At its most basic form, MSG is the fusion of sodium (which typically comes from salt) and glutamic acid (an amino acid, the building block of protein, which all living things have). When they combine, usually under heat, they form the key compound we associate with savory and umami flavors. When added into seasonings and sauces at an appropriate level, the delicious results can be mind-boggling.

“Personally, I think it is important to add MSG but with balance and not over using it,” says Douangdara. “It’s all about balance just like how we use salt and sugar.”

It’s not just a commonplace additive, however. Because of the natural prevalence of sodium and glutamic acid, MSG can be formed in virtually every food we eat. This includes some of the foods Doungdara previously mentioned, like steak, mushrooms, tomatoes, and cheese. And yet, because of the racial undertones embedded in America’s understanding of MSG, it’s still used to target and damage restaurants of specific cultures to this day.

It should be noted that in today’s age, many Asian cuisines and cultures are starting to gain more widespread acceptance. Filipino and Laotian foods are just a couple that are growing in popularity, but the obstacle of MSG is still a potential hindrance. “It is important to shift the dialogue about Asian food and MSG,” says Douangdara, “because it gives this particular cuisine a negative perception.”

There are celebrity chefs, though, that are trying to get folks to make the connection they’re missing. David Chang regularly preaches about the pluses of MSG on his Instagram, including in a recent post where he talks about his usage of it in popcorn. He’s not alone in this crusade, as he’s been joined by the likes of Roy Choi and Andrew Zimmern in his support.

“MSG is safe and I use it everyday, and have for years,” he wrote. “No one ever complains about headaches or dizziness from the thousands of foods Americans eat all the time that are loaded with it.”

Zimmern brings up an interesting point here. According to the NYT’s piece on Hong Kong and MSG back in 1969, the city of New York actually imposed sharp regulations for MSG usage, but only for Chinese restaurants. MSG is still a Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) substance, though, meaning that food processors can use it however they like, as long as it is “adequately shown to be safe under the conditions of its intended use,” according to federal regulations.

So while Asian restaurant owners have been curbing their usage because of public perception, food processors and American restaurant groups have been free to add it as they wish. All of this is proving that it’s long been time to stop using MSG as a cover to avoid or attack restaurants of another culture. By eliminating a key ingredient from their culinary arsenals, these cuisines are limited in terms of the flavor and deliciousness they can provide to our palates. “I do see some Lao and Thai restaurants that explicitly say “no MSG” in their food and I avoid those places,” says Douangdara, noting the huge difference in taste that can result. “If you don’t add MSG to your food, then you are missing out on a whole other flavor!”

Of course, there may be some that are allergic to MSG, as allergies span across dozens more compounds than the eight major ones recognized in the United States. Unless you know for sure that is the case, though, there’s no reason to not give MSG a chance, especially when there are so many cuisines and cultures that have incorporated it into their recipes.

To curb the racist sentiment surrounding MSG, however, we have to be willing to do more than just try MSG for ourselves. By challenging that inherent bias society has built towards the compound through increasing dialogue, we can change the conversation to highlight how factors beyond our control have demonized one of Japan’s greatest culinary contributions. When we’re able to alter how we think and talk about MSG, we can truly begin to celebrate how important and delicious an ingredient it really is.

Categories
Fast Food News

How Starbucks’ New Open-Door Policy Affects You As A Customer

It became widely publicized that Starbucks spaces, whether it be a bathroom, dining room or patio,were now open to all, even without making a purchase.

Thoughts of Armageddon surfaced, as the feeling was that it would be open season on baristas, and customers were going to take advantage of the lax new rule, causing havoc in stores.

While it took a few days, Starbucks made it clear to its baristas that they will not be left hanging out to dry, and customers will not have room to act unruly in their spaces.

If you went to Starbucks Tuesday, May 29, trying to get your usual dose of morning coffee, you probably sat at a drive-thru for 3 minutes before realizing they were closed, or forcefully jiggled the front door, wondering why the hell the baristas were all just sitting inside the store, not making you coffee.

That’s because every single one of Starbucks’ 8,000 U.S. locations locked its doors, taking the day to learn about not just racial sensitivity, but how to handle its updated “The Third Place” rules, which state that people no longer have to actually buy anything to hang out in a Starbucks store.

Every employee plopped down inside their home stores, watching culturally-mindful videos through iPads that were mailed to each store from Starbucks corporate.

If you’re wondering why this all-day training even took place, it can be attributed to a recent incident in a Philadelphia store where two black men were arrested for sitting it the Starbucks without buying anything.

Starbucks took a pretty good beating in the media, and felt they needed to do something drastic to address the backlash.

The coffee chain’s precedent-setting response to the incident was closing down for a day to remind every one of its 17,000-plus employees how to be decent human beings.

Maybe just as important in these meetings, was establishing that employees still have the power to dismiss potentially troublesome patrons.

Baristas have to deal with lots of different personalities, to say the least.

Starbucks laid out guidelines to protect its employees, pointing out that customers should still act “legally and ethically, communicating respectfully, being considerate of others, and using the spaces as ended.”

So if you think you can just walk in to Starbucks, charge your phone and tell everyone to go fuck themselves, that last part can still get you kicked out.

The training manual also said, “This is going to require true leadership from our store managers and our district managers,” further showing that employees have the power to defuse potentially difficult situations that come with everyday life at a public venue.

 

It seemed like Starbucks was aware that this training wasn’t going to put a Band-Aid over all its problems, so it will be hosting a leadership conference for store managers that will cover “ongoing operations, education and development” over the next 12 months.

Although a number of baristas expressed how corny the four-hour training was, at least there is a clearer picture about “The Third Place” rules.

While you can now freely use the bathrooms, hang out in the patio, and get some work done using their WiFi, if you act like an idiot and start being disrespectful, you can still be shown the door.

Categories
Hit-Or-Miss

Woman Allegedly Gets Thrown Out of Urth Caffe For Being Muslim

Screen-Shot-2016-04-24-at-12.30.09-PM

A popular cafe franchise in Southern California is under fire after an employee allegedly kicked out a woman for being Muslim.

Sara Farsakh, a Muslim woman, was dining at Urth Caffe’s Laguna Hills location last night when a employee by the name of “Tino” approached her table. Farsakh wrote on in a Facebook post:

“Tino explained that they were anticipating a busy evening and needed to clear tables and that per their policy anyone that had been there for over 45 minutes was required to share or give up their table to other customers.”

However, Farsakh and her group had just gotten there and the policy only applies when the restaurant is clearly busy, Farsakh took video footage of the numerous tables that were available and the short line out front.

“We told Tino that our orders had just arrived and that we couldn’t reasonably finish and leave within 10 minutes. He said it didn’t matter and we had to leave.”

“The party on the table next to us (a group of white women) overheard our conversation and were shocked. They told us they had been sitting far longer than we had but had never been told to prepare to leave.”

After trying to reach the owner via other staff members to no avail, the police were called to escort the women off the premises. The officers reminded the woman that an establishment as the right to refused service to anyone regardless of the reason.

“I truly believe that because I was sitting with visibly Muslim women, we were singled out when we were asked to leave. I can’t even begin to express the feelings of embarrassment and humiliation as police officers were called to escort out a group of Muslim women from a restaurant. Shame on you Urth Caffe for your disgusting and racist treatment of paying customers.”

More NextShark Stories: Selena Gomez Reportedly Banned From China After Meeting the Dalai Lama

Since Farsakh’s post has gone viral, Urth Caffe’s Yelp and Facebook pages have been flooded with negative reviews for their Laguna Hills Location.

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Here’s Farsakh’s Facebook post in full.

We’ve reached out to Urth Caffe for a comment and will update this post once they respond.

 

Written by Editorial Staff, NextShark

Categories
Restaurants

Joe’s Crab Shack Had A Lynching Photo In Their Restaurant And Someone Finally Caught It

Joes-Crab-Shack-Hang

Joe’s Crab Shack is facing some major heat after a picture at one of their restaurants went viral. Two diners, Tyrone Williams and Chauntyll Allen, were at a Minneapolis location of the seafood chain when they were seated at a table with a picture of a public execution embedded into the surface.

Titled Hanging at Groesbeck, the image shows a black man about to be hanged in Texas in 1895. The soon-to-be-executed man says in a speech bubble:

All I said was “I didn’t like the gumbo.”

Williams posted the photo on his Facebook and it quickly garnered attention. While the manager apologized to the two over the use of the image, Allen said they were shocked that something like that could be used so casually.

The president of the Minneapolis NAACP chapter, Nekima Levy-Pounds, demanded that the restaurant take down the image immediately and apologize to the public.

Joe’s has since responded to the incident with this statement:

We take the matter regarding the photo used in the Roseville, MN location very seriously. The offensive photo was immediately removed from the restaurant. We apologize for the incident and look forward to continuing to serve the Roseville community.

Needless to say, Joe’s will have some major damage control to deal with.

Photo: Facebook

Categories
Hit-Or-Miss

White Chefs, Black Culture, and the Latest Culinary Faux Pas

There have been a few articles floating around about former Top Chef contestant Mike Isabella’s hip-hop-themed dinner menu. Many people are upset about certain menu items like Thug Rice, a seafood risotto, and Milk Chocolate Chip Blunts, a—I’m not really sure what these are.

graffiatomenu

Personally, the recently removed menu is mostly offensive in its very basic application of black coding. People like Isabella and the Thug Kitchen vegans curse a lot or use very elementary “ebonics,” but consistently miss the flair mark by several miles.

I always had a feeling Thug Kitchen was not actually run by people of color/lower class standing for this exact reason (and, you know, because they’re vegans).

To be clear, this type of vernacular is not totally exclusive to black people; it’s been affectionately shared with those who know about #thestruggle on a real level. When people of relative affluence/significant class mobility start using this language, however, they get into trouble because they are capitalizing on a lifestyle that typically does not bode well for those within it.

By slapping words like “thug” on your kitchen or black-dyed risotto, you take a representation of a (usually) black person (read: criminal), make light of that representation, and then profit off it.

Screenshot 2014-12-23 at 1.55.36 PM

I’m glad you asked Anon:

Cultural appropriation of black coding aside, Isabella was trying to launch this dinner on the first business day of Black History Month. It feels like his heart was in the right place and the menu could have easily been more insensitive, but no one gets gold stars for being a light racist.

The right way to make this menu work: find out what Biggie and Tupac liked to eat and recreate those dishes, make some George Washington Carver peanut glaze, and try to actually be respectful of an entire culture that’s arguably in the greatest pressure cooker since the entire Rodney King debacle.

H/t & screengrab Washington City Paper

Categories
Humor

College Humor Introduces ‘Diet Racism,’ a Soda for Kind-of-Racist People

Diet-Racism

College Humor recently launched a tongue-in-cheek commercial about the fictional beverage, Diet Racism. The drink is marketed specifically towards anyone having strong opinions about a specific race or ethnicity, but usually tends to keep it casual or to themselves altogether.

Ever ask your Asian friend how to properly hold chopsticks? Diet Racism. Hit up your Jewish pal for a dope bagel spot? Diet Racism. Pretty much the drink for anyone who’s had a generalization about a race without ever vocalizing it. The short stresses that the soda’s not quite at the point where it can be considered racism, thus it’s diet racism.

Check out the inappropriately somewhat racist video below and see for yourselves.

H/T Design Taxi