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Tara O'Brady Says You Should Stop Calling Food "Ethnic" - Food News

Tara O'Brady Says You Should Stop Calling Food "Ethnic" - Food News
From The Kitchn - November 6, 2017

"Ethnic food" is a phrase most of us have heard, possibly even recently. But what does it mean, specifically? If "ethnic" means to come from a certain national or cultural tradition, then literally all food would be ethnic food. But Tara O'Brady, the award-winning cookbook author, food writer, and proprietor of the popular blog Seven Spoons, explains that's not the way people tend to use the phrase "ethnic food," and she says it's time to retire it. Because in practice what people mean when they talk about "ethnic food" is the food of non-white people, and that usage contributes to power differences and hierarchies in the food world that it's past time to do away with.

O'Brady writes in a Tweet pinned to the top of her Twitter feed, "Let's stop using 'ethnic' to mean 'non-white-people's' food. (See also: music, dress, traditions )."

In an interview with Chatelaine's Amy Grief, O'Brady says she feels fortunate to have grown up in a family that "never put borders on food" or treated certain dishes as theirs and other dishes as "different" or "weird."

"When we start putting food into categories of differencethat's often when we start investing things with power and I think that's something that a lot of food writers and people within the industry are dealing with right now," she explains. "It's an important conversation we are having."

People have been debating the phrase "ethnic food" for a while now, and it does appear to have fallen out of favor lately in discussions of food and food culture.

Rick Wilk, professor of anthropology and director of the Food Studies program at Indiana University, says he finds the term "ethnic food" problematic because while ultimately all food is ethnic food, it usually seems to mean food of non-white people.

"That's not to say that people mean to use 'ethnic food' in an insulting way," he says. "And in fact they often use it to denote food that is better than the ordinary, or at least more interesting. But using it in this way still makes assumptions about who are the real Americans, and who are the ethnic ones."

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