Ethnic Foods

A Rant on the phrase “Ethnic Foods”

I always feel weird saying ‘ethnic foods’. It feels offensive somehow. I’m currently travelling around the world and eating all these new dishes in other countries and keep on wanting to describe them as ‘ethnic dishes’. But I can’t say the phrase out loud. It feels dirty.

Something about the word ‘ethnic’. I’m worried that in the future it will be just as offensive as ‘chinaman’ and other outdated racial epithets.

I know that it’s used to describe foods that come from other cultures than our own. But it just feels…wrong. Like we’re simplifying their culture and boiling it down to a few egg rolls.
ethnic food
When we go out (I mean ‘we’ as in North Americans going out to eat), we’re not really engaging in the culture, we’re just trying some different foods that may or may not actually reflect the foods eaten in that culture. It’s long been known that what we call ‘Chinese food’ doesn’t line up with what people in China actually eat.

I guess what I don’t like is the foods all being labelled as being from different cultures. Instead of that, we could arrange foods based on how they taste.

Who wants lots of carbs and noodles (instead of Chinese)? Who wants meats dipped in sweet sauces? My descriptions are terrible, but it would give you a better idea of what you’re actually eating. And it removes the cultural stigma. As a group of white people, I feel weird saying ‘let’s try some kenyan food tonight!’. We aren’t trying Kenyan food at all. Not until we actually go to Kenya are we getting anywhere close to a Kenyan cultural experience.

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