Monday, July 16, 2012

Rant: Cuisine Stereotypes

I don't like Indian cuisine because I hate curry.
I don't like sushi because I hate raw fish.
I don't like Mexican food because it is too spicy.

We probably all know people who have made statements like that, and maybe some of you even have made such statements yourself. Yet are those statements truly accurate, or do they evidence a lack of knowledge about those cuisines? Would these people actually enjoy other aspects of that cuisine if they were willing to take a chance on it?

These individuals hold stereotypes about certain cuisines, evidencing their ignorance of the true diversity of such cuisines. Such individuals may refuse to patronize certain restaurants because of these stereotypes, despite the fact there actually might be plenty of dishes there that they would enjoy. Cuisines are not so narrow in scope and you miss out by trying to easily place them in a tiny descriptive box. As I previously quoted Paolo di Marchi, "people love to simplify what cannot be simplified.

People like referring to Italian or Mexican cuisine, as if referring to a single, monolithic cuisine. Yet those people fail to realize that most, if not all, national cuisines actually consist of numerous regional cuisines, and those can vary quite widely from each other. There is not a unified Italian, Indian or Mexican cuisine, but rather a plethora of regional cuisines. Not all Indian cuisines and dishes use curry and not all dishes from the various Mexican cuisines are spicy. Not all sushi uses raw fish, and you will find some with cooked fish and others with no fish at all.

You must open up your mind and broaden your culinary horizons. It is an easy solution, to simply not stereotype any cuisine. Even if you dislike curry, check out an Indian restaurant and let them explain all of the dishes that don't use curry. Even if you dislike spicy Mexican food, check out a Mexican restaurant and find out all the non-spicy dishes they carry. You will probably be surprised by all the choices you have, despite your dislike of one element, and you could even find some new favorite dishes.

Though you might think your stereotype only affects you, that is not always the case. You might be part of a group of family or friends trying to decide on which restaurant to go. You might nix the idea of attending a certain restaurant because of your stereotype, thus denying everyone else the chance to dine there. Is that really fair? No, I don't think so. In addition, such stereotypes can hurt those restaurants, and the restaurant industry already has plenty of obstacles. Your stereotypes can reinforce the stereotypes of others, preventing even more people from dining at certain places.

Learn about those cuisines you think you hate, and maybe you will realize they are far more diverse than you realize. Take a chance and visit those restaurants, just to see all the dishes you actually might enjoy.


Todd - VT Wine Media said...

Richard, I definitely have to agree with you...sure people might have certain dislikes that might make them wary of a dining category, but most restaurants provide enough diversity to cater appropriately, and there is no need to boycott.
That said, we are all very privileged to have so may food choices, when so many on the planet have so few. It behooves us to expand our cultural horizons and palates, while at the same time accepting that we can't always have what we think we want. It opens the possibility to finding something new.

Bryanne Salazar said...

I loved this post. It's true for food and it's true for race. People have a difficult time accepting that their thinking may be the problem, not the cuisine or the culture.

Joe said...

Good observation. I'd go further and say that some folks who have never even tasted a certain ethnic cuisine determine that they "wouldn't like it" and never try it.

Richard Auffrey said...

Thanks to all the commenters.

Hi Todd:
I certainly agree with you that we have an amazing range of food choices available to us. We really should take advantage of such good fortune.

Hi Bryanne:
You are correct too. It applies in many different areas too, such as race. Too many people try to simplify very complex issues that defy such simplification.

Hi Joe:
Yes, that happens as well, having negative preconceptions about a cuisine once has never tasted.