If this isn’t one of the First-Worldiest of First-World Problems, we don’t know what is.
In an interview with the Washington Post (of course), celebrity chef David Chang elaborated on his contention that ethnic food aisles in grocery stores are actually relics of America’s ugly racism:
“If you go to the ethnic food aisle, that is sort of the last bastion of racism that you can see in full daylight in retail America,” David Chang, the man at the helm of the Momofuku empire, said on his podcast this summer. “It is something that’s got to go.”
In a telephone interview, Chang says there is an “invisible ceiling” on some supermarket items: Italian products that were once marginalized, such as olive oils and vinegars, are now routinely integrated into grocery store aisles, while Chinese, Japanese and Latino foods remain stuck in their own sections. The ongoing segregation of these foods, Chang says, isn’t about acceptance among the mainstream. Asian and Latino cuisines have long been embraced by Americans of every stripe, he says. You can sometimes even see this acceptance play out in supermarkets: Instant ramen and tortilla soups may sit right next to boxes of chicken noodle and cream of chicken soups, those standards of mid-century America. Same for the produce section, where plantains and mangoes will be sold in the same area as apples and iceberg lettuce.
Yet in supermarkets there are still aisles dedicated to soy sauce, duck sauce, oyster sauce, rice vinegar, coconut milk, rice crackers, stir-fry sauces, yum yum sauce, curry paste, corn flours, adobo seasoning, bagged tortillas, refried beans, salsas and hundreds of other products connected, sometimes tenuously, to Asian and Latin American countries.
“All the foods in the ethnic food aisle are already accepted. So why do we even have them?” Chang asks. The aisles, he adds, are an echo of “1950s America, which was not a particularly good place to be, especially if you were Asian.”
David Chang’s had several TV shows and his own culinary empire. He seems to be doing pretty well for himself. So of course he needs to find something to whine about.
Good God. No, ethnic food aisles aren't racist
Seriously, we're debating this? https://t.co/D5YZ08yjLL
— Shadi Hamid (@shadihamid) October 2, 2019
I have a feeling that if there WEREN’T ethnic food aisles, that would be racist.
— Rachael Larimore (@RachaelBL) October 2, 2019
Oh, for sure.
We regret to inform you the Passover aisle is canceled https://t.co/51PjDJB60l
— Seth Mandel (@SethAMandel) October 2, 2019
"kosher" is no longer kosher
— Jeryl Bier (@JerylBier) October 2, 2019
from kosher to cancelled
— Kyle Kashuv (@KyleKashuv) October 2, 2019
When your life is so good that your biggest problem is an ethnic food aisle, maybe it’s time to show a little less outrage and a little more gratitude.