Ah, the great American ethnic food. Where should I get started? We love American food but we are already racist so we try to “fit in” by pretending to like foreign food and by foreign I mean the food we have allowed the immigrants to sell at a low cost according to our demands and to be cool we call it “ethnic”.
Often, when we talk about “ethnic” food, we’re not referring to French, German, or Italian cuisine, and definitely not those Ikea Swedish meatballs. Usually, we’re talking about Thai, Vietnamese, Indian, Ethiopian, and Mexican food –places where food is cooked by the *brownest people*. We think that is inferior from what is being served on our platter already! It is a put down for us to eat such food.
We’d find it more authentic if our food was cooked by a chef who specializes in that area. For example, if an Italian restaurant is owned by an Italian person and has Italian chefs working there, we’d consider the food authentic, because duh! We Americans are racists! Similarly the experience changes if we are asked to use forks instead of chopsticks at a Chinese restaurant.
We want our food quick and cheap; even if it’s “ethnic”. Even though we have a lot of money, we are not willing to pay a high price for “ethnic food”. If we are eating Indian food, the authenticity is judged by the amount of chilli powder dropped in it; even though most of the Indian food isn’t spicy. Or if you put oregano in baked chicken then it doesn’t mean that’s an Italian dish- simply inspired is what it is.
While food can connect people together and also serve as a way to learn about cultures other than our own, what happens is that food becomes the only identifier for certain places. Japan reduced to ramen, Mexico reduced to burritos, India reduced to curry, and so on. The complete regions become deduced to menu options and ingredients without any thought to the many different communities in these places.