College dining halls are wonderful places. They’re filled with a wide variety of cereals in larger than life bins, soft-serve ice cream machines, and other wonders of processed food. They are not, however, bastions of international cuisine. Students at Oberlin College expect more though, so they’re calling out their dining halls for culturally appropriating and butchering dishes like General Tso’s Chicken, bánh mì, and sushi.
In an article published in the Oberlin Review, students expressed offense at the way Oberlin’s dining halls—and its purveyor, Bon Appetit—labeled meals as classic Asian dishes that were a far cry from the source material. A bánh mì was served with pulled pork and cole slaw on a ciabatta roll, and the sushi was lacking fresh fish and had overdone rice. (Welcome to Ohio, guys.)
These gripes are perfectly reasonable; if you’re claiming an international cuisine, don’t make a Memphis pulled-pork sandwich and call it bánh mì. A spokesman for Bon Appetit agreed: “Maybe what we should do is describe the dish for what it is as opposed to characterizing it with a specific name,” director of business operation and dining services Michile Gross told the student paper.
This is all fine and well, until you get about a third of the way through the Oberlin Review article, when Prudence Hiu-Ying, a sophomore from China, is quoted about the lack of authenticity in the General Tso’s chicken. General Tso’s chicken, that sweet and sour gelatinous fowl, is a dumbed-down Chinese-American dish who’s inauthenticity is the point. You will find more authentic General Tso’s chicken in Dayton, Ohio than you will in mainland China.
To be fair, there is no reason any place should be serving General Tso’s Chicken with steamed chicken, like they did at Oberlin, and that should be offensive to everyone. If you want some real, traditional General Tso’s, there are at least three Chinese restaurants within three blocks of the Oberlin Library—it’s probably cheaper than your meal plan too.
[via Oberlin Review]