While the sushi offered in college dining halls may usually smell awry for any number of reasons, Lena Dunham now says the inclusion of the dish on university menus stinks of cultural appropriation.
Last year, students at Oberlin College, the Girls creator's alma mater, made similar claims, writing in the school's student newspaper that serving traditional meals from countries like Japan and Vietnam using lackluster ingredients was disrespectful to students whose families hail from those regions.
“There are now big conversations at Oberlin, where I went to college, about cultural appropriation and whether the dining hall sushi and banh mi disrespect certain cuisines," Dunham told Food & Wine this week. "The press reported it as, ‘How crazy are Oberlin kids?’ But to me, it was actually, ‘Right on.'"
Back in November, when the controversy first began to gain steam in the national press, Oberlin students were often portrayed as "whiny," overly sensitive liberal arts majors. And while cultural appropriation is all too real in the food world, the conversation becomes increasingly difficult to untangle in a country where nearly every dish—from pizza to sausage to burritos to ramen—comes from somewhere else.
Yes, in many other countries one must worry primarily about securing his or her next meal, rather than the underlying sociopolitical motives for serving that food in a college dining hall. But that doesn't mean real issues aren't at play on Oberlin's campus.
“The undercooked rice and lack of fresh fish is disrespectful,” Tomoyo Joshi, a student from Japan, wrote in the school's paper. “When you’re cooking a country’s dish for other people, including ones who have never tried the original dish before, you’re also representing the meaning of the dish as well as its culture. So if people not from that heritage take food, modify it and serve it as ‘authentic,’ it is appropriative.”
[via Food & Wine, Page Six]