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“Culturally appropriative” ethnic food: Gen. Tso’s chicken, invented in New York City in 1973

December 21, 2015

From my latest blog post for the Independent Women’s Forum:

It’s “insensitive” to serve this at Oberlin

At Yale, it was Halloween costumes. At the University of Missouri, it was a statue of Thomas Jefferson. At Oberlin College in Ohio, it’s…the food.

“Students at an ultra-liberal Ohio college are in an uproar over the fried chicken, sushi and Vietnamese sandwiches served in the school cafeterias, complaining the dishes are ‘insensitive’ and ‘culturally inappropriate.’

“Gastronomically correct students at Oberlin College — alma mater of Lena Dunham — are filling the school newspaper with complaints and demanding meetings with campus dining officials and even the college president.

“General Tso’s chicken was made with steamed chicken instead of fried — which is not authentically Chinese, and simply ‘weird,’ one student bellyached in the Oberlin Review.

“Others were up in arms over banh mi Vietnamese sandwiches served with coleslaw instead of pickled vegetables, and on ciabatta bread, rather than the traditional French baguette….”

I’m waiting for the students from the U.K. to complain that the mystery meat isn’t authentically mysterious enough.
It’s worth pointing out that some of the “authentic” ethnic dishes that the Oberlin activists say the food service has tampered with are “culturally appropriative” themselves. General Tso’s chicken, for example, doesn’t come from the Hunan province of China (where no one eats it–or has even heard of it) but from New York City, where a Hunan-born chef invented it in 1973, modifying a traditional Hunan dish by adding the sweet-and-sour sauce that Americans associate with Chinese restaurants.
Posted by Charlotte Allen
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