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Thursday, September 15, 2016

Lunch Ladies Finally Taken Down a Notch

Some students at Oberlin College are taking their demands for diversity and racial inclusion to the dining hall, asking for more traditional meals and criticizing what they consider poor efforts at multicultural cooking.
-The New York Times

Bon Appétit magazine published a video called “This Is How You Should Be Eating Pho” starring a white chef who makes Vietnamese food in which he tells viewers to leave Sriracha and hoisin sauce out of the soup infuriating many viewers.

In a dragnet encompassing public school cafeterias in all five boroughs, New York school officials have arrested 213 kitchen workers for violating recently-imposed cultural appropriation statutes. Minister of the Ethnic Purity Guard, Dr. Vladimir Nassir Nguyen, insisted that lunchroom cooks accused of substituting peanuts for pine nuts in cafeteria hummus recipes were “class enemies” and would be sent to re-education camps in Vermont which double as retreats for over-weight teens. Those offenders deemed beyond re-education will be forced into positions as gym teachers.

“This thinly-veiled racism in the form of shoddily-prepared samosas and lackluster tapas will no longer be tolerated in our public school dining halls,” the Minister exclaimed at a post-arrest press conference in front of a table with several of the offending menu items including a Greek peasant salad with a very non-traditional bit of iceberg lettuce, Peruvian ceviche made with frozen fish, and the most shocking of all, a risotto Milanese made with turmeric substituting for saffron and canned stock instead of homemade. “Don’t our children deserve better than this culturo-gastronomic catastrophe?” The Minister paused and seemed to glow with pride in his wordplay, like an astronomer who has discovered a new planet.

The controversy over the cultural appropriation of food began when a teacher at P.S. 6090 overheard Spanish exchange student María Serrano remark to her tablemates that where she lives in Valencia, Spain paella doesn’t include sausage. The alert young educator brought the incident to the attention of school officials who immediately quarantined the kitchen while offering trauma counseling to the twelve year old student. Under intense interrogation the head cook of the cafeteria claimed she was simply following the recipe supplied by the food purveyors. “This ‘Nuremberg Defense’ wasn’t accepted once nor will it be given credence in this case,” insisted Minister Nguyen. Nguyen also called Miss (Señorita) Serrano the “Rosa Parks of the new nutritional purity movement in our cafeterias.”

Interviewed while waiting her arraignment a 22 year veteran cafeteria cook asked, “Think it was my idea to make coq au vin—or however the hell you pronounce it—for these little animals? The only things they’ll touch are pizza and chicken nuggets.” The food Czar stated, “We decided not to include Chinese food in our crackdown as this cuisine has been included in lunch programs for decades making it unrecognizable to anyone who may have actually been to China, so that cat is already out of the bag, so to speak.” Dr. Nguyen was immediately taken into custody for using “Chinese food” and “cat” in the same sentence.

The Minister’s replacement added, “We cannot, we must not, and we will not allow these cultural elites to suck the life out of gastronomic traditions that represent the core values of societies that have suffered under the boot heel of colonial imperialism for centuries.” When asked for a response one of the accused said, “I work for minimum and I emigrated here from Eritrea two years ago. Is this going to take long? I’m late for my other job.” Another cafeteria worker cautiously asked, “Can we still make sloppy Joes or will that be offensive to someone?”

The pot boiled over three weeks ago when students at a Manhattan grade school went on a rampage when they learned that what the lunch menu described as Vietnamese pho was actually closer to Japanese ramen. Tempers were further inflamed over the perceived insensitive comment of one of the kitchen workers who asked, “We’re just talking about noodle soup, right?”

The concern of student groups opposing “exotic food” choices in school lunchrooms is that many ethnic groups aren’t allowed to define their own place in our society that is profoundly white, straight and patriarchal. Cafeteria officials pointed out that they have lots of kitchen openings for energetic little go-getters who would like to do their part in rehabilitating the wrongs they perceive in food quality while helping to bring us all together.

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