Apart from having an ingredient in the title, what does the song “Com Açúcar, Com Afeto”, by Chico Buarque, have to do with spaghetti carbonara in a São Paulo cantina, or with the books by English chef Jamie Oliver?
Let’s start with Oliver. In an interview with the British newspaper Sunday Times (23/01), he says that he now hires “teams of experts in cultural appropriation” to evaluate his recipes and prevent them from distorting or offending traditions of other peoples.
A publishing and TV success (“The Naked Chef” debuted in 1999), he is scalded for several episodes. He himself cites a 2011 recipe with the inappropriate name of “roast chicken of the empire” (actually a traditional Indian tandoori chicken) as the result of the British “love affair” (or is it rape?) with their former colony. Today, on his website, he calls it “spiced roast chicken.”
In 2014, Oliver was criticized for changing ingredients from West African jollof rice. In 2018, a Labor Party official accused him of cultural appropriation for releasing a rice called Punchy Jerk Rice, which was reminiscent of Jamaican jerk — without, however, being the original recipe (jerk is a spice marinade, or the meat marinated in it). .
Accusations of cultural appropriation have been leveled at other chefs. The case of Gordon Ramsay, who in 2019 opened an “authentic Asian restaurant” without any Asian cook, Lucky Cat.
The previous year, American Andrew Zimmern (from “Bizarre Foods”) had been criticized for announcing that his Chinese restaurant chain Lucky Cricket would spare the American Midwest “shitty restaurants disguised as Chinese food.” The Washington Post reported: “When Chinese people make Americanized Chinese food for white people, Zimmern calls it ‘shit.’ But when he does, it’s ‘great.’
The English Nigella Lawson was the ball of the moment in 2017, when she showed her carbonara recipe replacing raw eggs with sour cream.
Which brings us to São Paulo’s canteens, masters in adapting dishes to the point of creating Italian (but not Italian) classics such as steak parmigiana. In them, carbonara, like Nigella’s, does have cream, just like fettuccine à Alfredo di Roma (adding cream is much easier than, as in Rome, frantically beating the dough with a fork and spoon, just with butter and cheese, to obtain creaminess).
Where does the problem live? It is not so much about adapting dishes inspired by foreign cultures, which is inevitable and can even have good results.
“Cultural appropriation” is harmful when it deceptively perverts the original meaning of the recipe (or the music, or the craft). How about Nigella Lawson and our cafeteria workers calling the dish “spaghetti in white sauce” and not “à carbonara”?
Ah, I missed talking about Chico Buarque. Well, can Gordon Ramsay and Andrew Zimmern make “authentic” Asian cuisine? Can a Bahian make “authentic” sushi?
I don’t know — but they can make excellent Chinese or Japanese cuisine, yes they can. The “place of speech” is not a definitive measure for artistic expression, I believe, even knowing the risk of being wrong to generalize this statement to all fields.
I also know that Chico Buarque is not a woman, and is capable, with his human and artistic sensibility, of portraying, like few (and few), feminine points of view, as he showed, among so many songs, in this “Amélia” portrayed in “With Sugar, With Affection”.
Which I hope he sings again, and that it has a life as long as a good steak parmigiana from a cook from Ceará from Bixiga.
I am currently a news writer for News Bulletin247 where I mostly cover sports news. I have always been interested in writing and it is something I am very passionate about. In my spare time, I enjoy reading and spending time with my family and friends.