Oberlin College and its Quest to Take Sushi Off the Menu

Well, this hilariously entitled “controversy” happened. Let’s get started, shall we? I’ll also be looking at their list of demands later on. They are fantastically entitled. Write yourself in an intermission or something.


Some students at Oberlin College are posting 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.

We are oppressed! We are oppressed! The beef tartar uses beef flown in from Jersey instead of beef flown in from California! Who do they think they are? Next, you’ll be telling me that they give vegetarian options for Southern-style food, and that just won’t do.

It is the latest skirmish in a year marked by protests and other actions by college students to challenge the cultural and racial status quo on campuses across America.

And it is the latest skirmish that once again goes to show that American college students have fuck-all to actually complain about but they do anyway. Please do not tell me that you’re taking this seriously as a legitimate protest, world. Please.

The students at the college in Oberlin, Ohio, are accusing the campus dining department and Bon Appétit Management Company, the main dining vendor, of a litany of offenses that range from cultural appropriation to cultural insensitivity.

Oh my God, guys. It’s finally happening! They’re finally going after food! They never talked about it before because apparently even they knew that attacking food with claims of cultural appropriation made little sense. But they’ve finally crossed the line into giving no fucks about what does or doesn’t make sense!

Earlier this month, students with the school’s black student union protested outside of the dining hall at the Afrikan Heritage House, after demands for more traditional meals, including more fried chicken, went unmet, according to the campus paper, The Oberlin Review.

I’m sorry. This is hilarious to me. Do you want more pig’s feet and watermelon too? Something tells me that you guys just wanted more delicious fried chicken and decided to couch your request in terms of race instead of just putting it on the Napkin Board like normal people because you thought it would help your “cause.” I like fried chicken too, guys, but damn. I hope you guys are getting in trouble for missing classes to attend these “protests.”

“I would like to see Bon Appétit fired and replaced by something other than an international corporation,” a student, Kendra Farrakhan, wrote to the paper. “I would like to see the chefs have the respect and autonomy to cook the food they love.”

Yeah, and I’m sure those chefs would like to get paid more than barely above minimum wage, but guess what, hon? This is ridiculous. This is the most entitled shit I have ever heard. Only when you yourself have no real issues is this something you can complain about. Oh, what, the old women just trying to add to their meager retirement funds by working in a cafeteria and the minimum wage workers they get to serve it to you aren’t doing it good enough?

Another article, published by The Review in November, detailed what students said were instances of cultural appropriation carried out by Bon Appétit. The culinary culprits included a soggy, pulled-pork-and-coleslaw sandwich that tried to pass itself off as a traditional Vietnamese banh mi sandwich; a Chinese General Tso’s chicken dish made with steamed instead of fried poultry; and some poorly prepared Japanese sushi.

My school has a bar based around Southern-style food that is absolutely horrible. Me and my friend from Georgia complain about how terrible it is all the time. Seriously, stop trying to make soul food healthy. It doesn’t work. If it’s not fifty percent grease and butter, you’re doing it wrong. So since the South is very much a distinct culture, with Southern soul food very much being a distinct and meaningful cultural thing, can I start protesting my school to get some half-way decent baked beans and friend chicken too? This is my culture and you’re stomping all over it? How about my friend from New Mexico constantly appalled by the lack of good spices whenever we have burrito/enchilada bar? Where’s all the green pepper? It’s not TexMex without green pepper. How about my friend from Maine who constantly complains about are school’s seafood and how it’s not cooked well at all? You do realize that America is a very diverse place in of itself, right? There is no “American” food. The South and the West and the Southwest and the Northeast and Middle America all have different dishes in of themselves that have cultural ties based in their particular locations. My school is ten minutes away from Philly and it still makes shit Philly cheese steaks. If I expected it to do a serviceable job with any other kind of food, foreign or otherwise, I’d be kidding myself. It’s not like your cafeteria is getting it’s “American” food cooked amazingly and it’s only the “foreign” food that it sucks at preparing.

Oh no, a soggy pulled pork sandwhich tried to pass itself off as something interesting. It’s almost like every other kind of food in a college cafeteria. I’m looking at you “Italian rolls,” you’re just Hot Pockets, and everybody knows it! Chinese General Tso’s chicken isn’t even from China, so I don’t know what you’re even complaining about there. It’d be like complaining about how nacho bar wasn’t Mexican enough and totally ignoring that nachos aren’t a Mexican food. And also, as a general note, don’t eat sushi outside of Japan or very legit sushi restaurants. It’s not worth it otherwise. Or are you going to complain next about how gas station sushi boxes aren’t “authentic enough?”

“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,” Tomoyo Joshi, a student from Japan, told the paper. “So if people not from that heritage take food, modify it and serve it as ‘authentic,’ it is appropriative.”

Um, no you’re not. Tell me something, Joshi, when Oberlin has a BBQ bar, do you “understand the meaning of the dish” to American culture? And that, of course, depends upon what kind of BBQ you’re eating-the Southeast and Texas have been feuding since the beginning of time over who has the best BBQ, and the Southeast itself has sub-divided BBQ methods that make each state’s style unique. And because of that divide, what Texan barbequers think is important about that method of cooking isn’t what Southeastern barbequers think is important. And that also totally ignores that BBQ has a totally different connotation outside of those two places and is associated with different ideas of community in that sense. A Southern BBQ isn’t the same as one you get in Middle America, you know.

So, Joshi, do you care about any of that when you eat a pulled pork sandwich? Are you mad that that probably shitty BBQ was marketed as authentic? Was any of that communicated to you through it’s style of presentation? Did you feel the need to have any of that communicated to you while you were eating? Or were you just eating food that was provided to you and being thankful that it was at least something different from last week?

I’m really looking forward to jumping down someone’s throat about serving My People’s food poorly, though. You appropriative assholes, taking soul food without asking me first. I’m getting really tired of this weird idea floating around that America apparently has no culture(s) that can be offended, it’s only the brown people across the ocean. And, yes, I’m specifying brown people: You don’t see them complaining about how sausage bar and pirogi bar are offensive to Europeans.

Michele Gross, Oberlin’s director of dining services, said in a statement on Monday that “in our efforts to provide a vibrant menu, we recently fell short in the execution of several dishes in a manner that was culturally insensitive.”

No. No. Do not apologize to these people. Do not apologize. There complaints are baseless. And maybe if their argument was, “I pay too much to attend this college to be given bad food,” sure. They’re they consumers. But they’re not complaining about food that isn’t worth the money they pay to go there. They’re making a moral complaint. They are saying that these people are morally wrong for serving food that isn’t as good as they want it to be. That is their fallback: Anyone who is doing something that inconveniences them or something they just don’t like is a bad person for doing it.

She added: “We have met with students to discuss their concerns and hope to continue this dialogue.”

What dialogue?! The one were they sit atop their high horse that is itself resting upon a soapbox resting on a pedestal, look down their nose at you, and tell you how wrong you are while you have no choice but to agree with them? That dialogue?

Cultural appropriation, a term defined as the taking over of creative or artistic forms, themes or practices by one cultural group from another, has been a perennial source of debate at college campuses, especially around Halloween. But in the context of the cafeteria at Oberlin, the criticism seemed too far a stretch for some.

As it should. I hope someone pointed out that those Oberlin kids should be eating hard tack and salted meat and nothing else. I don’t know where their ancestors are all from, and eating corn. deer meat, and squash would be appropriating the Native Americans, so I’m just going to settle for the food their ancestors ate on the ship over here.

“When you’re defending the cultural authenticity of GENERAL TSO’S CHICKEN, you’re a living Portlandia sketch.”

How has Portlandia not done this sketch yet, actually?

“We appreciate the feedback we have received from Oberlin students. Our chefs are working hard to offer culturally sensitive menus that will appeal to the Oberlin community,” Ms. Powell wrote.

Say goodbye to all your ethnic food, Oberlin! You know that that is what that means. Goddamn it, Thai bar was the best.

General Tso’s chicken aside, students on campus appear to be struggling with deeper racial and cultural rifts. Oberlin made national news in 2013, when class was canceled over security concerns after racist graffiti and fliers were distributed across campus. (This year, in Missouri, the same behaviors led to student protests and, eventually, the ouster of high-ranking campus officials.)

If Oberlin is having the same “racial tensions” as all the other lib arts colleges that have been complaining, I will bet money that the place is perfectly fine.

Last week, Oberlin’s black student union issued a list of demands to campus administrators, which include the creation of segregated safe spaces for black students on campus, and an annual 4 percent increase in black student enrollment.

Let’s take a look at that list. PART 2, ho!

Coming soon . . . .


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