Last week, a food review ("Flour Power," WW, May 17, 2017) featured a breakfast burrito pop-up, Kooks Burritos, run by two young women who were inspired to make flour tortillas after a trip to Puerto Nuevo, Mexico. While there, the pair watched other women making flour tortillas and attempted to take lessons, an effort thwarted by their poor Spanish. Back in Portland, they started making their own flour tortillas, practicing the craft and then subleasing a taco cart to make weekend brunch. This proved controversial. Here's a sampling of the response.
Celeste Noche, via Facebook: "Today in Portland white nonsense: These white girls drove down to Mexico, stole recipes from women who didn't want to share them, and are up here trying to profit as if actual Mexican food from actual Mexican people doesn't already exist. Bye Beckys and bye Willamette Week for publishing this garbage."
Melody Martínez, via WW's Facebook page: "Wow. This article is a clear example of how media perpetuates and reinforces racism and white supremacy, brandishing it as 'fun' and 'innovative.' What a journalistic fail."
David González, in reply to Martínez: "Seriously? Of all things, this is the one you picked to get angry? Mexican here. Born and raised in Mexico, so, you know, intimately aware of Mexican culture and how it works. We Mexicans appreciate it when people come to our country, learn and adopt tidbits from our culture, and take that back home."
Jagger Blaec, writing in The Portland Mercury: "Week after week people of color in Portland bear witness to the hijacking of their cultures, and an identifiable pattern of appropriation has been created…. After the fury continued online, a different resource emerged and quickly went viral: a Google doc showing exactly how prevalent this epidemic is. The list titled 'White-Owned Appropriative Restaurants in Portland' provides a who's who of culinary white supremacy."
Kristen Goodman, who circulated the "White-Owned Appropriative Restaurants in Portland" list: "Here's is the whole white appropriation restaurant shit list. There are owners I know on this list and places I love. But it's not going to stop me. Please think about how you spend your money. Support people-of-color establishments."
Jon Ryan Leong, in reply to Goodman: "Just my humble opinion. Food, like other aspects of culture, are meant to be shared, enjoyed and disseminated by all people, regardless of where they lie their heads or what their genetic phenotype might look like. If these grandmothers were cool enough to share their culture with these girls, why are we getting mad?"
Yolanda Boo, via WW comments: "For me, this isn't really about the right of people to make a food outside of their culture. It's about respect and payment to people of color for their labor and how this labor is constantly being taken, appropriated, and sold to white people by white people who get a pat on the back for being so enterprising."
Jose M. Doug, via Facebook: "Two women got forced out of business for talking about how they learned to make tortillas—one of the most embarrassing episodes in Portland history. … Does anyone also realize that a lot of Mexican restaurants are often guilty of all kinds of appropriation themselves? Many are run by people whose native cuisine is not tacos and burritos, yet they sell them. Should they all close? I can't believe this is actually a thing. It's extremely naive and silly to even talk about, especially at a time when Trump is in the White House. Maybe talk about the local businesses that secretly funded him and boycott them. Instead these folks are pitchfork mobbing a food cart into closing because two women learned how to make tortillas by watching women make them from scratch in a country where people nationwide do that daily."
Cristina Gonzalez, who is Puerto Rican, via the WW comments section: "My abuela would be absolutely furious. I have recipes that she wouldn't share with anyone, not even me, that I only inherited when she passed. These are recipes for dishes that she created just for us, her family, that she learned from those who came before her. Appropriation scrubs all of that meaning, all of the importance, all of the history, and all of the story that is attached to these recipes. If anyone stole the recipes my grandmother passed down to me, I wouldn't just be furious, I'd feel deeply sad, because they'd be stealing a part of my abuela from me, they'd be stealing the memories I have of her and of her cooking."
Mexinonimo, translated from Reddit/r/Mexico: "If those women have to stop making tortillas because it is cultural appropriation, then it would mean that we Mexicans have to stop eating the al pastor that we stole from Arab immigrants, and I don't think anyone wants that."
Nehefer, translated from Reddit/r/Mexico: "How did we steal it? They came here and offered it."
StellarShadow, translated from Reddit/r/Mexico: "What is this, Social Justice Warriors fighting on behalf of our culture without us caring or asking for it? Wow, those people need to relax and find something to entertain themselves with instead of finding someone to attack."
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