This week in culinary appropriation just gets worse and worse
Sometimes a recipe spells disaster before it’s ever made. It’s a trainwreck you can spot—or in this case smell—a mile away.
People have already been in an uproar this week over American chefs mansplaining how to prepare and eat dishes from immigrant cuisines which they know little-to-nothing about, but yesterday, Disney thought it would add another log to fire, and set the internet ablaze all over again. Move over #PhoGate, there’s a new cultural appropriation in town: Oh Kale-No Quinoa Gumbo.
The offending dish in question. Photo via Walt Disney World
In a sad attempt to replicate the dish ubiquitous in New Orleans and prized within the Cajun-Creole food tradition, Disney released a recipe and how-to video titled, “Princess Tiana’s Healthy Gumbo” and posted it on the Disney character’s Facebook page. They have since taken the video down, Mashable reported, but the damage has already been done.
[quote position="full" is_quote="true"]Amongst other failures in the recipe, this level of incompetence is the worst.[/quote]
Thankfully, many individuals who arrived at the scene of the crime swiftly documented what they found, forever preserving the rouxless kale and quinoa abomination with memes and mash-ups, like the viral video by Facebooker David Thomas.
Louisianians and Southern food lovers alike have taken to the internet to express their outrage, uniting in horror, joint mockery, and gumbo pride with the trending hashtags: #GumboStrong, #DisneyGumbo and #GumboGate.
Generations of fighting over who invented gumbo, #Cajuns & #Creoles both agree "that ain't no gumbo!" #GumboGate #gumbostrong #Disney— Katherine Harper (@Katherine Harper) 1473882759
Matters of authenticity in food are precarious, and the origins of many dishes we love and identify with have complex histories, evolve over time, co-opt and borrow from other cultures, and use ingredients from all over the world. But some elements hold true, and form the building blocks of a cuisine. In this case, it’s the roux: a mixture of fat and flour that makes the base of many Cajun and Creole dishes. Disney forgot to include it. Amongst other failures and unnecessary substitutions in the recipe, this level of incompetence is the worst and just plain exhausting.
By promoting their version as “healthy” gumbo, using trendy ingredients like kale and quinoa that have nothing to do with Southern food traditions, Disney made this recipe not just culturally offensive, but controversial when we think about health and race, stripping a dish of traditional ingredients, and therefore, historical context in order to deem it “healthy.”
[quote position="full" is_quote="true"]Move over #PhoGate, there’s a new cultural appropriation in town: Oh Kale-No Quinoa Gumbo.[/quote]
The silver lining here is that, while this roux-less gumbo is definitely inedible, it could become the glue that unites feuding Cajun and Creole purists. Your enemy’s enemy just might become your friend in the time is takes to watch the lively, jazzy two-minute video of the recipe.
We will mock and facepalm for but a few days, but we can only hope that Disney will suffer the consequences a bit longer—at least until the people of Louisiana get the apology they deserve.