Is This Food Racist? The Sporkful Podcast Probes the Question

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The Sporkful podcast looks at other people's food.

Dan Pashman, the voice behind “The Sporkful,a WNYC podcast, is asking really important questions with a recent series called "Other People's Food." The podcast series explores what can be learned about how we perceive culture, race, and each other by talking about the foods we eat and enjoy.

The series came into being when “The Sporkfulwas confronted with a backlash from listeners from an episode last fall that featured bibimbap, a Korean fried rice dish. Pashman, a lover of the dish, offered up some ways he thought certain aspects of the dish could be improved. Some people appreciated Pashman’s suggestions while others were insulted. Nick Cho, a Korean-American listener from San Francisco, tweeted at the show about how he thought the comments were insensitive, and he was invited on to talk about it. The series grew from there.

From talking about trying to improve a dish not from your own culture to asking the question why certain foods perform better than others when represented on social media, Pashman introduces and answers some crucial questions throughout the five-part series.

Pashman asks, “How do our assumptions about people affect our assumptions about their food...and how do other people’s stereotypes about our food affect how we feel about ourselves? What happens when chefs cook a cuisine that they weren’t born into...and what happens when there’s a backlash?”

The Sporkful’s Other People’s Food Podcast Series Run Down

  • Part One features the conversation between Pashman and Nick Cho about why it could be hurtful to talk about to hear about improving a much loved food from your culture.
  • Part Two asks what is "poor people’s food” and which foods are perceived as being less desirable.
  • Part Three looks at that historic protest at a segregated lunch counter in 1960.
  • Part Five tries to find the line between assimilation and appropriation in food appreciation.
  • And Part Four of the podcast series features a segment called “Is This Food Racist?” that is taken from a live event with Ashok Kondabolu (aka Dapwell), who is a former member of Das Racist and a food columnist for VICE; actress Rosie Perez; and Michelle Buteau, a comedian and performer whose parents are Caribbean. The guests talk about their experiences growing up and navigating both the mainstream American and immigrant food cultures. It’s all done in a thoroughly thoughtful and entertaining way. One highlight of the live event is a segment in which the guests are asked to identify whether certain foods are racist or not. You can even watch a video here of Pashman and Ashok Kondabolu out on the streets of NYC asking passersby whether they think certain foods are racist or not.

Learn more and listen to the podcast series at "Other People’s Food." The series is also available wherever you listen to podcasts--just search for "The Sporkful."

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Image: Eating Pho via Shutterstock

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