How to “Decolonize Our Love for Food”

First class of the Spring 2020 semester of Taco Literacy, and the new taco crew started right away with the question of cultural appropriation and foodways. Actually, I opened the class with the open question about appropriation, what it is, how it is practiced.

Students offered a range of ideas on the topic, ranging from policing, education, respect, ethics, and also being sensitive. There was some question about whether appropriation was a way to “call out” some or shame others. The taco crew spoke of different cases of appropriation, ranging from hairstyles and dress, but I steered the direction about to food, and how that cultural expression could potentially be appropriated.

The point brought out a couple of interesting points. One, from Arianna, was the case of someone from a white background opening up a Mexican food restaurant, and whether one has to stay in one’s lane in the food industry. Another point brought up by Nia was about restaurants from ethnic communities in high-end places, like Chelsea Market. These two responses speak to something about profitability, or capitalizing on the cultural expression of a group not one’s own, perhaps to serve food to people not of the said ethnic group.

With this rich discussion, we turned to this video about food appropriation in food, and the importance to always humanize the food of the people we eat. That will be one of the most important points for the semester.

After this video, the students did some free writing about food appropriation and Mexican food. We didn’t get to share these because we ran out of time, but many of the points hit in the discussion, the video hammered home, particularly how we can “decolonize our love for food.” Well said. The free writes of the students will turn into their first Instagram posts (with hashtag #tacoliteracy) and their first WordPress posts, where they will also practice embedding videos and images. Next class, we’ll dive deeper into the video and also troubleshoot some of the inevitable issues that arise with learning how to navigate WordPress.

Oh yes, one last note. During the free-write, I played Grupo Kual:

When the students finished, I made sure to mention that if they hear this band playing at the taqueria they go to, that’s a good sign.

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