The divide that I have noticed most strongly is that she seems to have split society into barbaric, rice-eating cultures, and the noble wheat/potato eaters. I'm pretty sure she doesn't even know how rice is cooked. She would never say it like this, but her aversion to cuisine does happen to correlate with groups that she will make casually racist comments about. The most prominent example being the Japanese, with Mexico being a close second.
I've been wondering for a while how closely correlated racism and food-racism are. Are picky eaters more likely to be xenophobes? Certainly I cannot imagine myself ever saying anything negative about Thailand or Ethiopia, but I don't feel anything like that empathy for China, or people who consume ketchup.
I wonder if your grandmother has any awareness that rice is a traditional staple crop only in the southern parts of Asia. Around the world, you could find more rice cultivation in tropical areas and more wheat cultivation in temperate areas... although the historical dividing line in China is still some ways north of the Tropic of Cancer.
> He then explains the etymology of ‘curry’ to convince us that we don’t need immigration.
> ‘Incidentally, the word “curry” first appears from a cookery book during the reign of, I think it’s Richard II, 13th century… so don’t let people tell you that you have to have huge numbers of immigrants to have good cooking,’ he says.
> ‘We’ve got a Mexican restaurant in a town not far from here. The place isn’t swamped with Mexicans. You take the recipe – that’s really all you need.’
Initially, using a lot of spices was indicative of wealth and access, so it was desirable.
Then, spice availability increased and everyone could afford them.
At this point, the rhetoric switched and spices were looked down upon by the wealthy.
Your intuition about racism/xenophobia is probably correct. But that's not the interesting question, given how widespread it is. What is more thought-provoking is why did this kind of behavior evolve? What was the advantage? Is it still advantageous today?
It's just an extension of the competitive nature of humans/social animals. Social animals despise animals of the same species that are of different social groups. They all want their social group to prevail, and will attack (actively or passively, e.g. by refusing culture) the others. Humans like to think they are above this 'primitive' instinct, but I think the vast majority of human behavior can be summed up by this.
Sometimes it proves fatal when people get killed in racist attacks mainly because of their food habits.
That is only one explanation for the taboo. In certain Indian and Nepalese religious strains, it is said that the devout cannot eat onions (or garlic) because of a folk belief that these vegetables encourage lasciviousness.
Aversion to tomato is not something I have encountered though. I suppose it's possible I just haven't noticed it.
Pork was full of parasites until the advent of some relatively modern farming practices.
Off the cuff, we know from history people will find just about any reason to believe they are better than other people. The way they talk, or walk, or eat, or socialize, or the shape of their nose, or even the bumps on their cranium- there's always some way that we are better than them, we just have to think carefully to figure out what it is! So my initial reaction is, it's just a manifestation of xenophobia.
Does she then consider Jews from North Africa/Middle East/Israel, which do eat rice, to be barbaric?
Some picky eaters have to do with different levels of taste, or some people tasting different things.
Tomatoes, for me, get almost a nauseous reaction from me. There is a specific very loud flavor in raw tomatoes that I just can't stand. It's gone in cooked tomatoes. There are a few of us, and the idea is there is some chemical that some people taste but most don't.
[The film: https://variety.com/2016/film/production/jonathan-gold-food-... -- Gold's approach: https://www.gq.com/story/jonathan-gold-gutsiest-food-critic]
Gold takes a very democratic and open-minded attitude toward reviewing. He has been one of a handful of writers that were early appreciators and promoters of various now-common food trends - food trucks and strip-mall food joints, niche ethnic/regional foods, unusual meats and ingredients.
But, clarified by a pair of quite touching anecdotes that, like parentheses, open and close the film, Gold's real guiding light is not foodie culture -- it is the ability of shared food to bring people together, in a metropolis that is ever more diverse. The first anecdote is about his sorrow after the LA riots of 1992, which devastated the Koreatown area where he lived at the time. And the second is a book reading at what looks like Skylight Books in Los Feliz, where he says that perhaps some of these tensions could be healed at the micro-level if we "could just invite someone over for dinner."
We all know there are structural problems as well, but the problem of ethnic tension and misunderstanding operates at many scales and many strategies are needed. Perhaps this is one.
May his soul rest in peace.
I'm currently in the Czech Republic, where the LA Times is blocked. I'll certainly read it when back in Switzerland (where it's accessible just fine).
The exception to this is when you're lucky enough to live in an area with a sufficiently large immigrant population from a particular part of the world.
I've especially noticed this w.r.t. various Asian cuisines in California, versus anywhere else in the US that I've lived.
Just kidding. You can't solve the world's problems with a coke and a smile... but it would make a great photo op :^)
I'm from the south and the foodie boom has been an enormous benefit for us. For most of my life there was a hard push to make a distinction between "southern food" and "soul food". It was a push from both ends of the political spectrum, as older white critics tried to keep it "white" and black critics in the 60s and 70s tried to get the taste of repression and feelings of stigma out of the menu.
It led to a lot of weird scenarios where a critic might call a plate of greens from Oakland "enlightened" and the same plate in Memphis "limp, servile, and impotent". That's still a thing. From a purely rational viewpoint this seems ridiculous, but from the cultural standpoint it makes sense. Still, it's reification, anthropomorphism, and all that jazz, like Harriet Beecher Stowe calling loblolly pines lazy and immoral.
The foodie boom offered a lot of mutual pride for a region that has always had an inferiority complex. As the lines blurred it was less "black" and "white" food and more "our" food. Everyone grew up eating collards, grits, cornbread, catfish, and okra. We all ate BBQ and drank sweet tea on the 4th. We all remembered eating tomato sandwiches with pepper and salt on cheap white bread as a kid. We all had pimento cheese. It was the one thing we weren't obligated to feel shame and resentment about in a region that is nothing but shame and resentment.
Not that it's all peach cobbler. As a retired shrimper friend of mine said after seeing a $24 bowl of shrimp & grits, "Man, this is what we ate when we couldn't afford food and now they are pricing us out of it."
Food is important.