William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Social Justice Warriors At Oberlin Attack Non-Diversity Of Sandwiches

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Editor says: not the author’s name.

I’ve been served pizza that was nothing more than half of an English muffin with a red substance and something that could be cheese. I’ve ordered cappuccino at an Italian restaurant, and was served dust from a packet that was partially dissolved in water. I’ve been the victim of innumerable little food crimes, nay, food micro-aggressions, and I had no idea that I had the power to make a federal case out of my food-related disappointments.

Leave it to a group of students at Oberlin to figure it out. They’ve labeled the fare offered by the hardworking people of dining services to be “culturally inappropriate” and “insensitive.” And college officials have stepped in with “meetings” resulting in “changes…to address all concerns.”

Never mind that the goal of any self-respecting dining hall is to feed as many students as possible in a cost-effective manner without getting any of them sick. Judging from the quick response of the administration, the goal of dining services is to honor the whims of the student body.

(And if you think that college costs are high now, imagine what the price tag will be if dining services staff have to climb the Himalayas to source just the right milk from the most politically correct yak.)

Among the charges of the students is that the bánh mì Vietnamese sandwich is “served with coleslaw instead of pickled vegetables, and on ciabatta bread, rather than the traditional French baguette.”

The sandwich itself is a fusion of Vietnamese and French ingredients, and there is no “right way” to make one. And using coleslaw is a stroke of genius, and truly brings an American perspective into play. Never mind that the sandwich was developed during Vietnam’s colonial past. I am surprised that a sandwich with such a shady history would pass muster with the students in the first place.

Oberlin, OH is a little town, with a population that is just nosing over 8,000. And in many Midwestern towns—even college towns—“traditional French baguette” is nearly impossible to come by. Ciabatta rolls seem like a reasonable substitute.

The glory of food is that it can be reinvented time and time again. Does anyone think that Lender’s bagels found in the frozen foods aisle bear any resemblance to their hand-rolled and boiled namesake? Does anyone think that Chef Boyardee products are a fair representation of the food of Italy? And what about that business of Marco Polo bringing noodles from China to the West? I guess spaghetti can be crossed off the list of acceptable foodstuffs.

In Yokohama, Spaghetti Naporitan—inspired by GIs after WWII—is nothing more than a plate of noodles with a nice smear of ketchup, and hot dogs if you’re lucky.

Ketchup? That wonderful child of Asia that has found a home in kitchens across the globe. Is this the type cultural inappropriateness that the students of Oberlin would like to stamp out?

There is a burgeoning food police, what with the legally mandated trans-fat oil ban in some localities, but their role could be expanded to monitor sushi bars (no inauthentic salmon-and-cream-cheese rolls for you) and test the yogurt content of white sauce used by falafel purveyors. Watered-down mayo masquerading as white sauce is a real menace.

What is most troubling about the little food fight at a little college in Ohio is the rigidity of the students and their belief that there is a “right” way to do things. For a lot of life, there is no right way. Sure, there are some illegal ways, and it is wise to stay away from those. There are many ways to go from point A to point B, say from college to a job. There is not just one way to live one’s life, just as there isn’t one way to prepare a Vietnamese sandwich.

The joy and glory of food is that there is no right way is that the cook can change things to suit the ingredients at hand. It’s a pity that the students at Oberlin don’t have any regard for the imagination. If they don’t like the sushi or the bánh mì, they can always have the old reliable egg salad.

Ah, with celery, dill, or pickles? I’ve even heard it being made with potato.

28 Comments

  1. Does anyone think that Chef Boyardee products are a fair representation of the food of Italy?

    I remember all those Italian children singing the praises of Beefaroni
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=euo086SUjls

    the rigidity of the students and their belief that there is a “right” way to do things

    Just try to tell them the right way to approach God

  2. “If they don’t like the sushi or the bánh mì, they can always have the old reliable egg salad.” My college had a salad bar and one could usually find an edible combination somewhere in there. The other option when I was in college was to visit the nearby Dairy Queen or other eating establishment. I think perhaps students don’t have nearly enough studying. It might be better to rename colleges “Institutions of Daycare” and just stop pretending it’s anything other than that.

    Just an aside concerning food police: I sent an email to Nestle Quik last week. I use the Strawberry powder in milk for raising my blood sugar when I get low. Much to my utter disgust, 45% of the sugar has been removed and only “natural flavorings” used. There’s nothing more vile than bad-tasting drink powder you have to mix twice as much of to get the same effect. I don’t know if mothers actually asked for this or if Nestle thought that was a great marketing ploy, but I let them know I will have to find something new.

    John B(): I thought of that, too. There’s no “right” when discussing morals, but there is when preparing sandwiches. Up is down, down is up.

  3. How school food is done elsewhere in the world:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ovO18E-hgew

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hL5mKE4e4uU
    Can you imagine US students cleaning up after themselves or actually cleaning their school?

    Sheri’s “Institutions of Daycare” is priceless! 🙂

  4. My daughter, who is a college student in Ohio but not at Oberlin, says nobody cares — it was just a letter from a couple of wacky people and that fellow Oberlin (and other) students think it’s stupid. FYI.

  5. Sheri,

    ” My college had a salad bar and one could usually find an edible combination somewhere in there.”

    Salad (vegetables) isn’t food, it’s what food eats. 🙂

  6. A break in the ranks? The start of a trend?
    Comedian Tina Fey said recently she’s not going to apologize for any offense taken at her comedy. “I feel like we put so much effort into writing and crafting everything, they (sic) need to speak for themselves. There’s a real culture of demanding apologies, and I’m opting out of that.”

  7. Sander van der Wal

    December 22, 2015 at 2:34 pm

    Surely these ‘students’ can cook for themselves?

  8. Sander van der Wal – “Surely these ‘students’ can cook for themselves?”

    Probably not. And, don’t call me Shirley. 😉
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z7DgXoUWWb4

  9. Ye Olde Statistician

    December 22, 2015 at 3:49 pm

    I bet none of the students at Oberlin know how to make a proper pepper pot or shoo-fly pie. Some foods are privileged.

  10. Ah, a friend of mine likes to regale us with his tale of touring through Europe with his high school choir (this was many years ago). At a restaurant in Paris, one of his female choir-mates asked the waiter for some pepper, there being none on the table. A minute later the chef came charging out of the kitchen with the pepper grinder, slammed it onto the table and demanded, “Where’s the little girl who knows more about pepper than I do?”

    So, I disagree with your disparaging the notion that there is a “right way” to cook, especially if the French are involved. I am pretty sure, though, that I would not look to the students at Oberlin to instruct me on what that right way is. If you are a college student, there is a right way: it’s the way it’s being served to you right now.

  11. I wanna know how to make a prepper popper pot … er, a protter prepper pop… a stew like that… Tell me?

  12. In thinking about “ethnic” foods, there are several Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants where I live, some Mexican ones and the usual American fare. Every restaurant does it’s own version of a dish. What you order in one restaurant can be very different in another, even when both are “genuine” ethnic foods. Somehow the public at large managed to deal with this, usually by going to the restaurant they liked best. It wasn’t that some foods were not ethnically correct or not, it was personal preference.
    What’s a correct American hamburger? Chili varies from region to region—which one is authentic? Not to mention problems with renaming all varients of an ethnic food to designate it doesn’t match the original, which we probably have no knowledge of. The idea that the college even listened to this nonsense is indicative of how poor education is in this country.

  13. The real food crime is one that has gone unnoticed by virtually everyone outside the South. Fried chicken as we knew it as children is no longer available. All we get from the Colonel and other purveyors of fried chicken is a deep-fat fried product that is too greasy, and doesn’t taste right. Forget the Colonel’s secret herbs and spices, just bread the stuff like grandma did, and throw it onto a skillet of hot Crisco. Mmmmm…

    Skillet fried chicken is a thing of the past. God help us all.

  14. The students should be moved to a food safe place – put them in the freezer.

  15. throw it onto a skillet of hot Crisco

    Bob: How true! Nothing tastes the same as it did before, including McDonald’s french fries, which used to be fried in beef tallow. Today, everything is fried in canola oil and it’s just not the same.

  16. Not only must a menu item be “pc” and “non-appropriated” but the ingredients themselves must be “pc.” The canola oil I referenced above is actually rape seed oil, but we can’t have that can we.

  17. Gary in Erko,

    “The students should be moved to a food safe place – put them in the freezer.”

    What? And risk having them contaminate the hamburgers?

  18. “What? And risk having them contaminate the hamburgers?”
    Don’t worry. Hamburgers can sing kumbaya without losing any fat or salt.

  19. Wonder what they’d say about the Mexican restaurant in London that I visited which served burritos but called them tacos. Played authentic Johnny Cash to add to the ambiance. Are burritos real Mexican dishes anyway? One place I go to claims to serve “authentic Mexican” dishes but doesn’t have burritos.

    At the Chinese restaurant that I worked in years ago, the owners told me none of the dishes were actually available in China and took me to a “real” Chinese restaurant to show me the difference. I was the only non-Chinese in the place.

    Anyway, where I went to school, “cafeteria food” was considered to be an oxymoron.

  20. I’d like to claim for Australia the ultimate borrowed edible ethnic cultural travesty – the infamous Chiko roll. I admit though that the claim may be stretching “edible” a little too far. It was invented by a boilermaker, based on a Chinese chop suey or egg roll, to meet a specific pragmatic requirement; as a hand-held snack, that it not fall apart while cheering, booing or punching your opponents at a football match. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chiko_Roll

  21. Ye Olde Statistician

    December 22, 2015 at 9:11 pm

    Some years ago, the firm I was with was working with the Thai government on a project and one of their people, a lovely young Thai lady, came to our office to go on a job with another consultant and me down in Philadelphia. After we had done our thing, the Engineering VP offered to treat us all to dinner and asked Ladawan if she had any preferences in food.

    A distant look came over her face and she said in soft, hesitant tones, “Might there be an… Italian restaurant not too far?”
    The VP said, “This is Northeast Philly. There can’t be more than a dozen or so on the next block.”

    On another occasion, we took her to a Thai restaurant in Edison, NJ. She said it was okay, but she had that kind of food all the time. What was the most popular restaurant in Bangkok, we asked. Oh, there’s a Mexican restaurant downtown that’s very popular. The food is almost spicy.

    Speaking of which, I was in Juarez once teaching a class in documentation in a meeting room in (of all places) a shopping mall. (The wall was decorated with the cattle brands of old north Mexico. One of them was the P used by the San Diego Padres baseball team. It had been the brand of the Franciscan Mission.) We broke for lunch, which was a Mexican buffet. I have never eaten anything so hot since I tried the fish vindaloo at the Indo-Ceylonese restaurant in Boulder CO. I turned to my host and said, “How can you stand to eat something this spicy?” He turned to me and, tears streaming down his face, replied, “We can’t!”

    Then there was the pizza parlor in downtown Örnsköldsvik, Sweden. My partners on that trip were determined to eat American food. The place turned out to be closed, but how authentic would a pizza be baked by Turks in Sweden?

  22. “It was invented by a boilermaker, based on a Chinese chop suey or egg roll, to meet a specific pragmatic requirement; as a hand-held snack, that it not fall apart while cheering, booing or punching your opponents at a football match. ”

    Ah, so it’s an allegedly edible weapon.

  23. “Don’t worry. Hamburgers can sing kumbaya without losing any fat or salt.”

    But what happens when the Black Angus burgers start protesting against the chicken patties and and ham?

  24. Briggs, I’ve stolen the spoon.
    Custard pie, made with vanilla essence, of course, what else is there?
    Here are some ideas chosen at random!
    “The empires of the future will be empire of the mind.”
    The best minds have the biggest hearts and the broadest imaginations. As JH implies.
    There are no recipes;
    Hearts and minds need tiny tools.
    Taking them to pieces reveals nothing.
    Richard A wins the food fight!
    since there are no rules in cooking as proved by Briggs and Rob Bryden.
    Could Jesus walk on custard?

    I love Rob’s custard Optimisation.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w4K8r9OUIBM

  25. “But what happens when the Black Angus burgers start protesting against the chicken patties and and ham?”
    Meanwhile, back at the main topic, you’re bordering on multiple neglected trigger warnings where every virtue signalling person will protest on behalf of all those who don’t really care that much. Angus beef is not permitted for Hindus. Ham is definitely not kosher or halal.

  26. http://www.breitbart.com/tech/2015/12/22/campus-crazies-agree-to-ban-dreaming-of-a-white-christmas-on-grounds-of-racism/

    This one was a hoax, but did get 18 signatures in an hour. Speaks to the quality of college students, doesn’t it?

  27. On the one hand, this complaint about “cultural appropriation” is the epitome of a tempest in a teapot.

    On the other hand, I’m still a bit perturbed when kosher salt is used to cure bacon.

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