Culinary Imperialism Food Segregation at the Market.

Culinary imperialism occurs in many forms, yet one of the most common and pervasive imperialist tendencies is the designation of international foods to a small segment of the imperialist grocery store.  Food culture varies from nation to nation.  The ways in which foods are prepared, honored, and served are different from region to region.  However, when foods become attributed to a certain nation, it can be tempting to classify these foods as other than, other than we are, other than the mainstream, other than what is normal to us. 

When visiting ones local market, it is often the case that all of the normal foods, the ones from our own nation, our own foods, are offered in the regular areas of the grocery store.  The foods which are somehow distinctly different, different enough to merit the exclusive section and brand of being international foods, are relegated to their own small and private section of the market, effectively removed from all of the normal foods.  It is interesting to consider the ways in which imperialist tendencies have led to the creation of segregation aisles and shelves at local markets.
Food segregation is unfair to the idea of mutual human respect, inclusiveness, and even free trade.  What makes foods so different or so uncommon that they must be sectioned off from all other foods  It is a kind of way of making an imperialist statement.  This separatism says to the targeted nations that the mainstream nation is not completely satisfied with you, that you are not quite good enough to be completely welcomed in our community.  Your bread, cookies, sauces, and grains belong on a different shelf, a shelf markedly stowed away from the rest of us.  It is important for people to see the lack of integration and lack of unity that this kind of separatism invokes and perpetuates.  In order for all people to feel welcomed into a nation, it is a basic and common right for their kinds of foods to be marketed on the shelves with all of the other varieties of food.  Like in cooking, the drawing together of various spices often helps to flesh out the taste of the meal.  The drawing together of different types of people and foods leads to cultural vibrancy and an understanding and appreciation of diverse lifestyles and behaviors.
The famous anthropologist Narayan explains that food is often intimately connected with nationality and ethnicity and it is important for foods to be proudly associated with cultural identity, however, in the same respect, it is important for foods to be considered within a global context and considerate of the fact that all foods are international.  Food culture is expressed within the world community in all nations, and all of the various foods should be welcome to display their diversity with pride.  When some types of foods are not incorporated into the common shelves of a local market, it is a shameful highlight of the imperialist tendencies of the people who work at the market and the people who shop there.  While it is highly appropriate for various foods to be marketed in association with cultural differences, it is highly inappropriate for various foods to be sectioned off from all others.  Integration is the key to civil rights, and food integration is just as important as human integration.  It is certain that not all people and foods are the same, however, they all share equal rights and should have equal access to markets.  Every international section of every grocery store is an embarrassment to multinational and multicultural communities.  Just as there should be no neighborhoods which are relegated to the outsiders, the foreigners, there should be no grocery store aisles and shelves which are relegated to the outsiders, the foreigners.  Separatism and segregation is a nasty reminder of past injustices, and inclusiveness and multicultural awareness and consideration is the future of civil society.


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