My hometown became a foodie paradise starting a decade or so ago, when I lived in California. At first it was beautiful. With each visit home, I noticed new food carts selling everything from Korean tacos and Thai-Hainanese chicken and rice to Texas-style pulled pork. Later came breweries, exotic doughnut shops and haute-hipster ice-cream parlors.
But these days politics is ruining the scene.Just like everything else.
One of the first victims, Sally Krantz, in 2016 opened a bistro, Saffron Colonial, featuring historical recipes from the British Empire. Furious social-justice warriors accused her of racism and glorifying colonialism. Mobs gathered outside the establishment, and detractors swamped its Yelp page with negative reviews and insults. Suppliers boycotted her. Eventually Ms. Krantz gave in and changed the name to British Overseas Restaurant Corporation.Never ever ever give in. It just emboldens them.
Blood was in the water. In the spring of 2017, Kali Wilgus and Liz Connelly were accused of “stealing” Mexican culture—by selling burritos from a truck. They received death threats and shut down their business and their social-media presence.Wait, what? It's 'stealing culture' to cook foreign dishes? Has anyone told Delia and Jamie?
Then an anonymous Google spreadsheet began circulating warning about restaurants that served ethnic cuisine: “These white-owned businesses hamper the ability for POC”—people of color—“to run successful businesses of their own . . . by either consuming market share with their attempt at authenticity or by modifying foods to market to white palates.”Ah, right, so before I buy some egg fried rice I've got to demand the owner's passport, to make sure they are authentically Chinese?
And woe betide him if he tries to offer me some chop suey!
Last month Lillian Green, an “equity director” at the state Education Department, entered Back to Eden, a vegan bakery, a few minutes after closing time. She recorded videos accusing the bakery of refusing to serve her because she was black. Using the hashtag #LivingWhileBlack, Ms. Green—a doctoral student at Lewis and Clark College—took to Facebook to demand that Back to Eden fire the clerks. The bakery obliged, issued a 3,400-word apology, and offered Ms. Green a job training the remaining employees in “racial inclusivity.”Which is not so much appeasing the crocodile so it eats you last, but throwing yourself into the beast's jaws right away.
“In this situation it doesn’t really matter that the two staff members working are not themselves racist because the call they made to deny Lillian service caused her to feel like she had been discriminated against,” co-owner Joe Blomgren wrote in a now-deleted Facebook statement. “Sometimes impact outweighs intent and when that happens people do need to be held accountable.”Here's a controversial idea: why not hold people like Lillian responsible, for a change? Why not explain to them that their take on a situation is wrong, and the employees were right, and if she doesn't like it, she can go elsewhere?
Last week the Backyard Social tavern hosted a “Reparations Happy Hour,” during which “Black, Brown, and Indigenous people” were each given $10 and a drink paid for by white donors—who were asked not to attend.These people are cutting their own throats. And I'd sit back and laugh, were it not so potentially serious.