Monday, December 21, 2015

#300: Suffer Your Sushi in Silence

I have long since stopped wondering how the idiocy of some things on Earth have given me enough fodder; this is piece #300 and there is plenty to keep writing about.

Today we find that the idiocy can extend to ... you guessed it: sushi.  Yes, that's right; according to this article, numerous ethnic groups at Oberlin College, a liberal-dominated college (but I repeat myself) in Ohio, have been kicking and moaning because their meal plan offers food that offends their ethnicities.  No, I'm not kidding.

One Japanese student, for example, told someone who claimed to care that "... the sushi rice was undercooked in a way that was ... disrespectful of her culture."  That's right, she said that in those words.  The article goes on: "Tomoyo Joshi, a junior from Japan, was highly offended by this flagrant violation of her rice. 'If people not from that heritage take food, modify it and serve it as authentic, it is appropriative' ”, according to the New York Post.

Well, whether or not the Oberlin College cafeteria actually called their sushi "authentic" and not just "sushi" was unclear; likely they called it "sushi" and left it at that.  The same is likely true of the fried chicken that was complained about by black students as inauthentic; the Indian students complained about beef in the tandoori the cafeteria serves, and, oh, horror; there was cole slaw in the banh mi sandwiches instead of the pickled vegetables, which offended Vietnamese students.

OK, I really don't care whether or not they liked the food.  What I actually do care about is that somewhere in the bowels of Oberlin College, these students were somehow imbued with an odd idea.  They would not do what normal people would do, i.e., to joke among themselves about how cafeteria workers in Ohio couldn't figure out how to make sushi right, or maybe thank the College for actually trying to make it in the first place.

They would rather preen their ethnicities, and kick and moan about how offended they were that these people who were ostensibly trying to provide some variety in the cafeteria by, well, trying to make this stuff, somehow insulted them by undercooking the rice, or having too much cream in the fried chicken.

Who in Heaven's name taught them that that was the appropriate response?

I don't have much in the way of ethnic concern, being of a variety of ethnicities myself.  I am, however, an American, a gentleman, a Christian, and generally a nice guy who appreciates when someone makes an effort that they didn't have to make in the first place.  So if I were to project myself and my own sensibilities into the excessively-self-important mind of Tomoyo Joshi, here's what I would have done.

I would have gone to the representative of the food service and said something like this: "I really appreciate that you tried to recognize that my culture has some very interesting food, and applaud your effort to bring it to the students here at Oberlin.  Having tried it now, I would like to help you going forward, by recommending how it can be improved to make it more authentically Japanese and perhaps even more flavorful."

Admit it -- not only would you have done the same (or just laughed at those incompetent cooks, the way we did when we were in college and kept choking on the food), but you are smart enough to know that if the pampered Oberlin kickers and moaners had actually done what I would do and offered to help, the food service people would have accepted the help and been willing to work with you.

At the very least, they might have been told that the changes that were made were to hew to the tastes of the majority of students, lest food be thrown away.  Or they indeed might have learned how to cook the rice properly.  It's the old "catching more flies with honey than with vinegar" thing.  And it works.

So what are they teaching at Oberlin?  And why would the college not be reacting the way I did and taking these kids aside to teach them how to get things done?  Are they actually teaching them to act like entitled, spoiled whiny brats even when they come from overseas?

The complaining kids should be embarrassed.  But Oberlin should be more ashamed.

Copyright 2015 by Robert Sutton
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  1. Here's precisely why this piece is correct. Let's say I were American in school in Japan, and they had, what, say "Coney Island hot dogs" on the menu, and they were really bad. I cannot imagine offending the food service there by complaining that my ethnic food was bad. So why should people come to the US and do it? You really have to hate this country to think that's the right thing to do.

  2. The proper (and even appropriately liberal) way for Oberlin to have responded is this:

    We the administration at Oberlin admit that we have been insensitive to the world situation regarding food. For that reason, we will be serving students for the next five days the type and quantity of food they could expect to eat if they lived in one of the five most impoverished countries in the world. We will start Monday with Burundi, followed by Ethiopia, Eritrea, Yemen and the Sudan. We hope this brings all students to a realization of just how rich and privileged they actually are.

  3. My fond memories of college food: 1) the time our fraternity cook used the instant mashed potatoes instead of the flour in the chocolate cake 2) yogurt? what the heck is that? supposed to be good for you, looks easy to buy at the student center, I'll give it a try 3) if you come downstairs and it's pancake day time to grab the box of corn flakes

    1. Don't forget that was the selfsame cook (RIP) who was cooking a turkey and had to go to the store. So while he was away, he took the half-cooked turkey out of the oven and put it back in when he returned. That is, of course, the precise way used to cultivate c. perfringens, one of the less-fun intestinal bacteria. At that, he was very successful; the turkey and subsequent state of our collective health not so much.