Learning Or Appropriating?

Pho pizza, banana curry pizza, ramen burger, pho burritos, and bulgogi beef burritos are just a few of the bizarre combinations that have surprised customers and created numerous arguments about cultural appropriation on social media.

The Italians were furious when pizza went “Hawaiian” with pineapples, or when bananas and curry powder were added by the Swedes. Now, it is the Vietnamese’s turn to raise their eyebrows at Pho pizza.

Respect cultural differences

In the post “Pho Pizza Exists?!” on Facebook page BuzzFeed Food, the dish at a restaurant in Australia has tens of thousands of comments, mostly all critical.

Disapproving people state that pho, a traditional Vietnamese dish, should not be called pho without a rich beef bone broth. A cheese pizza with toppings of beef, bean sprouts, onions and herbs does not reflect the typical values ​​of a hot bowl of pho. For many individuals, this combination destroys the quintessential features of both pizza and pho.

When it comes to cuisine, respect for cultural differences is highly appreciated. Typical dishes of a nation contain a story that reflects the spiritual and cultural life of that country. When a dish travels beyond the border, it helps to introduce the culture of a country to international friends. Borrowing the unique cultural traits of another nation to find creative inspiration is acceptable, but lifting it half-heartedly, without research, is disrespectful.

Cultural appropriation or cultural learning?

Does cultural appropriation cause negative impacts on the original culture or is it simply a creative innovation? In the globalized world, some think it should be considered cultural learning because it attracts attention and makes people want to imitate it.

Today, the Hawaiian pizza with pineapple and cheese is one of the most popular combinations in many countries. This is despite the fact that Italians thought it was a weird idea. In Sweden, banana curry pizza is well received by diners despite the unusual combination of ingredients.

In Vietnam, a French baguette when first imported into the country was only served with pâté and ham. But over time, the locals served it with meatballs, grilled fish,  roast pork, chicken, and barbecue or shredded meat. These modified versions have become popular not only with the Vietnamese but also with international tourists. Along with pho, banh mi is a must-try dish for travellers.

Another example is French fries that have been made into poutine – considered one of Canada’s most typical dishes. Poutine was created in 1957 when a truck driver in Warwick, Que., wanted to add some cheese and gravy to his fries. Poutine is now more diverse with many sides such as beef, bacon, and mushrooms.

Are these cases successful examples of cultural appropriation in cuisine? New ideas have always faced praise and criticism. If cultural fusions and combinations of cuisines are welcomed depends on the taste of an individual. Time will tell if the new creations are accepted or not.

This post is also available in: Tiếng Việt

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This post is also available in: Tiếng Việt