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29 Jun, 2021 15:46

Bon appetit! Now a woke academic claims France is serving up a side dish of RACISM with its haute cuisine

Bon appetit! Now a woke academic claims France is serving up a side dish of RACISM with its haute cuisine

The French are obsessively proud of their fine dining, but it hasn’t gone down well with one university professor, who claims their love of posh food is being used to reinforce white privilege and dominance. Yes, really.

Aw, man – sacré bleu! Some bonkers professor from the University of Woke (that’s a new college based in a gender-neutral parallel universe where nobody says anything that could offend anyone EVER) has forced me to break a most enjoyable habit of a lifetime... and side with the French.

I guess the Germans of the first half of the 20th century managed the same trick, though. The Kaiser and then Adolf Hitler forced most Brits to override their natural instincts and run to the aid of those folk on the other side of the English Channel who somehow cannot defend themselves. 

A baguette isn’t an effective weapon, I suppose.

Still, at least we can briefly bask in the glow of France, a team that won the World Cup last time around, getting knocked out of the Euros on penalties by neutral minnows Switzerland. France’s star man Kylian Mbappe even missed a spot kick. Personally, as a Barca fan, I blame their striker Antoine Griezmann – if he spent as much time on his game as he does fannying around with his luscious hair, Les Bleus – and Barca – would be unbeatable.

Anyway, it turns out that a French lady has scored an own goal against her national cuisine and caused a veritable food fight in culinary circles.

Mathilde Cohen might be a law professor at the University of Connecticut in the US, but graduated from the Sorbonne in Paris. I’d take a punt on her being of the comfortable, over-educated middle classes. Never mind that, though – she’s no fan of French cuisine! I wonder if she likes football?

Ms Cohen stares through her kitchen window in a video postulating her theory on French food and race, as part of a seminar organised by Sciences Po Paris and the University of Nanterre. The video has already had almost 650,000 hits. She should be fronting ads for Camembert – she’d make a fortune.

“I’d like to tell you about the idea of food whiteness in French culture,” she says. “By this, I mean the use of food to reinforce whiteness as a dominant racial identity. The French meal is often presented as the national ritual to which every citizen can participate equally. But French food ways are shaped by white middle- and upper-class norms … and the boundaries of whiteness are policed through daily food encounters.” Etcetera. School meals – they’re to blame, she suggests.

This is the abstract from her academic paper that’s caused all the fuss. Take a deep breath – you’re gonna need it. “Food is fundamental to French identity. So too is the denial of structural racism and racial identity. Both tenets are central to the nation’s self-definition, making them all the more important to think about together. This article purports to identify and critique a form of French food Whiteness (blanchité alimentaire) – that is, the use of food and eating practices to reify and reinforce Whiteness as the dominant racial identity. To do so, it develops four case studies of how law elevates a fiction of homogeneous French/White food as superior and normative at the expense of alternative ways of eating and their eaters – the law of geographical indications, school lunches, citizenship, and cultural heritage.”

Oof. Oh dear. Sounds like a cracking read. This is from an author who also gave the world ‘From Human Dairies to Milk Riders: A Visual History of Milk Banking in New York City, 1918-2018’ and ‘Regulating Milk: Women and Cows in France and the United States.’ 

In response, radio journalist David Abiker made a useful suggestion to French chefs everywhere: they should take to the knee in their kitchens and “beat themselves with their whisks.” 

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Righto then, Mathilde. There’s actually no need to write any such paper ever again. Wanna know why? I did an anti-bias training course and learnt that pretty much everything is biased in one way or another: it’s part of what makes us humans human. Black or white. Caucasian or Chinese. Therefore, French food MUST be biased or racist, somehow – it’s impossible for it not to be. It depends simply on how you look at it. Besides, who cares? I don’t even like French food, I think it’s vastly overrated – a bit like Kylian Mbappe.

And anyway, what about couscous? Those delicious little balls of semolina found in many a Parisian restaurant aren’t even French at all. They’re from Morocco and Algeria.

Et oui, Mademoiselle Cohen, I’m sure football is racist, too. It must be, somehow. But before you write your paper on that rich and endless theme, have you got any advice for Mbappe on how to score a penalty?

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.