The bickering about so-called Cultural Appropriation continues apace this week, with Jamie Oliver accused of taking an important piece of Jamaican heritage and bastardising it for financial gain, whilst ignoring its’ place in the remarkable history of the Caribbean island. The item of contention? – Jerk seasoning!.
Oliver’s new product, Pukka Punchy Jerk Rice, has been slated by some who claim that Jerk can only be applied to marinades or rubs applied to meat, and that the genuine item should contain Allspice and authentic Caribbean chilli peppers. His product drew the attention of Dawn Butler, MP for Brent, who apparently hasn’t got anything better to do currently other than berate a chef for not using the correct spices in his food.
The cultural appropriation argument is a strange one. Those who push the point argue that certain things are too important to certain cultures to be freely adopted by those from another culture. If we applied this logic further, cultural integration would be impossible. Throughout the history of human civilisation, we have assimilated the ideas of others into new ideas, improved ideas. Whether that applies to food, drink, clothing, technology, language, engineering, democracy, religion (!), medicine or any number of other concepts that were once alien to us.
With food, the influence of other cultures into the UK’s is even more pronounced. The national dish is said to be Chicken Tikka Masala, a dish said to have been concocted in Scotland from traditional Tandoori chicken and a kind of spicy tomato soup. After the traditional British roast dinner, the most popular home-cooked meals are Spaghetti Bolognese and Lasagne. Even the most quintessentially English dish, Fish and Chips, is said to have been introduced to these shores by Sephardic Jewish settlers in the 1700s. If you look at takeaways, the three most popular in the UK are Chinese, Indian and Pizza.