If you need any more proof that reality is broken, look no further. The last place you might expect to be a hotbed of cultural appropriation, racially charged language and anti-Semitism is the recipe section of Bon Appetit magazine. And yet someone looked hard enough. And actually found such toxicity in there among the guides to Cabbage Roll Casseroles and Seared Short Ribs with Mushrooms. To the point the Bon Appetit editors are currently engaged in going back through their archives to change or remove anything that anyone might decide is offensive.
By the same token, the last place you'd expect to find someone pushing back against the whole situation is the Op-Ed page of the New York Times. Which has traditionally been the comfy, warm, Lay-Z-Boy recliner where wokeness goes to put its feet up and enjoy a nice cup of tea next to the fire. Instead, one NYT columnist is taking verbal shots at the whole situation.
Such is life in the Bananaverse we find ourselves living in in 2021.
Daily Mail - New York Times columnist Bret Stephens ... took aim at Bon Appetit's 'Archive Repair Project', which launched last July as an effort to identify and edit 'problematic recipes' over the past 55 years.
In a recent example, Bon Appetit apologized for a 2015 recipe that had promised 'actually good hamantaschen,' a triangular cookie that is traditional for the Jewish festival of Purim, hours after someone on Twitter complained that the author wasn't Jewish.
'Most Jews would probably be grateful for an 'actually good' hamantasch,' wrote Stephens, who is Jewish. 'No transgression of sensitivities is so trivial that it will not invite a moralizing rebuke on social media.'
Food writer Abigail Koffler had written on Twitter of the hamantaschen recipe: 'Traditional foods do not automatically need to be updated, especially by someone who does not come from that tradition.'
Hours after the complaint, Bon Appetite had changed the headline on the six-year-old article to read 'Five Steps to Really Good Hamantaschen' and added an editor's note of apology. ...
Stephens, a Pulitzer-winning conservative columnist, slammed the move, writing 'no charge of cultural insensitivity is so far-fetched that it won't force a magazine into self-abasing self-expurgation,' saying that the incident was 'the apotheosis of Woke.'
The Archive Repair Project is an effort to search and edit 55 years of recipes from Bon Appetite and other Conde Nast magazines, which are collected at Epicurious.com.
The project's aim is to remove 'objectionable titles, ingredient lists and stories told through a white American lens,' according to the Associated Press.
I'll be the first to admit my white American lens. I'm so white and American I could be sold in slices by Kraft wrapped in little rectangles of cellophane. So it's possible in the hundreds of times I've thumbed through Bon Appetit looking for something to make for dinner, I'd missed all the culturally insensitive recipes and articles contained within. Maybe there's been stuff in there that would make Archie Bunker recoil in horror, and I was somehow blind to it. But I doubt that.
And while I know nothing about the Bret Stephens or anything else he's ever written, to this I say:
To be clear, I have no objection to going back and correcting old objectionable content. Try and watch beloved old Disney movies from about the 1940s through the 1960s through today's sensibilities. Things that were played for a laugh in your grandparents time (in "Dumbo," the leader of the black birds is actually named Jim Crow), would offend anyone today. So there's nothing at all wrong with them slapping a disclaimer in front of these things on Disney+. "Breakfast at Tiffany's" is such an admired RomCom that in the '90s we were writing songs about it. But I defy anyone to sit through the parts where Mickey Rooney plays the caricature of a Japanese guy without cringing yourself into a pretzel. The world does become better.
But worrying that a recipe suggests some traditional cookie is traditionally not very good is not an example of the world getting better. Only that we're becoming impossibly sensitive. In a way that we can't sustain. If "actually good" is offensive, then everything is offensive. In which case, offensiveness stops meaning anything.
Pick your fights, people. The recipe section of a cooking magazine is not the hill you want to die on. And I say that as someone whose culture has some of the worst cuisine of anyone. If someone wants to point out that the Boiled Dinner I plan on making for St. Paddy's Day is gross, you'll get no argument from me. Even the name is terrible. It's a not particularly quality cut of meat that's been cured to make it edible, then simmered all day with the cheapest root vegetables and the world's worst green leafy vegetable. I'm not triggered at all if some non-Irish person tells me that. Because I'm an adult (ish) with more important things to worry about. Besides, I can admit our food isn't great. The Irish are the only people in the world who didn't get our own salad dressing. The Italians got Italian and Creamy Italian. Even the Thousand Islands got one, and no one can find them on a map.
This is a prime example of how we all bend the knee to the Tyranny of the Individual. With all due respect to food writer Abigail Koffler, in the words of Ricky Gervais, "Just because you're offended doesn't mean you're right." But rather than tell her that, she gets a rewrite and an apology. Because that's how we roll now. One person says they're upset so we have to shape reality to suit them, when we should be ignoring them or telling them to relax already.
I mean, imagine the narcissism it requires to argue someone can't comment on a cultural food unless they themselves are from that culture. Take that to it's illogical conclusion for a minute.
So you can't say you're not into sushi unless you're Japanese? Does that mean you also can't say you like it?
Are we allowed to eat Italian bread if we ourselves are not Italian?
Can I make French Toast for my kids, or do I have to get on Ancestry.com to find out how much Franco DNA I have?
So does Pizzeria Uno's have to have a litmus test where they won't hire you unless you can tell them what's at 1060 West Addison?
To open a Boston Market franchise do you have to show proof that you have the Bobby Orr goal photo framed in your house?
Can you serve up buckets of The Colonel's 11 herbs and spices if you can't sing "My Old Kentucky Home?"
And don't get me started on the nightmare that would be running an IHOP.
But this is what we do now. We've lost the ability to just tell people who complain about nonsense, "Eh. Whatareyagonnado?" and get on with our lives. As well as our senses. The Tyranny of the Individual is going to destroy us all if we don't cut the shit. And soon.