The Ta-Nehisi Coates Of Food
A friend e-mailed the link to this GQ profile of Tunde Wey, a Nigeria-born New Orleans chef, described by my friend as “the Ta-Nehisi Coates of food.” Oh? Dour and militant? That sounds like fun. Read on:
Perhaps you’re looking for a story about how Food Brings Us Together. About how even in These Dark Times, we can always gather around The Table to experience the healing Power of Food.
If so, I’m sorry.
Those are the kinds of platitudes that Wey, who is a prolific texter, might respond to with one of his favorite emojis: the little face laughing so hard that tears gush out of both eyes. In fact, he does not consider such comforting narratives any kind of laughing matter. He believes they are dangerous, and it’s his goal, as he travels across the country, to expose and erase them.
In New Orleans, where he now lives, he opened a lunch stall at which white people were asked to pay two and a half times more for a plate of food than people of color, the rough equivalent of the income disparity between the two groups. In Ann Arbor, white customers lined up to experience the highs and lows of random wealth distribution at Wey’s food truck, which utilized an elaborate algorithm to choose which diners would receive lunch for their money and which would get stuck with empty boxes. In New York and Durham and San Francisco and a dozen other cities, he’s hosted dinners where the food and drink is the pretense for facilitating the kinds of conversations that Americans do their best to avoid ever having.
Oh great. More:
In the Oxford American, he declared that white southern chefs should stop cooking dishes derived from the African slave trade and he upbraided author and Southern Foodways Alliance head John T. Edge: “John T., you have endorsed and celebrated the appropriation of black Southern food without consequence, and the consequences have compounded with interest,” he wrote. “You have to strip yourself of the marginal benefits of this appropriation willingly, with grace, or unwillingly by force and with shame.
OK, now he’s getting personal. This woke jackass FROM NIGERIA — who was raised in privilege there (“He grew up in a comfortably middle-class Yoruba family; his grandfather had been second-in-command during the military junta that ruled the country from 1966 to 1979”) comes to America as an illegal immigrant (it’s in the story) and tells me, a white man from the rural South, that the greens, cornbread, and pork that I grew up eating, that all people, black and white, in my hometown ate, amounts to “appropriation of black Southern food without consequence.” He pretty clearly knows nothing about Southern food culture.
There is nothing that the woke don’t ruin. This guy must be totally insufferable. There’s a reason why most Americans want to “avoid” those “conversations”: nobody wants to be told they are bad people for enjoying their Mama’s cornbread while white.
Whole thing here. Tunde Wey should just shut up and cook. But he’s got a great scam going on white liberals, so in a way, I’ve got to hand it to him. Here’s a video clip he did with the Oxford American: