Last week, colleagues Erik Bakker and Anima Ruissen from the LEI in the Hague gave a guest lecture in the Food Culture Course on ethnic entrepreneurship. Food culture is often a resource at the disposal of immigrants on which they can build food entrepreneurship. There are often low barriers of entrance towards starting an ethnic restaurant where ‘authentic’ foreign dishes can be sold.
In an earlier week, we discussed the meaning of ‘authenticity’ with the helpful work of Lisa Heldke who shows the sort of dialogue always going on between those cooking and those eating. The ethnic ‘other’ dish is seen as exotic and thus as authentic (cultural outsiders have no other way of knowing). There is a dialogue between exotic and the dominant culture (see TedTalk of Jennifer 8 Lee). We can see the mixing of Indonesian and Chinese cuisines in the Netherlands and the general tendency of down-spicing food as an example of such a dialogue too.
More contemporary examples shown by Erik and Anima are ethnic supermarkets or a fast food dish such as the ‘Kapsalon’, where fries, shoarma meat, salad and melted cheese are involved. The Kapsalon is an invention from Rotterdam but virally spread over the country. The Kapsalon as a successful new dish might be seen a signifier of successful immigrant integration and upward mobility in a new country. This is at least what the provocative book ‘Arrival City’ by Doug Saunders shows, which was given by Erik and Anima as one of the readings for their lecture. The arguments made by Doug Saunders undermine some preconceived insights in rural sociology about the (un)willingness to leave the land for the city(slum). On the other hand, the book also has a striking similar underlying notion of people’s resilience enhanced when self-organisation and crucial degrees of autonomy are possible (in both rural and urban livelihood strategies). Thank you Anima and Erik for your interesting contribution!