How would you view a new wrap on the market that contains sweet potato, rice, lettuce and sauce? As a possibility if you needed a quick snack on the run? Or as a blatant sign of cultural oppression and racial discrimination and also displaying overtones of an uncaring and bullying Empire?
That is the latest in the seemingly endless row over what’s being called ‘cultural appropriation’, in which Marks and Spencer found itself on the receiving end of criticism after launching a Sweet Potato Biryani wrap. Apparently, for some, putting biryani in a wrap rather than a bowl brings back memories of the days of the Raj, when India was the jewel in the crown of the British Empire. It’s just a wrap, but to these narrow-minded, oh-so-easily offended, puerile prigs it may as well be the Amritsar massacre.
Their criticisms included the accusation that it was not ‘genuine’. But how could it have been? It’s from Marks and Sparks, not Mumbai. The development of dishes has always been an evolutionary process, just study how creole cooking began: it’s pretty much hurling everything into a pot, chucking spice all over it and then serving it. Pizza was a peasant food in Italy, but now you can as easily spend a small fortune on one in a five-star hotel, loading it with squid ink, octopus and truffles, as you can on a high street Margherita.
We’ve also seen ‘Jerk Rice’, a Caribbean-inspired Jamie Oliver concoction, dragged up for apparently causing hurt and offence by lacking certain ingredients of a jerk marinade. Quite how a packet of microwaveable rice can hurt anyone is beyond me, unless you cook it for too long and burn your mouth when you eat it.
It’s not just food that’s in the sights of the crazed zealots. At some recent student parties the following were banned: sombreros because they could upset Mexicans, Roman togas because it cold be seen to be supporting slavery and hi-vis vests because it could be interpreted as taking the rise out of the working classes who wear them as they dig the roads or fill in the potholes.
Anyway, while we’re on the subject of the Romans, we can be utterly delighted about the “appropriation” that went on there. Thanks to them we got roads, bridges, aqueducts and rudimentary sanitisation and sewers. Next time you pull the chain to flush just think, in some small part you’ve got Julius Caesar to thank for it.