People who live in DC have probably heard this, but perhaps its news to you all outside the District. DC is home to many delicious food trucks, many of which converge on my office building during lunch times. Fojol Brothers may be one of those, but I cannot judge their deliciousness. I judged their truck and they cannot win me back.
Unreasonable? Perhaps. But what else can one do in the face of such hipster ignorance?
The Fojol Brothers food trucks makes up fun, mystical countries, like Benethiopia and Merlindia:
Then, they dress up in fun, made up costumes that always include mustaches. True story. Notable costumes include turbans and once, when there was a woman working there, a belly dancing outfit. I went to take a picture of this guy serving food and he said “Can you wait for me to put on my mustache? I don’t want to get in trouble by being photographed without it.”:
And then these imaginative, fun loving entrepreneurs serve… Indian and Ethiopian food.
To take real culinary traditions, no matter how delicious, and repackage it as part of a fanciful, imaginary world implies that those ethnic foods, from real ethnic people, are part of a fanciful, imaginary world. Fake country, fake customs, real food? Renaming a country and calling it your own doesn’t make you creative. It makes you guilty of cultural appropriation. If this were an academic paper, it would be called plagiarism. If it were a geographic location is would be called colonialism. If it were a patent, it would be called stealing.
A few people got angry with the truck (racists!). Then some people defended it (overly-sensitives!). The owners themselves kind of apologized (We’re sorry a small minority of people are upset. But you’re wrong. We’re not offensive, we’re whimsical! And magical!). As with many of the minor crimes in this world, the cover up is worse than the crime itself. The ethnic mash-up make believe is questionable. Telling people that they’re in the wrong for being upset, that’s frustrating.