#WRITERSBLOCK ‘Jerk Rice’, Chicken Shop Date And Culture Vultures

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Nobody likes Jamie Oliver. Nobody. Not his friends, not his wife, not his kids.

Petal Blossom Rainbow? Buddy Bear Maurice? River Rocket Blue Dallas? Father’s Day is gonna be rough at The Oliver’s.

First he came for the Turkey Twizzlers, I said nothing. Then he came for sugar (despite hovering so much of it into HIS OWN recipes that you’ll likely get type 2 diabetes from reading the list of ingredients) and still, I said nothing. Now he’s sniffing around Caribbean food and someone has to speak up.

 

So yes food is for everybody, but despite how much you may want to deny it, it comes from somewhere, has a culture, a history and a story. And:

1. You can’t jerk rice
2. Oliver was shown how to create a Jerk dish by Caribbean chef Levi Roots.
3. Despite this he ignored all of the spices, utensils and techniques that make a dish ‘jerk’ and decided to do it his way.
4. He’s profiting from it.

A white owned UK Caribbean restaurant (that isn’t Turtle Bay) Boom Burger bases the majority of its aesthetic on the Rastafari religion (yes, it is) They use everything from the language to the culture. The decor is in the pan African red-gold and green. Despite the colours and language, their menu doesn’t reflect the reflect this.
Rastas don’t eat meat (besides fish which many don’t consider meat) or shellfish, ESPECIALLY pork; so Boom Burger selling chicken, pork and something called a ‘Jerk salad’ is hugely disrespectful to the religion and culture; but it’s hardly surprising. In the west, Christians celebrate the resurrection of the son of God by hunting for chocolate eggs and Americans celebrate Native American genocide by eating turkeys.

So while the term ‘jerk’ comes from African slaves escaping deep into Jamaica whilst on the run from the British; using peppers and spices native to the area and smoking meat over a wood fire, in 2018 it’s hardly surprising that all of that will be completely ignored for ‘spicy rice’ in the name of capitalism.

Which bring us to fried chicken’ (also invented by African slaves) or to be more specific ‘chicken shop’ chicken.
Chicken shops tend to be a permanent fixture in the UK black community. From Morley’s to Sam’s to Perfect Fried Chicken, Southern Fried Chicken, Fantastically Fried Chicken, Pretty Well Fried Chicken or the many million other knock offs that litter the high road. Point is, you don’t have to be black to like fried chicken but it is black food.

Comedian Amelia Dimoldenberg’s ‘Chicken Shop Date’ features dates set in a chicken shop with the UK’s most well-known rappers. The humour comes from an awkward white girl in a traditionally black space with black people and their differences being funny. It’s a funny show and it existing isn’t necessarily a problem. But the accusations of cultural appropriation do stand. Would the show be as popular if it was set absolutely anywhere else? The whole point of the show is ‘look at this posh white girl slumming it in a chicken shop!’ Would it be popular without rappers? And instead just run of the mill celebs? Would she even have access to them? Rappers with millions of views on YouTube and no record label or PR training, bring an instant fan base of millions.

The truth is we’ve seen this before. We saw it with Eminem in ’99 and he and ‘The White Yardie’ both gained huge popularity due to their being white people in black spaces. And that doesn’t make Eminem any less talented or ‘Chicken Shop Date’ any less funny but in her case and to a much larger extent with Jamie’s minute rice, it’s once again using the tactic of taking the popularity of black culture and slapping an ‘acceptable’ white face on it.

Just ask yourself how successful would Nando’s be if it were marketed as an African¬†restaurant instead of a Portuguese one?

In 2011 former Lib Dem party leader Nick Clegg found that banks in the UK were four times as likely to deny a black person a business loan. So black people wrill struggle to even open a restaurant with food from their own culture, before some outsider who saw a documentary about Jamaica does. Jamie knows this. He knows his audience want different food but don’t want to venture out to get it; which is why appropriation is so successful, because there will always be a market for it.