Did pilgrims really give Native Americans turkey on the first ever Thanksgiving? If not, why do we insist on eating that tasteless bird in November? If you’re not making the turkey — or making another main dish because somehow its odd not to have turkey — what are you making instead? And why?
You must be wondering why we at Inkstick care about your holiday menu. It’s because food itself has its own story — and relationship with systems of power. Numerous communities take pride in their cuisines, which serve as a tasty (and satisfying) way to share one’s culture and roots. After all, the dinner table is the place to get together with family and friends. Yet, as we expand our global palette and American grocery stores increasingly add “ethnic food” aisles — or add those ethnic staples to their general stock — our holiday tables are evolving. Anyone else try garam masala-based turkey? Baked sweet potatoes with za’taar?
Conversely, the coopting of food is another means of oppression — and colonization. What harm do we cause when we label hummus as Israeli? Is butter chicken really Indian? Why is sushi only associated with Japan? Is orange chicken really Chinese? At what point does white chefs adapting dishes with “new” ingredients become appropriation? For better or worse, we have made these associations mainstream. Labels, however, matter, especially when it comes to food.
At Inkstick, we’re curious about how these labels and characterizations matter to you. As you finalize your holiday menu, teach us about a dish on your menu and how that dish tells a story — about your family, your personal experience, or a broader issue of sustainability or peace and security. But there is a catch. Your submission must contain a recipe. After all, we need to figure out what we’re cooking, too.
Please send related submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org by 5 p.m. ET on November 12, 2021, with the subject “What’s On your Table? series.” Submissions should be between 900–2000 words. Further guidelines are here.