Guest post: So, should I make poutine instead?

Guest post by Anthony K, inspired by a conversation about multicultural cooking and eating as “appropriation.”

“Hi, you’ve reached ‘Livin’ Liberal’. Anthony from Edmonton, you’re on the line.”
“Hey, love the show. First time caller. It’s Canada Day, and we’re going to a party. My wife wants me to make avocado dip. Is that allowed?”
“Well, that depends. What’s your nationality?”
“Canadian. So, should I make poutine instead?”
“Do you speak French?”
“I know where my aunt’s pen is.”
“Then, non. What’s your ethnicity?”
“Croatian and Lithuanian. But I don’t speak those languages either.”
“Alright. Well, what’s the first thing your parents taught you to cook?”
“Breaded fried chicken.”
“No good. What else?”
“Oh, I remember we ate a lot of potato pancakes. That’s a Lithuanian thing.”
“Are you Jewish?”
“No, we were Catholic. I think the Catholics appropriated the potato pancakes from the Jews. My grandmother used to bake bagels before church.”
“Well, I think we can give you a bit of a pass. Thanks for call—”
“—I hate ’em.”
“What’s that?”
“Potato pancakes. Can’t stand them.”
“Alright, well, what do you like to cook that’s close?”
“Roti. First thing I taught myself to cook. And curry.”
“But you’re not—”
“Nope. Not as far as I know.”
“Well caller, there’s only one thing you can do: fake sick and stay home. Thanks for calling.

Folks, you’re listening to ‘Livin’ Liberal’. You check your cat’s litterbox, but do you check its privilege? Find out why you should after these messages from our sponsor.”


  1. Jean says

    I never thought I’d see the word poutine in one of your blog title. It’s also funny that is has become a symbol of sorts.

  2. quixote says

    Great post! Laughter really is the best medicine. And some of this privilege-checking, appropriation-purity-checking which has gone straight into holier-than-thou does need medicine.

  3. says

    The best of the left has always laughed at its own excesses. The phrase “politically correct” originated on the left, to mock the competitive “more pious than thou” competitions that are an inevitable pitfall of reformist thinking.

  4. says

    That. Was. Effing. BRILLIANT!
    An awesomely done highlight of the sad fact that these days, somewhere in the noise, the main message keeps getting lost.

  5. moarscienceplz says

    “Do you speak French?”
    “I know where my aunt’s pen is.”

    I don’t get this. Is it some kind of bilingual pun?

  6. iknklast says

    So, if I’m 1/4 Irish, 1/4 Swedish, and 1/2 English, I can eat half a serving of bangers and mash, a quarter serving of Irish stew, and a quarter serving of Swedish meatballs? I have to give up pizza and tacos?

    Being a syncretic culture isn’t a bad thing; it’s a good thing. It may not be appropriation so much as appreciation.

    Or we could be like Pat Buchanan, who got outraged when salsa nudged out ketchup for the number one sauce in the US – it’s just an indication to him of the un-American nature of society. Not PC in this case.

  7. says

    moar – no – beginner French books are alleged to have invariably included the phrase “la plume de ma tante est sur la table” – my aunt’s pen is on the table.

  8. says

    My beginner French books were written by our teacher, Madame Holenkoff – they were little story books about characters named Tiki and Taki. I wish I still had one, now I think of it.

  9. Jean says

    It’s funny to see how your own language is learned as a second language. I wonder if this is also dependent on the first language because I assume the difficulties and similarities vary enormously from one language to the other.

  10. footface says

    Yeah, it’s all relative. Is learning Mandarin hard? Well, hard for who? It’s easy for babies, harder for adults who speak related languages, and harder still for adults who speak unrelated languages. I’ve been taking Korean lessons for a couple years now. Is Korean a “hard” language? For adult English speakers, it’s pretty tough, I think. It’s so different from English in so many ways. But for a Japanese speaker, it’s probably not as challenging, as structurally Japanese and Korean are similar.

    Take a look at this infographic based on info from the (US) State Department’s Foreign Service Institute:

  11. says

    Ooops, hit tab-return too fast.

    That’s how I learned it; and it was a pretty good tongue-twister. Try saying it 3 times really fast and if you can you’re from the Aveyron.

  12. rjw1 says

    English is such a sensible language, no gender and fewer inflexions than most other Indo-European languages, of course its spelling is chaotic.

    @10 Helene,

    Yes, and there were unapproved variations on the ‘uncle and aunt’ theme.

    @15 footface,

    I learned, and then forgot, Japanese 101 many years ago, the major difficulty was the writing system which is a strange mixture of Chinese characters and an indigenous syllabary.

  13. johnthedrunkard says

    Actually, ‘politically correct’ was used with a straight face by Communist Party USA members. I’m not sure how early, but certainly in the enormous volte-face required by the Hitler-Stalin Pact.

    Not much left for satire in the face of THAT. I heard the term used, both seriously and ironically, in the mid 80s.

  14. brucegee1962 says

    OK, this is hilarious. But seriously, there are a few ideas held by some liberals that throw the rest into disrepute, and I’m starting to wonder if the disapproval of “cultural appropriation” may be one of them, as this satire brilliantly points out.

    I mean, throughout human history, cultural has been this fluid, messy thing, with overlapping cultures constantly borrowing and stealing from one another. The idea that there’s something wrong with this looks, frankly, a little silly. Since when did the porous boundaries between cultures turn into iron bars? And why do some people think that’s a good idea?

    I guess, as an academic, I feel that a lot of what can make it good or bad is the question of attribution. You’ve got to footnote your sources. When Paul Simon made “Graceland,” inspired by South African rhythms, and brought in Ladysmith Black Mambazo, that was pretty cool, in a way that Vanilla Ice pretending to be a rapper definitely wasn’t.

  15. says

    “It’s funny to see how your own language is learned as a second language.

    Many years ago I happened upon a NY City cable channel English lesson being given in Spanish, and heard the instructor speaking a sentence I didn’t really understand apart from the English word in the graphic on the screen, bird.

    Instructor speaking: “… … … … … … ‘bird.’ ‘bird.’ bird.’ … … … … … … … Brooklyn, … ‘boyd.’ ‘boyd.’ ‘boyd.’ … … …”

    I laughed. I couldn’t help it.

  16. Pieter B, FCD says

    Back in the ’60s I learned by watching the Puerto Rican channel on UHF (remember UHF?!) that Ajax Cleanser was “Limpiador ah-HAHKS.”

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