Rob Schneider tries to make paella … and is accused of cultural appropriation

Rob Schneider tries to make paella … and is accused of cultural appropriation

I’m not trying to be obtuse here, but last might I watched the 2009 film “Julie & Julia,” which in part chronicles the rise to fame of Julia Child, well-known foodie and author of a best-selling two-volume cookbook series titled “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.”

Child was born and raised in Pasadena, yet nowhere in the film — which earned the praise of the New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, and most notably (for reasons that will be explained presently) the website Salon — is she accused of cultural appropriation.

So if Salon is OK with a born-and-bred American cooking French food on television — and, to add insult to injury, calling her series “The French Chef” — why does the site come down do hard on poor Rob Schneider for having tried his hand at paella on Christmas?

It wasn’t just Salon that took umbrage at Schneider’s desecration of a “beloved Spanish dish.” As columnist Mireia Triguero Roura notes:

On Christmas Eve … former “Saturday Night Live” star Rob Schneider attempted to make paella at home. And like many people in this Instagram-saturated world we live in, he thought his fans would appreciate a snap of his culinary adventures. Little did he know that his picture would break loose Twitter hell.

Spaniards were outraged. Some replied with angry, insulting tweets. Many sent pictures of their own paellas as inspiration. Others created fake, outrageous variations on the classic hot dog. A Spanish chef kindly took it upon himself to show the American actor what paella is and what it isn’t. For some hours, this became a trending topic in some regions in Spain….

That’s really sad. I understand how terribly confused liberals are here in the U.S., but residents of Spain — actual Spaniards! — really took time out to fuss and fume over what some American cooked? And, please, don’t lecture me about tradition and how seriously certain cultures, especially those in Europe, take their recipes. I was a restaurant critic and food writer for 17 years and still own a sizeable library of books on food.

Triguero Roura (who I presume is Spanish) impeaches herself first by using the idiotic term cultural appropriation and second by seeming to criticize Schneider because he is not a chef. (She also harrumphs at the “paella” concocted by an actual chef, Jamie Oliver, but there she is just being effete.) But the fact that Rob Schneider is not a professional cook is precisely the reason why devoting an article to a condemnation of his “paella” recipe is over the top.

Ultimately, though, my biggest grievance with the article is the political correctness angle, which surfaces in full bloom in the penultimate paragraph:

Krishnendu Ray, a New York University professor of food studies, argues in “The Ethnic Restaurateur” that white chefs have more freedom to play with other people’s food than chefs of color do, which creates an inherent inequality in the field. To that, I would add that in a world where most people turn to the Internet to find recipes — and English is the de facto lingua franca of the online world — English-speaking chefs not only have more freedom to play around, but they also have the power to ultimately transform traditional dishes from other countries, without so much as an acknowledgement.

In case liberals haven’t noticed, they lost their political stranglehold on the country in the last election premoninantly because of their full-throated hissy fits over trifles like this. I am perfectly content to watch the cultural and sociopolitical pendulums swing back from the brink of lunacy. If Triguero Roura et. al. feel the same way, they should by all means continue to make mountains out of molehills.

Howard Portnoy

Howard Portnoy

Howard Portnoy has written for The Blaze, HotAir, NewsBusters, Weasel Zippers, Conservative Firing Line, RedCounty, and New York’s Daily News. He has one published novel, Hot Rain, (G. P. Putnam’s Sons), and has been a guest on Radio Vice Online with Jim Vicevich, The Alana Burke Show, Smart Life with Dr. Gina, and The George Espenlaub Show.


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