Steve Plotnicki wrote:
Natasha - There is a specific category of dining that is commonly known as ethnic. What is included in that category is a bit odd because it excludes cultures like French and Italian (except Southern Italian) and most Japanese cuisine. As a practical matter, the term really identifies the cuisines of cultures where poor people immigrated to America. That is why Italian is split in half. Northern Italy is eating truffles while Southern is eating meatballs. If you don't like the term, or think it is too perjorative, I would be happy to call the category something else. But no one has come up with a better term. Trying to conflate it with cheap non-ethnic restaurants only makes the situation worse because it muddies the situation. Where I disagree with you is when you assign motive to my using the term that is simply not there.
I don't think the word "ethnic" is pejorative or your use of it is objectionable in itself. It's using that word as a proxy
for "cheap" or "inferior" is where the objection lies. Why not call the category under discussion "cheap restaurants?" The title of the thread could be "Invisible ceilings at cheap restaurants," or if you want to be more precise, "Invisible ceilings at restaurants where the average entree is below $10" or whatever. Certainly, a great majority of restaurants run by recent immigrants from Asia, Africa, E. Europe -- as well as mom and pop restaurants of all cultural stripes -- would fall in this category. But at least that fact would then be incidental to your argument vis-a-vis the less-than-ideal use of pre-fab, non-artisanal ingredients. As it stands now, the title of the thread suggests a direct cause-and-effect between "ethnic-ness" and inferior ingredients, NOT a connection between specific price point and inferior ingredients. Perhaps the latter point, couched in such fashion, is too mundane and obvious to raise. But the former is blatantly racist. I mean, c'mon, the original discussion was about Spoon, and then you go off on a tangent about Indian restaurants using pre-fab mixes, and from there you say there is some kind of "invisible ceiling" through which "ethnic restaurants" -- as opposed to "cheap ethnic and non-ethnic restaurants," and opposed to just "cheap restaurants" -- have a hard time breaking?
If you indeed harbor no such pernicious attitude, conscious or otherwise, then "Invisible ceiling at cheap restaurants" would be a more accurate evocation of your point. Actually, "Invisible ceiling at Spoon" is more on-point. Really, I just don't get how raising Spoon's "ethnic-ness" per se, and then the repeated focus on ethnic restaurants in general, contributes anything useful or benign to your original point (that original point being -- I think!!! -- that Spoon uses more pre-fab, non-artisanal ingredients than one might expect, especially given its popularity).
Lastly: I think there might be a current running through this whole discussion of an attitude among certain people who frequent restaurant boards, who seem to give extra points to a restaurant simply for being "ethnic," regardless of the quality of the individual ingredients. I hinted at this earlier, that maybe this attitude might arise from a "Stuff White People Like" kind of condescension. But it could also be that, in general, Thai cuisine (or the ethnic cuisine of your choice) is just inherently more flavorful than non-ethnic cuisine
. And thus a Thai meal can still achieve a level of deliciousness even while using pre-fab, non-artisanal ingredients, whereas a non-ethnic meal that relies upon the same quantities of pre-fab, non-artisanal ingredients would be absolute dreck. Seen in that light, one could argue that Thai ("or ethnic") cuisine is superior to non-ethnic cuisine, no?