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This Columbus Day, a Call to Stop Columbusing

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Happy Columbus Day, I guess. Just kidding.

Columbus Day is a holiday that is objectively bad and incorrect for reasons other people have written about already. The holiday effectively functions as an observance of indigenous people's pain and trauma. Hm...doesn't sound great to me!

Our awareness of this has crept into our cultural vernacular, particularly when it comes to food. I'm talking about "Columbusing," that rather unbecoming trend of writers in food and lifestyle media coming upon an imagined Other's food for the first time and using language that suggests they've 'discovered' it themselves for the benefit of the rest of the world. (Columbusing has become common verbiage popularized by the 2014 College Humor video above.)

And still, the egregiousness continues. Let's take a look at what this past month alone has wrought:

  • Early last month, Bon Appetit published a video entitled “Pho Is the New Ramen” (ah!) with the caption, “PSA: How to Eat Pho" (ahh!), featuring an expressly non-Vietnamese chef instructing readers on how to eat a food that Vietnamese people have eaten for centuries. And I'm pretty sure they've eaten it the 'right' way. They issued two updates.
  • "Ice Cream Ramen Is the Latest Instagram Dessert Trend" declared Cosmopolitan, reassuring us that "'s not actually as weird as it sounds!" Only later in the piece does writer Danielle Tullo swoop in with a confirmation that "[t]he noodles are actually kanten, a traditional Japanese jelly noodle that’s made from algae."
  • Disney came out with a video for "Tiana's Healthy Gumbo," a bastardization of a beloved regional dish that deigned to have kale in it. The reaction was swift and furious from those in New Orleans and outside it, and Disney ended up removing the video.

I don't eat fish very matcha but you've got me hooked 😭😂🎣#taiyakinyc

A photo posted by Samantha Wong (@xsamantharosee) on

  • Gothamist was supremely weirded out by Japanese taiyaki, the dessert and delicacy that involves red bean paste squeezed in between two fish-shaped waffles.
  • Refinery29 chalked ube, a Filipino sweet yam, to just some pretty little purple thing that sounds 'unappetizing' even though it's formed the base of a great number of dishes in the Philippines, ones people have eaten for years.

Sigh. Anyway, all I'm saying is that Columbusing is bad and we shouldn't do it. And by "we," I really mean it. If we screw this up, tell us. It seems that 2016, food and lifestyle media has reached a precipice in which we're coming to agree that, yes, Columbusing is not good. (Just look to the furor generated by Bon Appetit's pho crime.)

We want to be held to the same standards that we're holding others to. When journalists enter this industry, they make a pact to hold themselves to a certain standard of rigor and respect for their readers. In short, let's not Columbus. I would like to do away with this genre. Now please observe Indigenous People's Day.

Any examples of 'Columbusing' you'd like to share? Let us know in the comments!

Automagic Holiday Menu Maker!
Automagic Holiday Menu Maker!

Tags: Food News, Food Biz