Thursday, September 21, 2017


I happened to be read this, from the Oberlin Review of November 6, 2015:

Diep Nguyen, a College first-year from Vietnam, jumped with excitement at the sight of Vietnamese food on Stevenson Dining Hall’s menu at Orientation this year. Craving Vietnamese comfort food, Nguyen rushed to the food station with high hopes. What she got, however, was a total disappointment.
The traditional Banh Mi Vietnamese sandwich that Stevenson Dining Hall promised turned out to be a cheap imitation of the East Asian dish. Instead of a crispy baguette with grilled pork, pate, pickled vegetables and fresh herbs, the sandwich used ciabatta bread, pulled pork and coleslaw.
“It was ridiculous,” Nguyen said. “How could they just throw out something completely different and label it as another country’s traditional food?”
Nguyen added that Bon Appétit, the food service management company contracted by Oberlin College, has a history of blurring the line between culinary diversity and cultural appropriation by modifying the recipes without respect for certain Asian countries’ cuisines.

Yeah well, you’re not going to get any jaded, culturally insensitive remarks or microaggressions from me, and I’m definitely not going to mention that the baguette was introduced to Vietnam by those filthy French imperialists.   

But life being as it is, a couple of days ago I found myself in Fred 62, a somewhat superior and not too hipsterish diner in Los Feliz.   And there on the menu was the “Pork Belly Banh Mi.”  The contents were listed as pork belly, ham hock, cilantro, pickled carrot, daikon, lettuce and sriracha, and it came in a baguette.  I ordered it of course – that’s a picture of it at the top of this post.  It was perfectly good, authentic enough for me, though you could probably imagine greater authenticity.  Unfortunately I didn’t have a jumping, rushing college first-year to tell me how offended I ought to be.

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