In 2017, Eugene-based acupuncturist and white business owner Karen (yes, Karen) Taylor started her rice porridge company Breakfast Cure, prepackaged packets of flavored rice that customers turn into slow-cooker congee. . However, Taylor’s business has recently gained the attention of people across the country, and not in a good way: over the past week, posts on social media have circulated criticizing Taylor for the way she and her company have appropriated congee and alternated communities that have eaten it for centuries.
Over the weekend, Twitter user Casey Ho tweeted a screenshots thread on the company’s website, where the company markets its congees that “delight the Western palate.” In one blog post on company website that has since changed, Taylor wrote, “I spent a lot of time modernizing it for the western palette (sic) to make a congee that you can eat and find delicious and that doesn’t sound alien. … I’ve spent over 20 years trying all of these different combinations to find the really tasty and healthy ones that work in our modern world. Many people might say that congee already Is “Work in our modern world”, given that congee is consumed by hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people around the world, including the United States.
Ho’s tweets went viral, and other Twitter users began to publicly criticize the company for its approach to the dish and the cultures around it. “@BreakfastCure can strengthen Chinese tradition and recipes without worrying about being labeled ‘disgusting’ because white women are at the helm,” Frankie Huang written in a twitter thread. “My problem is not the existence of those $ 15 congee packs, people can eat whatever they want and boiling cereal is not a Chinese thing. It’s their Chinese culture-centric marketing that’s super rude.
Taylor has since publicly apologized, and the website has undergone significant changes since Ho posted the first screenshots. “Recently, we have failed to support and honor the Asian American community, and for that, we are deeply sorry,” said a statement on the website. “We take full responsibility for any language on our website or in our marketing and have taken immediate action to address and educate ourselves, revising our mission not only to create delicious breakfast meals, but to become a better ally for the AAPI community. Taylor chose not to speak officially in an interview with Eater Portland.
The impact and damage of cultural appropriation has been widely covered by countless websites and publications; Dakota Kim’s essay for Pastry refers directly to Kooks Burritos, Portland’s closed burrito cart that sparked another national conversation about white women coveting and enjoying the work and culture of people of color. “One culturally respectful thing for Kooks would have been to go back and explore food in depth over time, share the profits or pay for recipes, create a foundation or scholarship for street vendors and their children, ”Kim writes. “It’s not always what you do, but how you do it.”
• Breakfast cure [Official]
• Casey Ho’s Twitter Feed [Twitter]
• White woman making “improved” congee apologizes and continues sales [NBC]
• We have a bad conversation about food and cultural appropriation [P]