White people have a history of thinking they know best about the food of other cultures. Remember the time Jamie Oliver shared a recipe for Ghanaian jollof rice, inadvertently kicking off #JollofGate and causing outrage amongst West Africans everywhere? Or what about when the Masterchef judges informed a Malaysian contestant her Malaysian chicken rendang wasn’t quite up to scratch? Cultural appropriation and colonial arrogance is alive and well when it comes to food, even in 2018.
And now an events organisation has come under fire for its, ahem, innovative take on the classic Caribbean recipe of jerk chicken with rice and peas. Nottingham Beach—an urban event with food stalls and fairground rides that takes place in the Midlands city each summer—sparked outrage after residents noticed its version of the traditional dish contained boiled rice with garden peas, instead of kidney beans.
According to the BBC, many locals saw Nottingham Beach's rice and peas as an insult to the West Indian communities in the area, and felt that the recipe was not only cultural appropriation, but also just a terrible way to make rice and peas. Traditional recipes for the dish use kidney beans, often soaked overnight to give the rice additional flavour and texture.
Facebook user Rastarella Falade was first to call out the organisers. In a post on the site, she called the garden rice and peas a “joke ting of a meal,” and encouraged the Jamaicans of Nottingham to protest the event.
“So many local authentic Jamaican food places in Notts but whoever is behind The Beach [would] rather serve this joke ting of a meal,” she wrote. “Local independent businesses have to pay ridiculous money to even get a look in on The Beach or even the city centre. If anything, whoever is behind the beach needs to PAY an Authentic Jamaican Catering business to be on their fake beach with joke price drinks and insulting dishes like this.”
Nottingham Beach is run by events organisation The Mellors Group, who responded to the criticism by telling the BBC that the dish had never been advertised as Caribbean. According to the group, the contractor on site changed the recipe to use garden peas to make the dish more accessible, and that it had been advertised as “beach barbecue” and not “Caribbean-style.”
MUNCHIES reached out to The Mellors Group for a comment but had not received a response at time of publishing.
Next time—and here’s a crazy idea—leave the Caribbean food to the Caribbean food vendors?