Cultural appropriation, should the term be unfamiliar, is the claim that participating in a custom associated with a culture other than your own is the equivalent of stealing. Wear a sombrero or eat guacamole on Cinco de Mayo, and you are guilty of appropriating Mexican culture. Eat dim sum on the Chinese New Year, and you’ve insulted your Chinese neighbor. A commercial for one particular bread used to claim, “You don’t have to be Jewish to love Levy’s rye.” Nowadays, you apparently do.
All of which brings us to an item in the news. BBC News reports that celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has been “accused of cultural appropriation for calling a new product ‘punchy jerk rice.'”
The decision to label the microwavable rice “jerk” has been criticised, because the product doesn’t contain many of the ingredients traditionally used in a Jamaican jerk marinade.
“I’m just wondering do you know what Jamaican jerk actually is?” MP Dawn Butler asked the celebrity chef.
He said he used the name to show where he drew his culinary inspiration from.
The main grievance of Oliver’s critics is that “jerk rice” isn’t really a thing.
I can attest to the accuracy of that statement. Having eaten numerous Jamaican meals in New York City, I have come across jerk chicken, jerk fish, and even jerk goat. Jerk rice? Never.