Last Words: Calling Out the Copy Cats—A Food Rant - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Last Words: Calling Out the Copy Cats—A Food Rant

Last Words: Calling Out the Copy Cats—A Food Rant

Published September 7, 2017

Dear Food Purveyors,

Stop taking Icelandic diners for a ride!

On one hand it is hard enough to have to contend with the dairy monopoly MS warping collective palates with their saline block imitation feta and pudding-like Greek yoghurt. Now, it’s as if Icelandic food culture is under attack just as it is coming into its own.

My Facebook feed is filled with ads and recommendations to subscription food services (looking at you Eldum Rétt) offering an insultingly watered-down approach to home cooking, rife with ingredient swapping and bold cultural appropriation. Restaurant menus too indulge in the same dalliances. A frequent offender being dishes dubbed “Indian” due to a sprinkling of mystery “curry powder” which sends real Desi fare scurrying for cover by mere association.

It would be fun if slapping a foreign country’s name on your dish automatically bequeathed to you that culture’s entire culinary history, but that’s not how it works. At best it’s lazy; at worst it’s blatant orientalist exoticising. If you are going to copycat, please extend the same respect to other cuisines that you afford to Icelandic cuisine.

Here are a list of things that get my goat in no specific order of annoyance:

– Supermarkets selling round loaves of bread as pita. Err.. what?
– Emmessis and Kjörís selling us thickened air as ice-cream
– Frozen baked goods from Denmark sold as fresh in-house treats
– Tubs of white gelatin which MS insists is sour cream

And while I’m at it, for Christmas, I’d like a proper fishmonger. One that sells whole fish, and razor clams (why not?!). And trash that slimy, pre-marinade goop!

We, the paying public, deserve better. The restaurants, the media, and the stores are letting us down. We are letting ourselves down. When we buy food, we are buying an experience, an education in taste, texture and culture. We are building a memory that we will look back on. We should strive for more than paying lip service to culinary traditions, more than Instagram likes.

There’s work to do here. What’re you waiting for?

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