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April 4th, 2008


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03:04 am - Stupid White People Tricks
teaotter and I went out to a nearby Vietnamese restaurant we regularly go to – Got Pho. It's a very nice place with good food, a large menu, and a friendly staff. We came a bit late and left as it was closing and was we were leaving got to talking with the manager who recognized us as regulars. He was somewhat upset about an experience earlier that day when someone had clearly enjoyed the food but had been upset he asked for a fortune cookie and was annoyed when he was told that they didn't have any. The manager said he got this and similar requests and comments regularly, with people asking for sushi, chow mein, and fortune cookies and being annoyed when they were told that this place didn't have any of these things. The manager said he used to tell people that Vietnamese restaurants didn't have any of these things, but that only got them more upset, and so he simply said his restaurant didn't have them.

Both Becca and I were shocked – I could see this happening 25-30 years ago or even 15-20 years ago in this nation's more benighted rural areas, but that sort of ignorance is simultaneously baffling and disturbing in 2008 in a large city on the Pacific Rim. It's fairly clear that many, perhaps most of these people either have no idea what the large sign saying Vietnamese Restaurant meant or assumed that Asia is some unified and uniform whole and that "Asian food" is the same sort of category as Italian food and any Asian restaurant should be expected to have all of it. It's hard to tell where ignorance ends and bigotry begins, but once again either the stupidity &/or the prejudice of many people surprises and saddens me.
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From:andrewducker
Date:April 4th, 2008 10:13 am (UTC)
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I can understand people being surprised that Vietnamese restaurants don't have them - most people pay no attention to large chunks of their local surroundings, let alone worldwide ones. But getting upset/angry seems completely ridiculous to me.
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From:unciaa
Date:April 4th, 2008 02:16 pm (UTC)
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I suspect they may be getting angry because the feel embarrassed. People don't like losing face.
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From:antayla
Date:April 4th, 2008 10:36 am (UTC)
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Wow, how incredibly stupid.
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From:dancinglights
Date:April 4th, 2008 01:02 pm (UTC)
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This happens in Maryland/DC a lot. We also have a large but very [internally integrated?] Asian community near where I live, to the point that the Korean grocery carries specific staples for other Asian ethnic foods (including Indian) and has a mediocre sushi bar inside.
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From:used_songs
Date:April 4th, 2008 11:36 am (UTC)
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Wow. That's pretty amazing. I have noticed that my favorite Thai restaurant has started including items from other Asian countries on the menu. Maybe they get requests like this, too, and have given in.
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From:siderea
Date:April 4th, 2008 03:52 pm (UTC)
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I confess I'm kinda grateful when they do. I rather dislike Thai food but occasionally find myself socialy obliged to eat in a Thai* restaurant. Non-Thai food on the menu means I get to eat, too.

[* The situation is even more dire with Cambodian food: my office is over a swank Cambodian restaurant so that's typically where we have business dinners. *le sigh*]

I wonder how much it is clueless white people demanding things, and how much it's canny restauranteurs facilitating dining parties which include people like me who might otherwise veto going there - the same reason seafood restaraunts sell steak.
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From:silvaerina_tael
Date:April 4th, 2008 11:58 am (UTC)
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I'm thinking that regardless of what actual individual Asian country name is on the signage, people assume it all equals Chinese/Japanese, where Japanese = sushi. The same thing happens with the Middle East and Africa.
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From:heronheart
Date:April 4th, 2008 12:27 pm (UTC)
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Personally, I find this an interesting juxtaposition of phrases.

I could see this happening 25-30 years ago or even 15-20 years ago in this nation's more benighted rural areas

It's hard to tell where ignorance ends and bigotry begins
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From:mindstalk
Date:April 4th, 2008 07:05 pm (UTC)
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Is it bigotry to think that 30 years ago, most rural areas would have had much less exposure to Vietamese restaurants? Heck, 35 years ago *Chicago* wasn't overly endowed with Japanese restaurants, say. After all, for a long time we had immigration laws to keep Those People out of the country.

On my road trip through KY and TN a few years ago all the Chinese restaurants I saw were buffets, while if Chicago or San Francisco had any such they were an invisible minority. I hypothesized that "all you can eat" was the lure to get people to try "exotic".
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From:earlofstomp
Date:April 4th, 2008 03:06 pm (UTC)
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Yery interresting, in Austin TX (a curious mix of urban and rural really) we have many ethnic resturants including indian, pakastani, viet, korean, persian...

Sometimes people clompain bout the lack of beef at one indian buffet when its at another. I actually pointed out to them why and they seemed to understnad in a way that said "how quaint for them" *shudder*
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From:lupagreenwolf
Date:April 4th, 2008 03:49 pm (UTC)
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Thank you, shopping mall Pan-Asian cuisine.

I'm not a huge fan of Asian cooking in general, but even I know that Chinese doesn't equal Japanese doesn't equal Thai doesn't equal Vietnamese....
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From:siderea
Date:April 4th, 2008 03:58 pm (UTC)
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...that "Asian food" is the same sort of category as Italian food...

o_O

I see the state of Italian cuisine has not improved since I lived in SF's North Beach.
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From:blue_estro
Date:April 4th, 2008 05:29 pm (UTC)
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What? It is just pasta, right? ;}
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From:rjgrady
Date:April 4th, 2008 04:45 pm (UTC)
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What amazes me is the chain of assumptions:
1. All Asian restaurants have similar cuisine
2. All Asian restaurants in the US are authentic
3. All restaurants in any given ethnic genre serve the same kind of food
4. All restaurants that serve the same kind of food have the same menu all the way down to the after-dinner treats and niceties

I imagine this is the same kind of person who tries to order a Whopper at McDonald's or a Banana Royale at Braum's. But it is also tempting to suspect that they are the same people who do not know the difference between Arabs and Pharsi, that New Mexico is a mainland US state, and that the state of Texas is full of non-immigrants whose native tongue is Spanish. One also worries they are destined to ask a business traveler at a hobby lobby to carry his luggage because said traveler is black.

But in truth, all we can really be certain of is their profound ignorance of Vietnamese restaurants.
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From:heavenscalyx
Date:April 4th, 2008 05:06 pm (UTC)
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I note that one of our local Indian restaurants in Cambridge went to great lengths to point out on their menus when they first opened that they did not serve the same food as other Indian restaurants. They served gourmet food of Indian origin, not the same "stuff in sauce" style as the majority of Indian restaurants in the area. Fortunately, they situated themselves in Harvard Square, so they get a lot of Indian natives and more erudite/knowledgeable folks as customers, but I expect they still get the occasional, "Why don't you have saag paneer?"

These are the same people who identify Delaware as being, variously, in Louisiana, the Midwest, or in Pennsylvania somewhere. (My personal pet peeve of American ignorance.)
(Deleted comment)
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From:onyxrising
Date:April 4th, 2008 05:05 pm (UTC)
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I frequently see stupid white people wander in from the convention center to AnZen. They typically try to make their requests known by a) leaning over into the cashier's face and b) adding u to the end of every word to make it sound Japanese, much like stupid Americans will add "o" to the end of words to try to speak Spanish.
Nevermind that the cashier was not Japanese, and spoke perfectly fluent English. He also did not grasp the latter fact when she gave him directions to the beer in perfectly good English.
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From:heron61
Date:April 4th, 2008 06:49 pm (UTC)
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adding u to the end of every word to make it sound Japanese

Dear gods, I didn't know that sort of thing still happened outside of movies depicting characters being particularly boorish idiots. Wow...
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From:used_songs
Date:April 4th, 2008 09:33 pm (UTC)
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I forgot to tell you - there is a small subset of restaurants here in South Texas that serve Chinese and Mexican food. I wonder if that is common elsewhere.
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From:heron61
Date:April 4th, 2008 09:41 pm (UTC)
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The only place I've seen anything like that was LA, where the average hamburger stand served burgers, burittos, and yakisoba & rice bowls. LA is also where I ran into the idea of grilled pastrami as a hamburger topping (it was used much like bacon).
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From:hasufin
Date:April 5th, 2008 01:46 am (UTC)
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Sounds like a confluence of factors:

1) Most "Ethnic" restaurants in the US aren't even vaguely approaching authentic. (I'm told that Indian restaurants are pretty close, and stuff that's seriously not mainstream, like Ethiopian, hasn't been corrupted yet, but everything else is.. something else, certainly not the food you'd find in the region in question.)

2) There's an increasing number of "Asian Fusion" restaurants which are specifically not of any particular cuisine. Can get kinda confusing.

3) There really isn't all that much knowledge of ethnic cuisines. I mean, seriously - where and how will you learn about these things? Unless you make an effort it's "that one restaurant, I never know what I got but it's tasty." Hell, I have Ethiopian once a year, I certainly couldn't tell you the first thing about it except that the technical term for Ethiopian leftovers is "napalm".

4) Some people DO get very rude when their expectations aren't met, regardless of how unreasonable said expectations are.


Of these, the only one I can't readily forgive is number 4.
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From:rhiannasilel
Date:April 5th, 2008 02:41 am (UTC)
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You need to check out Roger Miller restaurant in Silver Spring if you want really good authentic African.
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From:rhiannasilel
Date:April 5th, 2008 02:38 am (UTC)
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You should see some of the reviews for our favorite haunt Il Forno/Metro Dhaba. Apparently some people have issues with the fact that they have Indian food in addition to Italian and pizza. I have to say, though, that they not only have the best Indian food in the area they have the best pizza as well and the best service. Yeah, pizza isn't normally something you'd find in an Indian restaurant, but the brick oven they have works quite well for both pizza and naan. Still, you see complaints about how you can't mix the two and people getting angry that their old pizza place started serving Indian food.

I guess this isn't quite the same as people asking for a Fortune cookie in a Vietnamese restaurant, but it's that same prejudicial attitude that certain cultures or foods can't or don't mix or worse, in some cases, that certain ethnic groups can't cook certain foods. It really bugs me.
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From:jiawen
Date:April 5th, 2008 03:32 am (UTC)
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Have you seen the sketch Going Out For An English? It's basically making fun of the cognate situation in the UK.

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