“Thugs” don’t shop at Whole Foods
While it’s rare that I actually follow through with making any of the meals, stalking food blogs happens to be a cherished (yet torturous) pastime of mine. Scrolling through mouth watering recipes is almost enough to distract me from the over salted abyss that is the Totem dining hall.
Over winter break, a friend introduced me to “Thug Kitchen,” an unconventional blog that specializes in expletive-ridden vegan recipes—right up my alley. Take a look at the website and see for yourself. The creator(s) originally remained anonymous—leaving the audience to speculate the details of their identity.
To much shock and horror, the “thug” contributors happened to be Michelle Davis and Matt Holloway, a white couple from Los Angeles. This revelation sparked debate about the implications of “Thug Kitchen’s” appropriation of black culture.
When it really came down to it, I wan’t too concerned by this while I was happily gorging the on the tofu scramble tacos my friend and I had made from their debut cookbook. And neither are millions of others, given their success. Despite the fervent backlash, following its release Thug Kitchen: Eat Like You Give a F*** managed to snag the #1 spot on the New York Times’ bestseller list.
The implications of authenticity, ethical representation, and identity have been the center of many discussions surrounding the production and consumption of life narratives. The controversy surrounding “Thug Kitchen” demonstrates how the same themes and issues are applicable across a variety of genres. By removing the word “thug” from it’s traditionally marginalizing context, Davis and Holloway take part in silencing the plight of those adversely affected by diminishing the term to an endearingly brash approach to food writing. While a white couple from California are reaping the benefits from their use of “thug”, predominantly African Americans are being persecuted under the same label. In response to critics about a particularly heated post-game interview, Seattle Seahawks football player Richard Sherman even referred to it as an “accepted way of calling somebody the N-word nowadays.”
While the draw to “Thug Kitchen” lies in its amusing juxtaposition between innovative vegan recipes with a less than granola vernacular, it’s important to acknowledge that, even without malicious intent, capitalizing on a facade that hosts both historical and contemporary significance–the systematic marginalization of African Americans in the United States–shouldn’t be celebrated.