I have never really understood the need to try and get someone or something purged from society. Typically, those who get canceled are people who did something awful at one point in their lives but have since evolved. They are no longer the person they were then, and they deserve to be recognized for their growth, not punished for their past.
Be it an actor or actress, a book or author, or a writer or editor, more often than not it’s someone who has truly evolved with the times. Certain things were acceptable when they happened, and in the social context of those moments, they were not seen as offensive as they would be now. Yet, when those statements or attitudes were no longer in vogue, the person moved on, and usually in recognition as to why they were no longer in vogue.
Oftentimes, things are simply snapshots of an era long since passed. There are still people who accuse Mary Poppins of being racist because the titular character put soot on her face and because of the use of the word “Hottentots” (a racially charged term used in the 1800s and early 1900s to refer to the South African Khoisan people) twice by a former British admiral. Despite the historical context (the movie was set in the early 1910s, a time when that word was historically still in use).
The recent pushback against early Dr. Seuss books is another example. The very loud pushback (and pushback of the pushback) elevated the issue to national discourse because not only were six books eliminated from future publishing but Dr. Seuss was entirely removed from some national reading lists.
But, my friends, there are some things that are universally unacceptable, timeless in their offensiveness, and grounds for expulsion from the public square. Yesterday, one of those things was announced by a food company, and it is time we as a society rise up and put a stop to cultural appropriation and obscene food practices.
I am talking, of course, about Blue Runner Food’s decision to manufacture store-bought, frozen gumbo.
Blue Runner Foods has gained approvals for economic incentives it was seeking from local taxing entities and state officials for a $2.26 million expansion of its Ascension Parish manufacturing plant for a new frozen foods line by the end of the year.
The expansion of the plant, which sits in the heart of Gonzales along South Burnside Avenue, will add 8,000 square feet of new production space and support 35 construction jobs and add eight permanent jobs at the facility.
The expansion will include new equipment and flash-freezing capability for products such as gumbo and red beans, both made with sausage.
The family-owned company, which makes red and navy bean meal bases for gumbo and jambalaya, has already invested in its distribution facility and in meal kits for Creole-inspired dishes and dried bean packaging operations over the years.
For those of you uninitiated in Cajun and Creole cooking, allow me to explain why this is offensive.
Both gumbo and red beans and rice are best done over the course of a day. Gumbo, at minimum, should take a few hours to properly produce, though most families in Louisiana will let it simmer (or at the very least, linger over low heat) for several more hours. Red beans are done in much the same way.
Sure, you can get cans or jars of the base for these dishes in supermarkets already, but they really lack the well-developed flavors you get from a full day’s cook. And anything canned comes with a nearly-impossible-to-get-rid-of metallic taste. It is offensive to Cajun and Creole cooking.
I am also terrified to know what Blue Runner will call “gumbo.” Since the news article refers to “Creole-inspired dishes,” I am assuming they will include tomatoes in some form, which is the most offensive form of gumbo in existence (you see it a lot in New Orleans-based cooking, and New Orleans is the Deep South’s version of Soddom and Gomorrah so I wouldn’t trust it).
We as a society must rise up and put a stop to this practice of taking classic, homestyle dishes deeply rooted in cultures and mass-producing them. The time to fight for real societal change is now, people.