"Yet if Superwoman’s transition from YouTube fame to the more mainstream sort — that distinction still holding for now — has rendered her more culturally specific work less relevant, less visible, it also suggests something about the limits of being a minority in a majority culture. While identity politics has sets its sights squarely on representation — on whether or not there are enough women or queer folk or people of colour in our media — the unspoken mirror image of that idea, however, is that it is just as difficult in North America to imagine a mainstream culture that isn’t so overwhelmingly white culturally. It isn’t just about who gets to be seen, but also what we consider shared, and it is always of one cultural tradition, one language. The pattern in which, for example, so-called ethnic food only becomes mainstream at the point that white people become aware of it is repeated in culture at large ad nauseam so that a minority or an immigrant only gets recognizably big at the point at that they become legible to a white mainstream. What is not comprehensible to a so-called norm — that is, the shit that Punjabi mothers say — has to be discarded in favour of what remains legible to more people. The bicultural are forever icebergs, only ever partially readable to those who don’t share our mixture, containing obscured, untranslatable depths. The bind of the immigrant entertainer is always thus to speak to one’s own or speak to the mainstream — and each entail a certain kind of loss."
"Is it then fair to say that, in this second decade of the new millennium, between those two poles is the screen? Each spring, my Instagram feed blooms bright pink, images of rosé and the seductive allure of life’s greatest pleasure—day drinking—melding with crostini and flushed limbs, splayed out across tables or lawns. Scrolling through it on a warm Sunday evening, you can start to piece together the collective yearning of a generation. Food and drink in particular have become these loci of desire because they are so easy to perform, universal, but infinitely capable of eliciting want. Yes, we are always hungry, but we never stop craving the feeling of craving itself, seeking out the things that spur us toward desire. Perhaps it’s how temporary food and drink are: As Edward Lee put it in a Mind of a Chef episode (titled “Impermanence,” of course), the gourmet is a simple, accessible metaphor for mortality. A generation was told that theirs will be the first to not exceed the wealth of its parents: artfully arranging food and, just before it is gone forever, taking a picture of it, is a futile and entirely understandable attempt to hold on to pleasure."
"This is why the Chicken Connoisseur feels so pleasantly unusual. It checks off all the boxes for what modern food criticism looks like, self-reflexively paying attention to its own status as criticism, but instead of taking you to places with small plates, or omakase, takes you to chicken shops in Hackney or Tottenham or any number of other London areas that haven’t been entirely subsumed by gentrification. Those shops are, in a simple empirical sense, the kinds of places where millions of people eat, but that people concerned with food as signifier of cultural capital would rather ignore — perhaps because such places don’t represent change or novelty, the necessary fuel of the media, but also perhaps because the change they might stand for isn’t considered relevant. In putting a critical vocabulary people were already using into a polished, appealing YouTube show, however, Quashie ends up providing a model for what a food criticism that speaks to a broader, browner, less-wealthy audience might look like. It’s fast food, framed as a product of its place and time, by someone who is winning and funny in front of a camera, and who happens to be young and black. But Quashie also stands as a challenge to all kinds of institutional critics, urging them to grapple with — and take seriously — the things that a majority of people hold dear.
This is, I think, exactly as it should be. When literary criticism moved away from Leavis or the New Critics and started to dabble in feminism or postcolonialism, its emphasis wasn’t simply on the politics of how literature got created or the representation therein. It was also on aesthetics, so Woolf’s feminism wasn’t just in her message, but her prose. Cuisine’s import and relevance isn’t just in “what story a plating tells,” but our culturally loaded expectations about what food should be. Say what you will about four wings for around two dollars, but the demand that they be crispy and spicy is a standard, and one that people care about. At root, it’s a question of what the object and nature of criticism should be: a narrow slice of food that represents the bleeding edge and demands the language of a specialist, or a shifting set of criteria that tackle both the highbrow and the everyday without insisting one is more culturally significant than the other."