Fast food chains capitalize on foreign cultures

Laura Angle, Staff Writer

Fast-food chains have evolved from the standard hamburger and french fries meal to capitalizing off of foreign cultures. On every street corner consumers can find a Taco Bell, Panda Express, or Ono Hawaiian Barbeque. The commercialization of these eateries seen on television, the Internet, and public billboards has led many to feel that their culture is being misrepresented.

I think many American corporations stereotype the Latino culture, Spanish teacher Señora Olga Garcia said.  For example, Taco Bell used a Chihuahua dog to invite people to buy their  Mexican food [which is] American food with ideas of Mexican dishes.

“[Taco Bell’s] tacos are fake!” sophomore Maria Camarena said. “They don’t taste the same.”

Many travelers are shocked to learn the truth about Mexican cuisine when visiting, for example, Merida, Yucatan Mexico. In Merida anything rolled in a lightly fried corn or flour tortilla is referred to as a taco, not just beef, lettuce, and cheese in a hard shell as it is commonly seen throughout America.

Another misconception about the Latino culture is that all Mexican dishes are spicy.

“Being Colombian is being Hispanic, but we don’t eat spicy food like everyone thinks,” senior Kathryn Athen said.

Mexican restaurants are not the only business that has been capitalizing on the allure of so-called foreign foods. The popular Ono Hawaiian Barbeque has some Hawaiians feeling offended.

“Ono Hawaiian Barbeque is insulting to my culture because the food they produce is in no way Hawaiian or good,” junior Moana Hu said, adding that “Ono” means “good” in Hawaiian. “But you can’t prevent the mass from Americanizing our culture to make a profit.”

Hawaiian food was derived mostly  from immigrant laborers from China, Japan, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and Portuguese islands during the 19th and 20th centuries. The exquisite cuisine consists mostly of fish, poi, sweet potatoes and tropical fruits.

Ono’s menu consists mainly of fried chicken or beef, rice, and macaroni salad. The closest item to traditional Hawaiian food they serve is their Island Curry Chicken, which is chicken in curry sauce with potatoes, carrots, and onions, or their grilled spam and eggs.

Panda Express also capitalizes on its interpretation of Chinese food. Their most popular dishes consist of orange chicken or Beijing beef drowning in teriyaki sauce, which is Japanese, not Chinese.

Traditional Chinese dishes rarely contain fried meat; they are usually prepared in a soup or stir-fry with a healthy helping of vegetables. Fortune cookies are also another American creation, since they are rarely served in China.

Sushi houses are also commonly seen throughout America.

“[The restaurants] Americanize the culture’s food; for example, they don’t eat just raw fish like the restaurants prepare,” senior Khiet Truong said. “Real sushi includes shrimp, crab, and other cooked fish.”

It would be foolish to expect every restaurant to purchase expensive and complicated cooking machines to properly prepare a culture’s dish, but it is not foolish to expect companies to properly represent the culture with the ingredients and resources available instead of replacing the history and traditions altogether.