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David Chang Calls the Ethnic Food Aisle the ‘Last Bastion of Racism’ in American Retail

Plus, scientists still can’t agree on red meat, and more news to start your day

A smiling David Chang standing in front of a 92Y backdrop.
David Chang said there’s an “invisible ceiling” on some supermarket products.
Photo by Yuchen Liao/Getty Images

The debate surrounding the supermarket “ethnic” food aisle

In many supermarkets, tortillas, soy sauce, and other products connected to Asian and Latin American countries are often still relegated to the “ethnic” food aisle — a place that David Chang recently called “the last bastion of racism that you can see in full daylight in retail America” on his podcast.

To some shoppers and supermarket owners, grouping these items together makes sense because it caters to convenience, and can even help maximize the sales of those products, according to a new Washington Post report about the ethnic food aisle. But to some children of immigrants, like Chang, the continued existence of the ethnic food aisle is an outdated remnant of “1950s America,” an era when the blatant segregation and marginalization of immigrants and people of color was even more commonplace than it is today (although now, by all accounts, is not a particularly great time for immigrants in the U.S., either).

Chang, in an interview with the Post, called this phenomenon an “invisible ceiling” on some supermarket items:

Italian products that were once marginalized, such as olive oils and vinegars, are now routinely integrated into grocery store aisles, while Chinese, Japanese and Latino foods remain stuck in their own sections. The ongoing segregation of these foods, Chang says, isn’t about acceptance among the mainstream. Asian and Latino cuisines have long been embraced by Americans of every stripe, he says.

Growing up, Chang said, the ethnic food aisle was a reminder that he was different from white America: “We were always going to be different … We were never going to be accepted.” Now that tacos, stir fries, and other dishes that are made with these ethnic food aisle ingredients have become common fixtures in the American diet, Chang argued, it’s time to get rid of the separate aisle.

Disclosure: David Chang is producing shows for Hulu in partnership with Vox Media Studios, part of Eater’s parent company, Vox Media. No Eater staff member is involved in the production of those shows, and this does not impact coverage on Eater.

And in other news…

  • Dietary guidelines have long maintained that eating too much red meat is bad for your health. But a new series of analyses produced by a cohort of researchers threatens to upend that dietary recommendation, claiming that the link between red meat and illnesses like heart disease and cancer is too weak to tell people to cut back on beef and pork. Other scientists and public health researchers, meanwhile, are fiercely criticizing this new study and its methodology. [NPR]
  • While many would-be authors may still dream of landing a cookbook deal, some publishers have taken to offering these unpublished writers low or no advances, no royalties, and nondisclosure agreements. [NYT]
  • A New York City Council member wants to limit delivery companies’ profits. [NY Post]
  • October 1 marks the beginning of something called “National Pizza Month,” which apparently includes a bunch of restaurants and brands giving away free pizza. [Today]
  • MTV apparently ripped off First We Feast’s Hot Ones with a Wendy’s-sponsored segment called Wild Sauce, Hot Ones host Sean Evans pointed out on Twitter. [Vice]
  • Want to be an NBA food tester? There’s a sweepstakes for that. [Pickswise]
  • Costco is selling a beer advent calendar. Festive! [Delish]
  • Mauro Colagreco, the chef behind “World’s Best” restaurant Mirazur, is overseeing a few Dubai restaurants. [What’s On]
  • Alain Ducasse on why he’s moving towards casual dining. [Michelin Guide]

All AM Intel Coverage [E]