Announcing Turned Tables, a new series of restaurant reviews that will address ungoverned racial inequity

Photo credit: 
Vritti Bansal
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February 19, 2024
Binge is pleased to bring you context-driven analyses of food and restaurant culture in collaboration with Vritti Bansal’s Instagram page.

“Chai tea” and “naan bread” have now been printed on more menus than throngs of annoyed Indians can identify. It’s hard to say if the epidemic could have been avoided had this practice been nipped in the bud, but that needn’t mean it’s past repair. Hilarious tweets and snarky Instagram reels have attempted to confront the issue mostly only on home turf, and Indians directly challenging the underlying ignorance is still largely unheard of.

Speaking of redundancy, it would be equally superfluous to explain why this is problematic to an intelligent readership. However, it's worth saying that the laughs this generated among Indians (both those in the country and the diaspora) got old very quickly. The negligence and outright refusal to be respectful of one of the world’s most diverse food cultures gradually became way more glaring than the humour initially was. 

The lack of consideration and ongoing disrespect extends to black and other brown food cultures as well. Stereotyping Chinese restaurants and takeaways, and white food writers' antagonistic reactions to any cuisine that might feel remotely alien (pun not intended) should be appalling, but have instead been brushed under the rug and made acceptable via complacency. 

London-based food writer and Vittles editor Jonathan Nunn’s Instagram post from December 2023 brought a particularly problematic and outright reprehensible restaurant review to light. It reduced the appearance of Ethiopian cuisine's pride and joy to a washcloth. Another lengthy but obtuse review of an Indian restaurant published in February this year included multiple inaccuracies alongside blatant racism. It became the unequivocal last straw. 

All historical movements that were able to generate valuable impact may have been governed by scale, but every single one would be meaningless without its respective tipping point. The fitting context and medium of execution for a project like Turned Tables were hazy at first, but momentum had definitely been building for a while. A clear direction finally emerged:

Turned Tables will involve a set of two reviews for every chosen restaurant. The context for the first review is going to be “If brown food writers wrote about white food the way white food writers write about brown food” and the second will be “The actual review”. Both reviews will be posted the same day (the first one from the set on Vritti Bansal's Instagram, and the second under Binge's 'Reviews' section), so anyone who wants to juxtapose them for maximum effect will have simultaneous access to both.

There will be an intentional focus on “white” cuisine because white is broader than European, just like “brown” is a lot broader than Asian.

If you'd like to be in the loop, please follow Vritti Bansal (@vrittibansal) and Binge (@binge.mag) on Instagram. It’s imperative now more than ever to spotlight — and more importantly tackle — growing racial inequity in the domain of restaurant critique. 

On behalf of all brown and black food writers, thank you for pissing us off.