Tag Archives: tanya zeif

#KeepColbert Because A Spoonful of Sugar Helps the Reality Go Down

As you may have heard, comedian Stephen Colbert has come under fire in the past week after making what was perceived as a racist remark towards the Asian community. But what was the nature of the comment? Let us investigate.

It appears that this is all based on a tweet released by the official twitter account of the television show, “The Colbert Report.” The tweets, as we learned, were  not written by Colbert himself. The tweet was made in response to the Washington Redskins’ owner Dan Snyder’s Original Americans Foundation established to support Native Americans. This situation is rife with absurdity in regards to names; the name of the MLB foundation intensifies the political incorrectness of the team name, both of which are less-than-respectful ways to name Native Americans.

Comedy Central, the real administrators of the Twitter account, wanted to call attention to this, and used Colbert’s character “Ching-Chong Ding-Dong” as a base for their fictional and comical “Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever”. The tweet itself — “I am willing to show #Asian community I care by introducing the Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever” — is evidently a mockery of Snyder’s unfortunate naming, but the question remains: is it at all ok that Asian Americans still bear the brunt of humor?

Yes, it is true that Asian Americans bore the expense of this jab, but that is what the satirical tweet aimed to highlight: even when you are trying to “help” and support someone, they somehow seem to suffer thanks to racist undertones. That is how deeply rooted the issue is; by reaching out to support people, the supporters are inherently claiming superiority over those they are attempting to help. For if they were truly trying to establish equality, this hierarchical dynamic would not exist.

The thing is, these jokes remind people like me, who do not really experience overt racism or even an unwelcomed awareness of my race, that there are mindsets of ignorance, hatred, and simple stupidity. But I wonder if this became a conversation, or if the #CancelColbert movement was more about silencing people than letting them marinate in and discuss ideas.

For people who consistently experience racism and ignorance, this joke is a frustration or even a nightmare, projected onto the world’s big screen for all to join in on. It is also a chance to call out the greater problem publicly, to try to catch racism and ignorance by the horns and halt them before they fester any more than they already have.

But silencing comedians will not make the problem go away, because comedians are not the source of hatred. I truly believe that they bring the less palatable truths of society to light, and even if we ask them not to do so, the ideas will still exist. We should not be cancelling Colbert — we should be questioning the ideas he sheds light on. Sure, there are other, less entertaining ways to discuss these issues, but if we cancel comedy, we will effectively cancel many important conversations surrounding race and its reality. We need the spoonful of sugar to make the oftentimes sour medicine of reality go down, for these issues are anything but savory.

Throw it Out or Throw it Up

How would you feel about eating expired food? So-called “garbage”? You probably do not find this notion particularly appealing.

Then again, does the fact that one-third of the world’s food goes to waste every year change your mind? What about the statistic that the United States alone generates 30% of the world’s waste (according to the United Nations Environment Program)? In case those do not change your mind, I’ll try one more time: Americans waste about 1 million pounds of stuff per year…per person. This includes food, clothes, books, etc.

How can we start to limit this waste? Besides recycling and composting, there must be something we can do to give refuse new life. Doug Rauch, the former president of Trader Joe’s, has an idea: he will soon open a market called “Daily Table” in Dorchester, Massachusetts, that will sell expired food at discounted prices. Some food will be prepared at the store, and some will be sold as-is, going beyond the standard format of an expired-food store that merely relocates food that has passed its expiration date to a new location.

As stated before, this is not a wholly original idea; there are already stores that sell expired food, especially in lower-income neighborhoods. Rauch says that his store is “about how to bring affordable nutrition to the underserved in our cities”. While this is an admirable—if not essential—goal, I think we should be getting those who do not need to buy deeply discounted food to want to buy it. Why should anyone buy food that is not as good as what they have the means to buy? To no longer contribute to waste—a problem that most of us can afford to be ignorant of.

According to CNN, more than 90% of Americans throw out food before it has gone bad, which begs the question, when is food actually not fit to be consumed? According to many nutrition experts, food that is a few days past its sell-by date is perfectly fit to be eaten. This is because the sell-by date is a guideline, not some perfectly specific prophetization of when a food can no longer be consumed. Expiration dates estimate how long food can maintain its taste and nutrients—not necessarily how long it will be edible for. Basically, many nutritionists are saying that we shouldn’t be taking food freshness quite as seriously as we do, because our stringent behavior may be creating more problems than solutions.

That being said, eating truly expired food can be dangerous. Although most food-borne illnesses come from contamination of various foods by pathogens like salmonella—not the age of the food—mold on food can cause nausea, dizziness, and headaches, and food that is actually expired can cause food poisoning or botulism, the latter of which can result in death due to respiratory failure.

So, what can we make of all this dizzying information? To start, we can learn more about the properties of what we buy, to figure out when a strawberry won’t be as delicious as it once was, and when it can actually make us sick. We should also learn the shelf lives of the foods in our cabinets, and remember that while chocolate can last for quite a while without posing health dangers, canned food past its prime can cause botulism. After all, we want humans to live as long as they can—why not ask the same of our food?

Brain Food: Let’s Think About What We Eat

One of my recent discoveries is that most students across the country are unhappy with on-campus dining, and the issues we are grappling with here are not limited to Bon Appétit or USF. Not too long ago, I had a conversation with two friends from other universities. One goes to Yale, and the other goes to Oberlin, but neither are in a food-mecca like San Francisco. Both shared a common problem with their on-campus dining options; even though there are multiple choices per meal, many of the food items tasted the same. Both friends hypothesized that the cooks at their schools use the same spices in every meal. With this monotony, eating is not an opportunity for nourishment, pleasure, or relaxation, but a chore. We at USF have a unique opportunity to call San Francisco—one of the world’s most delicious cities—our home. With so many dining options around us, our on-campus options often do not satisfy. This makes me wonder how universal the issue of on-campus dining is, and if it can ever be reconciled.

Issues with Bon Appétit include inflated prices (up to a 200% markup), food quality, treatment of employees, and the company’s supposed refusal to release certain information. This begs the question—is our on-campus dining really below satisfactory? Many experts would disagree; The New York Times wrote that Bon Appétit’s food “deserves to be served with wine”; 7×7 Magazine likens Fedele Bauccio, Bon Appétit’s CEO, to food pioneers Alice Waters and Michael Pollan; The Washington Post reported on the company’s choice to only use humanely raised beef, and The Huffington Post reported on the company’s fight to ban gestation crates for pigs. It seems like Bon Appétit is a company that cares, and is possibly the best of its kind. Of course, if we, the consumers, are not completely satisfied by what it has to offer, then there is obviously some disconnect and room for improvement.

As recently as last November, ASUSF senate took action and organized a boycott of Bon Appétit. There were some food trucks on campus, giving students a convenient, fun option so that they could make a statement without starving. This was a great short-term option, but we will need to find some way to have satisfactory food on campus.

I would just like to inject a little more perspective here, not to say that our complaints are empty, but that we are in a big boat that we share with practically all college students. Actually, we are not just in this boat, but we are at its helm, in a much better position than many other college students. But this makes one wonder if there is a limit to the quality of food, and, ultimately, the quality of life a college student can achieve.

Thus, the issue is not just about food; dining is just one of the many examples of students having an inferior quality of living. Dorm life in general is not of a particularly high quality, and student loans historically have some of the highest interest rates of any. Meals have the potential to give us an opportunity to make a very personal change multiple times a day, and we need to feel some power over what we eat. We should also be able to use mealtimes as a time to step back and dive in, to truly enjoy a break so that we can better do what we came here to do: study. And that is what all of this talk about on-campus dining comes down to; making some of life’s simple pleasures less pleasant, making nourishment seem like a chore. Food is something we come into contact with multiple times a day, something that has the potential to nourish our souls and fuel our minds. There are few things more sacred than sharing a meal with friends, or sneaking a midnight snack into your bed without waking your roommates or parents. We are students, we need brain food in this time in which every inch of our beings are growing in a way that it never has before and never will again.

These issues are not all really Bon Appétit’s fault—they are symptoms of a cultural problem we all have to overcome. We are disconnected from our food; we seldom know where it comes from and how it gets to us, and we are usually too preoccupied with other things to care. We need to find a way to be more connected to what we eat, whether that means on-campus kitchens run completely by students, more student involvement in the current Bon Appétit establishment, or something else altogether. What we need is to take time away from Twitter or Facebook or even face-to-face-complaining and to get together with friends and prepare and enjoy a meal. This is something that everyone, including Bon Appétit wants; their mission statement proclaims, “breaking bread together helps to create a sense of community and comfort”. We just need to get off of our behinds and into the kitchen.