food

US brand Breakfast Cure comes under fire for culturally appropriating congee

Last Updated: July 27, 2021

Written by Natalie Tan

On another episode of ✨Cultural Appropriation✨, we have a US business claiming to modernise congee. Yes, congee, which needs no introduction about its position in the realm of our Asian food. It’s 2021, where modernity is embraced, yet many signs all over the world point towards regression, like, cultural appropriation by Breakfast Cure, a business founded on the premise of modernising congee to suit the Western palate.

Breakfast Cure is a brand that sells instant breakfasts. Founded in 2017, founder and acupuncturist Karen Taylor claim to be the “Queen of Congee”.

In her blog post, she originally stated that their rendition is a “modern adaptation” of congee for the “Western pallet [sic]” — one that “doesn’t seem foreign, but delivers all of the medicinal healing properties of this ancient recipe”. Her blogpost on “How I discovered the Miracle of Congee”, is as follows:

The pre-packaged congee they sell consists of ingredients like oats, grasses, seeds, groats, fruits, herbs, spices, beans, healthy fats, and more, for US$14.95 (approx. S$20.34) per packet. Some of their flavours include:

  • Coconut Blueberry Bliss: inclusive of coconut cream, blueberries, and maple syrup.
  • Pineapple Paradise, cooked with pineapple, coconut cream, pumpkin seeds, lime juice, and chipotle powder.

A “gourmet and foodie-focused” congee? This potentially virulent assertion has sparked a kerfuffle on Twitter, about larger issues like how their aim of rebranding congee positions the Asian community as the Other, in colonialism, systemic racism towards the Asian community.

In response to the reverberations, Taylor told U.S. media site TODAY Food via a phone interview, that she was shocked since she had been “embraced by the Chinese medicine community” upon the first launch. She added that it had been difficult to engage in a productive discussion about these issues as she was receiving an endless onslaught of “offensive” comments, but is working with her team to make changes to the language and marketing for the products. Her blog post, titled “How I discovered the miracle of congee”, has been edited, with the removal of her claims to modernise congee.

An official apology was released on the Breakfast Cure’s Instagram page on 21 July 2021, expressing their deep apologies for failing to “support(ing) and honor(ing) the Asian American community”. It states that they take full responsibility for the language used on their website and marketing and that they have taken action to remedy it and also educate themselves in becoming a “better ally for the AAPI (Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders) community”.

Their website now has a page called “Giving Back”, where they make monthly contributions to charities that support the AAPI community.

Will cultural appropriation in any way ever stop? Maybe we should try again next year and learn how to spell ‘palate’.

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