Food influencer Half Backed Harvest faces backlash for whitewashing Vietnamese recipe — for the 2nd time: '[It] doesn't make sense'
The food influencer behind the popular Instagram Half Baked Harvest is facing backlash from commenters for cultural appropriation with one of her recently posted recipes.
Tieghan Gerard, the cook behind the account with 5.2 million followers, is being accused of whitewashing Asian food — for the second time.
On March 7, Gerard posted a video and recipe for “25 Minute Ginger Sesame Banh Mi Rice Bowls,” which commenters were quick to point out doesn’t make sense. In Vietnamese culture, banh mi (pronounced “bun-me”) is a short baguette that’s either eaten on its own or made into a savory, sub-style sandwich. In Gerard’s recipe, there is no bread and she mispronounced the name as “bon-my.”
“The concept of a Bánh Mì rice bowl simply doesn’t make sense,” one commenter wrote. “Why not call it ‘Vietnamese-Inspired Rice Bowl’ or ‘Sweet and Spicy Rice Bowl’?”
In the days since posting the recipe, Gerard has not replied to the backlash, responded to commenters’ concerns or updated the name of the recipe. She has been active on Instagram, however, posting more recipes and Instagram Stories.
“This really sucks,” another user wrote. “I literally make several of your recipes a week, but it’s really disheartening you haven’t responded to any of these comments questioning your pronunciation or misrepresentation.”
This is the second time Gerard has been under fire for misappropriating a Vietnamese dish. In February 2021, Gerard posted a noodle soup originally called “Weeknight ginger pho ga (Vietnamese chicken soup)” that was advertised as being able to be made in “under an hour.”
Homemade pho, a classic and beloved Vietnamese dish, can take days of preparation — so much so, that any authentic “shortcuts” that have been put out there for making pho still require hours of time and labor.
“You are free to make inspired dishes but you MUST do the work to understand from where you are taking the inspiration and honor that inspiration,” one commenter wrote. “Your largely white audience may come across pho, the most revered dishes of a cuisine, for the first time and use your recipe and your words to discover this dish — something far from pho.”
Gerard has since changed the title of the recipe in the caption to “easy sesame chicken and noodles in spicy broth” that was “inspired by pho.”
There’s a fine line between cultural appropriation versus cultural appreciation when it comes to food, and Gerard isn’t the only cook to get in trouble over it. In September 2016, Bon Appetit came under fire for a tutorial video on pho — which showed a white cook dubbing the Vietnamese dish “the new ramen,” which is Japanese. The video has since been taken down.
Last year, TikToker Daniela Rabalais went viral with her “flipping the script” on culinary appropriation by pretending to talk about a hot dog, hamburger and chicken nuggets the way she felt white influencers talked about foods from predominately BIPOC cultures.
“Culture is a beautiful thing. It’s something that should be shared and celebrated,” Rabalais told Today at the time. “[But] these are dishes and foods that, growing up, a lot of us were maybe bullied for. I know I was. Now all of a sudden, it’s popular and trendy just because white people decided that it’s OK. That’s where the issue lies.”
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