The Big Problem People Have With Gordon Ramsay's Pegao Recipe

Previous seasons of "Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted" have come under fire for subjecting the daily diets of non-Western cultures to a lens that at best exoticizes and at worst dabbles in the type of xenophobia that goes "Look at gross things people eat." Even though the third season had to chart a more domestic course, it's still managed to draw criticism for mishandling its subject matter. 

In Puerto Rico, pegao refers exclusively to the thin layer of rice that crisps brown at the pot's bottom. As Alejandra Ramos writes in an essay for Today, Ramsay called his entire rice dish pegao, conflating part of the most delicious part of dish for the whole.

Moreover, Ramos notes the dish Ramsay made in his video resembled fried rice more than what he said he was attempting. Then, there was the fact that Ramsay sought to "elevate" the dish. While the obsession cooking shows have with "elevating" everything is frustrating even within the context of something like beans on toast, it develops a colonial edge when a white man like Ramsay applies it to the dishes of another culture.

All of these issues, Ramos writes, speak to the greater problem of how television informs the view Americans have of Puerto Rico. If a camera crew's already there, you don't really need Ramsay or the narrative inserting him brings.

This is the second such controversy this month

June has seen two rumblings of discontent when it comes to how food is represented on TV. Earlier this month, a petition began to either radically redesign or eliminate the "Spill Your Guts" segment of "The Late Late Show with James Corden." In it, celebrity guests were faced with the choice of having to either answer a question or eat a meal deemed to be "disgusting." However, most of the foods offered came from Asian cultures in which they would be commonplace. 

There are obvious aesthetic differences between the two issues. In one, Gordon Ramsay is not trying to denigrate Puerto Rican cooking, but "highlight" it. In the other, the food is a punchline. Both, however, take foods that are common in other cultures and frame them as weird or "other." Ultimately, both shows fail to consider that their primary viewing audience has developed as a multicultural society. Perhaps it's finally time for television producers to rethink what they mean by "foreign food."