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Jul 12, 2011 11:16 AM

What does this phrase mean? [split from Ontario]

[MODERATOR NOTE: This discussion was split from a thread on the Ontario board. It was in response to this post where another member described a restaurant as serving this type of food:


Could you describe "whitey" food?

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    1. re: aser

      What continent? And ethic to whom?

      1. re: iMarilyn

        good questions! Most whiteys I know can/will eat anything, not unlike non-whiteys.

        1. re: T Long

          Based on purely first hand experience, people born in N. America (majority whites) will be the pickiest eaters in N. America. It's my personal opinion and I have no official stats to cite as fact, it is again my opinion.

          I don't think I'm creating a big stink with that statement. It's due to the food culture of N. America, access to ingredients, the culture of dining out only for special occasions. I'm hopeful for the future as the culture has changed for the better, a big hand given by immigration. Alas, you cannot undo the past, what was available in supermarkets in the 50's-70's shaped the eating habits of most adults today.

          It's not impossible, but people have a hard time unlearning their habits instilled through a typical N. American household. Undersalted food, overcooked chicken breasts/lean pork chops, etc.....

          1. re: aser

            Lots of white people love their salt, as evidenced by the hypertension in North America, and the love of Campbell's soup, poutine and bacon. The lean pork chops are a result of market demand for lower fat pork, which was part of an attempt to combat the North American obesity epidemic over the last 20 years. Lean pork chops are not for sale as a result of white people liking the taste of lean pork chops over Berkshire pork.

            This also is just an opinion, but I don't think that the "culture of North America" argument works well in TO. I've read the "culture of dining out only for special occasions" argument before, elsewhere on the Board. I can only speak from my own experiences, but I grew up eating dinner out once a week, and getting take-out once or twice a week. My friends (of several different cultural backgrounds) that grew up in food-centric homes also went out with their families at least once a week.

            True, there will always be some white 5th-generation Ontarians eating shepherd's pie once a week, but for most of the 20th C, there has been a strong presence of Italian, Greek, Portuguese, Central European, Eastern European and Chinese food culture in Toronto, in addition to the more recent arrivals of other food cultures from the Caribbean, Asia, South America, the Middle East and Africa over the last 40+ years. In the rural parts of Ontario, there's a strong influence from the Mennonite, French Canadian, German, Dutch, Hungarian and other Central European communities, which tend to be more focused on pork hocks than pork chops.

            A typical 5th-generation white Torontonian Chowhound might be eating roti, vindaloo or shawarma more frequently than she's eating shepherd's pie or butter tarts. Lots of white Ontarians of Continental European background (this one included) grew up eating chicken quarters, not chicken breasts. You just can't make a decent chicken paprikash with chicken breast.

            1. re: prima

              In regards to salt, you're talking about processed foods. I was referring to home cooking, big difference.

              The post was never just about Toronto, notice I always used "North America" and "Ontario". Yes there are pockets of culture here but is it representative of the bigger picture? At the end of the day, Toronto is a steak & potatoes crowd. The people in the position of power (predominantly white) dictate this. Restaurateurs know it, cooks know it, the suits know it. A lot of chefs in Vancouver and MTL look down on Toronto's "whitey" restaurant scene as a result. I am not the one making these labels up, don't shoot the messenger.

              Think of top celeb chefs in Toronto, pretty much all white except for Susur. I'm talking about cooks recognizable by John Q Public, not a foodie that knows what kind of knives Kaji uses.

              I've brought this up before, look at farmers markets, high end food events. Again, predominantly white crowd. It seems like it's a cardinal sin for me to point out the elephant in the room. I certainly feel this scene isn't very representative of Toronto's much touted diversity.

              We obviously have vastly differing opinions, but that is the beauty of life. Neither of us are right or wrong, we're just different. None of this your "argument not working well" bs, it's not an argument. It's what I believe, as is what you believe. Even if I disagree with your opinion, it is your opinion and you're entitled to it.

              Perhaps you believe it's an argument and you like proving me wrong. That you found my language politically incorrect. That's the nature of a msg board, one-upmanship. Back and forth we go....

              I can go all day on the topic of race but it will surely be deleted by the lords. If you're interested in furthering the discussion, my contact info is on the profile page.

              This offer stands for everybody else too.

              601 King St W, Toronto, ON M5V1M5, CA

              1. re: aser

                This thread is going in an interesting direction, and the glass of wine in front of me seems to have an opinion. I`ll try to put it in context of the original requests. In terms of places that attempt fusion-y food, there`s a place downtown called Nota Bene which starts with an Italian owndership and moves abroad from there, serving good upscale food from relatively famous chef David Lee. Can`t vouch for his whiteness, though. There`s also a nice French-based bistro on Mt. Pleasant called Simple, with a competent chef from the Tamaru region (somewhere near Bordeaux, maybe). Whether these individuals are recognizable to John Q. Public is debatable. These days, George Forman is more associated with cooking than his previous career, and most of the entertaining folk on Foodnetwork don`t actually make it to commercial kitchens.

                Nota Bene
                180 Queen Street West, Toronto, ON M5V 2A1, CA

                1. re: Snarf

                  I forgot about David Lee, great chef......props to him.

                  At the end of the day I think you get my point, it's a mostly white scene, from the top down.

                  1. re: aser

                    Don't forget the talented Chef Nick Liu of Niagara Street Cafe, and Chef Roger Mooking of Nyood.

                    TO has some talented female Chefs, too, but like most big cities, the TO chef scene tends to be a mostly male scene. Chef Ann Yarymowich of Frank and Chef Lynn Crawford of Ruby Watchco also deserve a mention.


                    Niagara Street Cafe
                    169 Niagara St, Toronto, ON M5V1C9, CA

                    1096 Queen West, Toronto, ON M6J 1H9, CA

                    Ruby Watchco
                    730 Queen St E, Toronto, ON , CA

                    1. re: aser

                      With respect, which is often said here before a middle digit is raised, and to be clear, I do respect the way in which you are pursuing this topic politely, I don`t think the mainstream is as pale as it once was.

                      Culturally, we are no longer the place where the bloodline and prep school determines the career. Industries which are revenue driven are recognizing merit versus perceived pedigree more quickly than traditional professions.

                      What is the the last couple of years, the more interesting cuisines that have gained traction in town are not European, and the list of chefs that have most impressed me includes Debu Saha, David Lee, David Nganga, Amar Patel, Wandee Young, Dinah Koo, Greg Couillard (don`t tell him he`s white. That will piss him off), and many folks who don`t fit the mainstream bill.

                      Another point, and this one comes from the glass of wine I``m holding, is that I seem to observe that there doesn`t appear to be the same tendency in the Chinese community to give name recognition to the chefs. Please correct me if I`m wrong, but I`ve yet to see reviews here of our many excellent Chinese restaurants that give credit to the individuals in the kitchen.

                      1. re: Snarf

                        The problem with Chinese kitchens, is well, the transient nature of the business. Chefs routinely leave after a year or two, it's a game of musical chairs. There isn't the level of name dropping, superstardom of chefs to celebrate because they're mostly old dudes. These old dudes are not web savvy like the young generation of "whitey" cooks in Toronto, that's all up on twitter, facebook, schmoozing with their customers, food writers, scensters, etc....

                        Cooking is not seen as a desirable trait for sons and daughters. It is a common labourer's job lacking prestiege. Asian parents love to brag about their kids, conversely the pressure parents put on their children to succeed in desirable fields (finance, lawyer, doctor, etc) is big. This isn't restricted to Chinese kitchens, there's a reason why you see so many young white dudes on the hotline. White parents are more accepting of their children's career choices. Ethnic parents aren't....

                        Also, if you're serious about wanting to learn Chinese food, why would you stick around here? You would be applying your trade back in China, hence the talent drain. Even then, it'll take a long time to climb the ladder, much longer than a comparable "white" kitchen. There're no skinny Jay Chou looking young chefs for the media to prop up.

                        The high rolling Cantonese heydays of the early 90's are long gone. There is less money spent in the market for upscale banquet food. The focus in the burbs have now shifted to price wars, and a lot of mainland cuisine.

                        The local Chinese media here do feature a lot of stories on food, but again the focus are on new restaurants. Not on the chefs themselves as they're often seen as interchangeable parts, a bunch of old dudes with very little marketing value. The customers care only about the food, and a good deal, the other intangibles (service, decor, celeb chef) matter much less than to the white market.

                        Finally, the Chinese, like a lot of ethnic groups feel excluded from the greater white society. It's a very insular culture, Chinese will hang out w/ Chinese, live in the same neighbourhoods (Markham, R.H.). Everything is done w/i this network, from banking to insurance to plumber to electrician. Money stays w/i the community, business is often referred to each other. Part of that is the style of doing business. Chinese people know how to haggle with each other....

                        They don't tell you whiteys about the real Chinese food because they don't think you'll like it. Why do you think restaurants like O'Mei (much celebrated on CH) have a real menu and a whitey menu? Plus it's not like the two racial groups mingle with each other much. The race lines are clearly drawn in a neighbourhood like Richmond Hill. I would dare say the place where the two groups mingle most is at Costco, haha.

                        Again this is getting very off topic.

                        1. re: aser

                          Yes it is off topic, but it is also very informative. I hope my thanks reach you before the edit. Loved the Ang Lee movie Eat Drink Man Woman, and the imputed respect to the master chef.

                          Personally, I would follow posts that gave some creds to who is forking, spooning or kniving the kitchens at the good Chinese places. We are at a unique time where many of the sous of well known chefs are using that resume points to either return to their roots or branch out into new cuisines.

                          For the OP, if you are staying near Massey Hall, you might consider Torito on Augusta, which does interesting and reasonable tapas with a South American bent. Nice part of town to wander around as well.

                          276 Augusta Ave, Toronto, ON M5T2L9, CA

                          1. re: Snarf

                            Yes, the opening cooking sequence is quite simply, a cinematic masterpiece.

                            There is just no fanfare w/ toiling in a Chinese kitchen, it's a very undesirable job. I actually covered some of the reasons why Cantonese cooking in Toronto is a dying art in an old Swatow posts. Ties in somewhat with what you're asking about.


                            309 Spadina Ave, Toronto, ON M5T2E6, CA

                            1. re: aser

                              I really enjoyed this series of posts; your perspective on Chinese kitchens, chefs and staffing make perfect sense for all the reasons you've listed culturally. There was once another post on Japanese-run restaurants where another great CHer (I think Notorious P.I.G.) noted that even at a Japanese-run establishment you'd be surprised by who staffs the kitchen (which is true), much in the same way that the whole, "That high-end French food you just ate? Made by a Mexican," kind of thing works in the US.

                              I don't think aser is necessarily talking about people who grew up in families where, for instance, eating offal was a normal occurrence. He was talking about the waspy, white North American attitude towards food that still holds true throughout much of North America. While there are certainly a lot of white people looking for great "ethnic" (which is just as stupid a label as "whitey") food, that is more of a recent trend than something that has always existed in North America in general. People who post on boards like this maybe don't have the privilege of having friends who aren't necessarily "adventurous" eaters.

                              There are a lot of North Americans who eat exactly in the way aser describes. Hell, the French pretty much don't eat anything BUT French food, and most of their ethnic food is absolutely miserable with a few exceptions. You think Mexican food in Toronto is bad, try Mexican food in Paris.

                              We can look at numerous examples of ethnic food that white people will eat. Take, for instance, the ultimate ethnic food superpower: sushi. There was a time where people thought raw fish was disgusting (and there are some who still won't eat it, just as there is a group of people who refuse to eat anything that isn't well done out of fear, not preference for flavour). I'd argue that North Americans don't even like sushi anyway -- the majority want all-you-can-eat California roll and spicy shrimp teriyaki mega maki covered in mayonnaise. On Chowhound, people are looking for the best sushi in Toronto. In reality, people just want to stuff their faces with something that isn't even sushi.

                              Take Chinese food. How often do you go to 'burbs and see whole tables of white people eating great Chinese food? Barely ever.

                              For every person taking more adventurous choices at Black Hoof, there's a much more significant percentage of individuals who choose to spend their money on bland, reheated chain food.

                              While I disagree with aser re: chefs being white, there is still a significant problem with really great talent not being recognized externally due to race/cultural factors. You can also watch Top Chef Canada and see the kind of people Canadian food culture is presenting as our "Top Chefs," including chefs from Toronto who claim to never eat x or y ethnic food, up to and including Japanese. See the same show cited as well for causing an uproar for using horse.

                              I'm sure aser is a bit guilty of overgeneralizing, but what he's saying isn't far from the truth for a large portion of the populace. Without doing an ethno/sociological study, I'm pretty sure that most of the white people I know fall into the meat and potatoes crowd, most of whom would never consume anything remotely approaching a food product not normally consumed by North Americans.

                              And, hey, it works the other way too. There are plenty of non whites who have far from adventurous taste, and there are people who don't want to eat anything but what they grew up eating, and which isn't necessarily great either. Case in point, I have plenty of Chinese friends who won't eat French food. Hell, there are quite a few of them that think a good burger or good pizza is disgusting. I know Koreans who would much rather eat kimchi jigae than any Western food, and if they had real spaghetti and meatballs they'd probably claim it was more disgusting than the gloppy ketchupy garbage they serve in Korea under the same name.

                              Basically it boils down to the fact that most people aren't adventurous eaters. They don't want to eat things outside their comfort zone (be it a burger, bugs, pasta or bull's penis), and they want to eat the same flavours, textures and foods they were brought up with (as this is what they are comfortable with). Sure, there are some people who don't, but in my experience, that's mostly the case.

                              1. re: tjr

                                Very briefly, nice post, and glad to see the discussion put forward with an improved label.

                                Following on a couple of your points, some of the more protective cultures do not generally accept in their mainstreams cuisines which have a basis in other, more distant, cultures. France seems best to accept former or present colonies, such as Moroccan. Nice has some great places for couscous.

                                Conflicting with that is the fact that England has some of the best Indian restaurants, which is surreal, given that the dominant mainstream is some of the most flavourless and badly prepared food in recorded history.

                                1. re: Snarf

                                  I think you've hit one of the nails on the head here: why do the French like North African food (and to a lesser extent Vietnamese food, and to a much lesser, almost non-existent extend, the food of their other colonies)? The answer is a pretty long and convoluted one involving colonization, population migrations, etc. Something that isn't necessarily part of North American culture (I suspect the same goes for England-India).

                                  Additionally, part of it is that, over time, a population's tastes can change. Unfortunately, "ethnic food" is something that is more of a recent trend (like offal/charcuterie) in North America, not something that people grew up eating because they were born in the colonies and emigrated back, or because a significant percentage of the population immigrated from those countries. I guess we can sort of see pizza in America as similar to couscous in France.

                                  I think we can also all agree that there is a trend towards "whitewashing" foods in many North American markets without significant non-white populations. Aser is totally wrong about something though: white people LOVE Asian food. I'm not quite sure exactly what constitutes Asian food, but if it's what's on offer at Spring Rolls, count me out.

                                2. re: tjr

                                  Glad you took the discussion to another level......

                                  The horse meat/top chef fiasco, to be honest, is utterly ridiculous. Such a xenophobic point of view. It's so easy to make that a scapegoat when it's something you won't miss. While something people eat regularly, factory farmed chicken, is convenient ignored. I don't see how you can cast a pillar of shame for one while the other flourishes unabated. Let's see how many of these folks appalled by horse meat can give up their factory farmed chicken. Anthropomorphism a key factor here.

                                  Great point about ethnic picky eaters. They're quite commonplace, again a habit that is bred over time, upbringing, repetition. People just don't like change, and I readily admit the Chinese are really stubborn. Take my pops as an example, he will not feel right if he doesn't have one Chinese meal per day. He could be in Timbuktu, and would still eat at the lone Chinese restaurant there. No matter how awful it is, he'll eat it to get his fix. Of course he'll complain to the bitter end about how terrible it is. It's illogical but when have we as humans ever been logical about everything in life?

                                  I can see why people got heated at my wording. Some people are more sensitive than others, luckily my friends aren't the type that gets their knickers all knackered over my vocab. In the end, the ones offended feel their "race" is being unfairly lumped into a large group, that their efforts to push the culinary envelop aren't being recognized.

                                  The only thing I can say to that is this, in order for the conversation to be succinct I have to generalize to a degree. Not all white people eat this way but again a big chunk of the pie do. It's nice and dandy some of the more adventurous types like to go to Black Hoof to get your tripe and meatballs. Until we start seeing tripe with regularity at shops (Loblaws, Metro, Costco, etc) catering to the vast majority of Canadians (yet again mainly white), you foodie sweetbread eating lots are just a drop in the ocean. The shops will carry this stuff only when demand warrants it. In light of this "offal" trend, I just don't see a lot of home cooks rushing out to buy tripe or pig ear for cooking. Even the adventurous foodie types frequenting Black Hoof, they're not buying tripe to cook at home. It's a culinary challenge, a tasty dare, not something seen as the norm, an everyday meal. .

                                  Time changes things, like the colonization examples mentioned by tjr & snarf. We're still in the nascent stages here, yet I am optimistic. I'm not deluded into thinking we're already "progressive", there's a long way to go still. Picking ear wax from a raw pig ear will repulse 99.9% of ch'ers, until that changes.....

                                  I found this quote interesting...

                                  "Take Chinese food. How often do you go to 'burbs and see whole tables of white people eating great Chinese food? Barely ever."

                                  Although innocuous to you and I, people don't like to be reminded of the prevalence of race lines. Especially in the context of a modern time, where we view ourselves as progressive, fair and forward thinking. We're supposed to be better than that no? Sadly not, and this answer rankles folks.

                                  At the end of the day, race is an ugly truth a lot of people have a hard time confronting. "White guilt" plays a big role in this, society as a whole has determined the race card to be verboten. I personally don't feel the constraints of "white guilt" as I'm not white. That doesn't mean it's immune to non-whites, as this feeling of guilt is systematic in all facets of life, to the point where it's institutionalized. Who decides what's PC or not? A lot of times, it's the people in power. Guess who holds the power?

                              2. re: Snarf

                                I too would be very interested in knowing more about the individuals in Chinese kitchens. Especially those looking after the dim sum menus! I understand there is a wave of new talent from cooking schools in GuangDong populating many of the kitchens in TO, not likely the cream of the crop who can choose to stay in Hong Kong and China, but still individuals with solid and developing skills in Cantonese cooking. Many are found in fast food mall operations working themselves up the ladder. Apparently one can eat very well if one knows the particular specialties of the kitchens (including fast food places)....alas difficult to find out except by word of mouth due to the veil of silence. Hopefully as this generation of chefs establish themselves, they will adapt better to the more "open" Canadian culture.

                            2. re: Snarf

                              I have nothing of substance to contribute, but I love the first part of your first statement.

                          2. re: Snarf

                            Snarf, you lost me on the Simple chef from the Tamaru region in Bordeaux???

                            What I know is Simple Bistro's Executive Chef is Masayuki Tamaru and his resume includes having worked in similar capacity at The Fifth, Jamie Kennedy, Crush Wine Bar and also Chef/Owner of former JOV Bistro (now Amaya in that location).

                            1. re: syoung

                              Apologies for the overly subtle sarcasm. The point is that some of the better Continental food in the city is being prepared with creativity by people who are from non-pale backgrounds.

                  2. re: iMarilyn

                    This is a board about food in Ontario/Toronto, I think you can draw your own conclusions to those questions.

                  3. re: aser

                    My Continental includes Ethnic. And my Ethnic includes Continental.

                    That being said, I also like dim sum at Lai Wah Heen more than most brunches in the city.

                  4. I was wondering the same.

                    1. Folks, we've moved this conversation to General Chowhounding Topics because it's managed to stay civil so far. Please remember that our policy on vulgarity, obscenity, and general offensiveness in otherwise chow-ful postings is that anything is okay so long as it's not said in anger, directed at another hound or clearly intended to stir up trouble.

                      So if you'd like to have a discussion about what the term means with respect to food, then please do post here. If you are offended by the use of the term, please just ignore this thread and move on.

                      1. Folks, we've split this discussion to General Chowhounding Topics because it's managed to stay civil so far. Please remember that our policy on vulgarity, obscenity, and general offensiveness in otherwise chow-ful postings is that anything is okay so long as it's not said in anger, directed at another hound or clearly intended to stir up trouble.

                        So if you want to have a discussion about what the term means with respect to food, please do post here. If you are offended by the term, please ignore this thread and move on.

                        Editing to add: There's a discussion about this thread happening on Site Talk: if you want to talk about whether the subject is okay to talk about.

                        1. Wondering: Is "Whitey" food the counterpart of soul food? Can soul food be whitey food?