Takeout (The Culture)
Words and Image by Pelin Keskin
There’s nothing better than houmous and chips when you’re fucked up. There’s nothing better than döner with burger sauce when you’re fucked up. But that’s because anything carby or greasy tastes good when you’re fucked up.
Unfortunately most of Middle England got me fucked up because that’s all they know about Turkish food. Just as most of North America got me fucked up because all they know about Middle Eastern food is the shawarma.
All of these things made their way into the Western world by our parents/grandparents generations. Trying to make money in the new country, trying to survive in the white man’s world, they opened up kebab shops and Chinese takeout joints and cashed in on these pink-skinned people that asked for forks instead of chopsticks and wanted fries instead of rice. While our mothers were at home serving up intricate stews that took 8 hours to cook, our fathers would come in stinking of cooked grease. Unfortunately, because of this ‘guest’ mentality, they held their tongues and adhered and emulated their stereotypes in an attempt to be further accepted. In Germany, when the first wave of Turkish immigrants hit, every kebab spot sported the image of a fat brown guy with a huge moustache (Ayşe Çağlar). The döner kebab became known as a traditional and authentic Turkish dish thanks to the fervent Orientalist imagery presented in its marketing and white Germans literally and figuratively ate it up.
I’m Turkish. I’ve been to Turkey countless times. I’ve never had a döner kebab there. This isn’t to say that they don’t do it. It’s just considered weak because there’s so much more to eat.
But wolfed down drunk or sober, on a lunch break or at dinner, whatever. Do you get guilt on the side though? You bet! See this is the thing; they only eat the easy, simple shit, bastardise it so it suits their palette, and then complain that it’s unhealthy. So before you know it, the vegan white owned yogamum joints are doing better than Mehmet’s döner shop even though he tried really hard to perfect his English accent on all the items on his menu, called every white guy “mate” or “boss” and probably didn’t want to get pork sausages in there but did anyway. He thought it would be good for business and it is - but only between the hours of 00:00 and 04:00 on a Friday and Saturday night.
This is what happens. This is how Chinese food and MSG became associated with shame. This is how having a kebab obviously meant that you had to go to the gym. White Europeans and Americans pioneered the art of culinary self-flagellation in the form of shitty takeout food and then found a way to stereotype and associate it with an entire subculture. The reactions I get when I tell people döner kebab isn't my favourite is case in point.
And so the cookie crumbles and so this is how you’ll be okay with spending £5 on a smoothie that you’ll piss out but God forbid you spend £10 on a meal because “I’m not spending a tenner on Chinese food!”. The level of disrespect hits a fiscal low.
Stop associating an entire cuisine with something you can get in a styrofoam box. Stop associating an entire cuisine with something hand-held. That cuisine stems from a culture that isn’t as portable as something you can gnaw at in your drunken state and then repent when you're sober because your body isn’t comfortable with the self prescribed shame.
Sit down at a table, wash your hands, lay the napkin down on your lap and look at the whole menu. I know you think it's enough to limit your knowledge of foreign food to a few dishes but it's isolating, decontextualised and lazy. The breadth of food is wider and more varied than you think so please, try harder.