“I’ve been pushed in front of video as a display of diversity. In reality, currently only white editors are paid for their video appearances. None of the people of color have been compensated.” —Sohla El-Waylly
By now, anyone who even slightly follows food media news knows that Bon Appetit Magazine’s editor in chief Adam Rapoport has resigned his position over, sigh, a brown face scandal. I’m classifying this as Of Course He Did, as this is, well, Adam Rapoport. You know who I’m talking about. Adam Rapoport, the dapper suited, sock-wearing former style editor of GQ who succeeded Barbara Fairchild at Bon Appetit. Such a dude! Adam Rapoport, with his trademark smarmy smirk ever present on his extremely punchable face. Adam Rapoport, apparently the Bon App overlord of toxic, racist food media culture. POC employees past and present are spilling tea and bringing receipts.
I am apparently not alone in my long-held perception of Bon Appetit as a pretentious, condescending, white-centric, boring (oh sorry, “accessible”) organization spearheaded by fart-sniffing douche bros that occasionally ekes out an intriguing recipe I might want to try. I didn’t know the gory details until this week, but I’d suspected rotten milk over at Bon Appetit for a couple years now, and not just because they changed the font in their print magazine to something utterly unreadable. In the fall of 2018, Bon Appetit hired Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen as a monthly columnist, and it just never sat right with me. To be clear, this is nothing against Perelman as an individual, and I don’t blame her for applying for and accepting a job. I don’t believe she had any intentions of further entrenching Bon Appetit’s tired, shitty culture of centering whiteness and affluence – even though that’s exactly what happened with her hire. My beef is with Bon Appetit, an influential, popular outlet with limited column space and decisions to make, a powerful outlet who no doubt had their pick of who to hire for that platform, with what must have been a multitude of wide-ranging options. And they chose… a wealthy white woman with picky eater kids? Really? I mean, I guess they thought they had to, because WHEREVER ELSE would we find that culinary point of view?
I was disappointed to see this prime parcel of food media real estate being granted to Perelman, because it was just one more instance of food media rewarding affluent, white, unchallenging (I think BA’s word is “accessible”) food. Perelman is affluent, white, and yes, her food is boring. I don’t say that as an insult, so the fangirls can lower their pitchforks. While it’s outside the scope of this piece, I will and do defend boring food. Lord knows I make enough of it myself. (I have a weeknight go-to recipe we literally call Basic Bitch Spaghetti. I’ll spare you the details but rest assured, it lives down to its name.) Also, boring does not equal incompetent or unappealing. I think knowing how to properly execute on no-frills, crowd-pleasing meals is a valuable skill to keep in one’s repertoire. I love fancy, unfamiliar-to-me cooking as much as anyone, but some nights it’s the last thing my basic white ass wants to make or eat. I think no one owes any apology for craving something known and familiar. When I say boring food, I mean types of recipes and a culinary viewpoint that we’ve seen over and over and over for almost twenty years. I mean an affluent, white-centric, “unfussy” genre. It’s been done to death, and food media giants like Bon Appetit need not platform it any further.
Perelman has her own website, with full editorial authority, and she can publish whatever recipes and personal stories she chooses. People can opt to visit her site or not. This is all fine. My problem is that expanding her already enormous platform added nothing to the greater conversation. We don’t need mainstream food media to keep telling the stories of affluent white moms. We already know them. Bon Appetit had an excellent opportunity to hand the mainstream mic to a BIPOC, to use precious column space to grant a big career break to someone who really needed it, someone whose talent and hard work has been passed over again and again thanks to the color of their skin. And I fault Bon Appetit entirely for squandering that privilege, and not stretching themselves and their readers. Apparently Perelman is (I believe coincidentally?) leaving Bon Appetit in September. Though I’m not holding my breath, I hope Amanda Shapiro, now the interim editor-in-chief, will see this as a long-overdue opportunity, no moral obligation, to hire a BIPOC in her place.
Grilled Shrimp with Tabasco-Tarragon Butter
- 8 tbs 1 stick unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 1 tbs finely chopped fresh tarragon
- 1 tbs Tabasco
- Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
- 1 lb. large shrimp (I like a 16-20 ct), peeled and deveined
- 1 baguette, torn into hunks, for dunking
- In a small (but not too tiny - you need some room to stir somewhat vigorously) bowl, use a fork to mash together the butter, tarragon, and Tabasco. Add a pinch of kosher salt and black pepper. Keep stirring until the butter mixture is uniform. Cover and set aside until ready to serve.
- Pat the shrimp dry with paper towels, then season to taste with kosher salt and black pepper. Preheat your grill or grill pan to high heat. Grill the shrimp until just cooked through, about 3-4 minutes a side, depending on their exact size. You know they are done when the backs are opaque and they feel very firm when pressed with tongs. Remove to a wide shallow bowl.
- Immediately use a spoon to chunk up the butter and add those chunks to the shrimp. Keep stirring and tossing until the butter is melted and the shrimp is generously coated.
- Serve immediately with a torn baguette for dunking in the butter.