Pembroke students have beef with catering over constant ‘cultural misrepresentation’

The staff were “upset” they had offended students

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Pembroke catering has curried favour with the students by promising to look at the names given to food served in the buttery, after multiple students complained about cultural misrepresentation.

Grudgebridge – the newest outlet for Cantabs’ pent-up rage – caused yet another Pembroke Facebook blowout.

A post which complained about the naming of the “Jamaican Stew” in the Pembroke servery was reshared on the Pembroke food discussion page; a perfect recipe for angry, paragraph-long comments from students upset about the names given to food in hall and in support of the catering staff.

“Dear Pembroke catering staff, Stop mixing mango and beef and calling it ‘Jamaican Stew’, it’s rude,” read the original post.

Only Pembroke would have a page devoted to its buttery

Although a member of the JPC – Pembroke’s JCR Committee – said they would bring it up at the next food committee meeting, students’ appetites for bringing attention to cultural misrepresentation weren’t appeased.

One student complained about the “Oriental beef stew” while another said “I’m waiting for colonial coleslaw next.”

“‘Cauliflower, date and tofu tagine with Tunisian rice and coriander yoghurt’ ????? sorry but what is this we don’t eat these tings [sic] in Tunisia,” said another.

Meat, butchered? Never.

One minority student questioned the row, saying “While the Indian food in trough isn’t straight from my Dadiki’s karahi in a Mumbai highrise, I’m thankful to the Pembroke staff for at least trying. I urge people to look around and realise there’s a lot more to life than complaining about fruity chicken.”

“Grow up.”

Not all students were upset about food naming

The original student who shared the post responded “I’m used to as a minority student here [sic] being constantly invalidated when flagging up specific issues which is just the culture at Pembroke.”

“You are already empowered by an institution which is dominated by whiteness yet pile on whenever minorities raise concerns and declare some perceived ‘agenda’ or ‘minority takeover’.”

“Microaggressions are a reality of the everyday existence of many people of colour”

One student noted “you’ve got to be pretty privileged to have the time to sit and moan about the naming of the food you eat at one of the best universities in the world”.

But the can of worms had been opened, and students were vocal about their complaints.

As the issue reached boiling point, other students joined in to express concern for the college catering staff. “If a member of Pembroke catering staff saw the original ‘Grudgebridge post’…they might be dismayed, given the relative privileges afforded to all the students at Pembroke in comparison to the work they do to turn around lunch every day.”

“So is there a better way to inform them when they’ve misrepresented a culture and that it’s offensive, even perhaps without meaning to be?”

Students stepped in to defend catering staff

This did little to calm the college, which had apparently been in a stew over the “samosas” served for a while. One said “Not sure what this sudden concern for catering staff is about…No other post gets this kind of comment of ‘oh but they put in effort!” so maybe check your reasoning for bringing this up now”.

The Pembroke food page is usually used for sweeter posts which praised the food served in the college buttery, widely reputed to be one of the best in Cambridge.

An email from the JPC last week appeared to put a lid on the matter, saying “the head chef appeared upset that he had offended people and they said they will aim to do more in future to avoid offending anyone else”.

All solved for now

Pembroke is known for both for the deep divisions within the college over cultural appropriation and students’ propensity to take to Facebook to express their position.

Last year, a change in bop theme from “Around the World in 80 Days” caused a flurry of angry comments on the Pembroke Exchange page from students defending the theme and others in favour of the change.

Hopefully there’ll be nothing fishy going on with the menu in the future.