Why US TV host James Corden should stop dissing Asian foods as disgusting for cheap laughs – it’s cultural chauvinism
Talk show segment in which host makes celebrities eat so-called disgusting foods has shock-value entertainment for Americans, but Andrew Sun has had enough of slander against fried scorpions, cod sperm and cow tongue
I like James Corden’s US television talk show, The Late Late Show with James Corden. His recurring segment Carpool Karaoke is fun, the interviews are engaging, and his winning personality smoothes over even the most mediocre of jokes.
However, I do find one of his segments very irksome.
Spill Your Guts Or Fill Your Guts is one of the games he plays with celebrities. Corden asks the guests difficult personal questions: “Drew Barrymore, who was your least talented co-star?”, “Anna Wintour, who will you never invite back to the Met Gala ball?”, “Kendall Jenner, which of Kim and Kanye’s kids have the worst name?”. If the person won’t answer, he or she must take a bite from a selection of “disgusting” foods.
The lazy susan of gross stuff to choose from can include fried scorpions, cow’s tongue, jellyfish, chicken feet, a salmon smoothie, bull’s testicles and cod sperm (shirako). Other times they’ve had ingredients that Asians consider prized and expensive delicacies, such as durian, century egg, and bird’s saliva. Clearly, the show courts viewers who think Olive Garden is exotic.
In each game, Corden and his guests gag, contort their faces in disgust, and dry heave at the faintest whiff of these so-called strange foods. Sure, chicken feet never look nice and the ammonia from a century egg is intense, but to me, nothing on the menu is particularly revolting. I reckon anyone who travels or has an adventurous palate would have tried a number of these items.
Tongue is a tasty offering in top New York delis. Cod sperm sounds horrible, but the Japanese poach it and serve it with ponzu sauce. Chinese people pay top bucks for bird’s saliva – and we use the less icky name, bird’s nest. We also have no problem gnawing on chicken feet, jellyfish, and various tendons and offal.
Obviously, there’s shock-value entertainment in making Hollywood stars eat fried grasshoppers and scorpions. But they are real street snacks, available in Asian cities from Beijing to Bangkok. Taking food out of its proper context to emphasise its supposed hideousness seems to be to be cultural chauvinism of the highest order.
Missionaries used to dismiss indigenous beliefs the same way. They see savages dancing around fires and conclude they must be heathens. Now they just call it the Burning Man festival.
I want to know which white, European epicurean arbiter decided that fattened duck or goose liver, which sounds better using its French name, foie gras, is gourmet and luxurious, but chicken gizzard and duck tongues are uncivilised and gruesome?
The seafood items on the show look like they were cooked using the blandest method, with no spice or seasoning, then probably left out on a prop table so they reek by show time. You leave any cooked seafood out to get cold and it’s bound to smell really fishy really fast. When the celebrities take a sniff, of course it’s going to be unpleasant.
Also, people don’t really eat century eggs whole. You dice it up for a sharp contrast in congee and steamed eggs, or serve it quartered with pickled ginger. It’s the same reason you don’t stuff an entire Stilton cheese in your mouth like you would an apple.
The point is this: I don’t like the way they slander and dismiss these rich and varied ingredients just because they’re different and unusual to fat, lazy Americans. You don’t see me making fun of cheeseburger crust pizzas, Doritos tacos with faux cheese nacho powder seasoning, and the glazed doughnut burgers that they like to shove in their mouths.
It would be easy for me to insult the processed garbage these Make America Great Again knuckle-draggers consider delicious sustenance, but the thing is, I have too much class and taste to do that, so I’m not going to lower myself to their level.