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Ethnic and Geopolitical Culinary Stereotypes as Expressed Through Google; Or, Why Do White People Eat Breakfast?

Yes, this exact thing is taking place in Thailand right now. Except not really.
Yes, this exact thing is taking place in Thailand right now. Except not really.

The interesting thing about Google is that we ask it the kind of deeply intimate questions that we would never ask another human being, even a friend or loved one. Embarrassing questions; compromising questions; dark questions; questions that reveal our own hidden insecurities and prejudices.

It also reveals a certain hive mind tendency. Type in the very beginning of a question and you may find that Google automatically completes exactly the question you were rushing to ask. "Why are Russians so good...at chess?" How did you know I was going to finish that question with "at chess," Google?

But for each of these harmless, silly auto-completes, there are always several more that are tacky at best and downright ugly at the worst. "Why are Indians so smelly?" "Why are Irish people alcoholics?"

A vast web of stereotypes laid bare, courtesy of Google and its clever habit of transforming millions of users' search histories into one giant artificial intelligence capable of finishing your question before you can.

Of course, nearly every ethnicity, race, gender or country of origin you type into the Google search box results in the auto-complete question "Why are __________ so rude?" (Instinctive, sometimes insurmountable xenophobia pretty much always leads us to believe that every other culture is somehow ruder than our own.) It's nevertheless interesting to see what culinary stereotypes the average Google user carries with them, no matter how off-base or potentially offensive they are.

I started by typing in the most basic culinary stereotypes I could think. "Why do Germans eat..." "Why do Mexicans eat..." Sauerkraut and beans were the first items to come up in Google's search results.

Why? Because as Koreans will tell you, cabbage is freaking delicious when pickled.
Why? Because as Koreans will tell you, cabbage is freaking delicious when pickled.
Every culture eats beans. I don't know why Mexicans always get singled out for this.
Every culture eats beans. I don't know why Mexicans always get singled out for this.

And then I got really curious. You could substitute any country's demonym for "Germans" or "Mexicans." You could substitute any race, ethnicity, gender, age or even socioeconomic status, for that matter. The Google hive mind would have a culinary stereotype for them all.

I started with just continents, taking screen shots all along the way.

Ethnic and Geopolitical Culinary Stereotypes as Expressed Through Google; Or, Why Do White People Eat Breakfast?
Ethnic and Geopolitical Culinary Stereotypes as Expressed Through Google; Or, Why Do White People Eat Breakfast?
Ethnic and Geopolitical Culinary Stereotypes as Expressed Through Google; Or, Why Do White People Eat Breakfast?

As briefly touched upon in this week's post on cooking the Easter bunny, there is a surfeit of interest in North America over other cultures eating meats that we don't personally consider food, such as cats, dogs or even -- as with the case of Africans and Australians -- elephant and kangaroo. We might not want to eat those things ourselves, but we're sure as hell keen to know why others do.

And then I moved on to countries.

 

I wasn't aware that there was such a strong myth surrounding monkey brains in China. Indiana Jones taught us they eat monkey brains in India, kids.
I wasn't aware that there was such a strong myth surrounding monkey brains in China. Indiana Jones taught us they eat monkey brains in India, kids.
The "eating dog" question is a recurring one throughout Asia.
The "eating dog" question is a recurring one throughout Asia.
See?
See?
Except with the Japanese. We want to know why they eat whale.
Except with the Japanese. We want to know why they eat whale.
What the hell, folks? When did the Internet decide that Thai people are cannibals?
What the hell, folks? When did the Internet decide that Thai people are cannibals?

And it continued across the rest of the world, too.

 

Short answer: Because people in Alicante were trying to get rid of excess grapes at the end of the year.
Short answer: Because people in Alicante were trying to get rid of excess grapes at the end of the year.
Horse meat falls into the same area of general morbid interest as dog meat.
Horse meat falls into the same area of general morbid interest as dog meat.
I'm frankly surprised to see curry is only second on the list. Sorry.
I'm frankly surprised to see curry is only second on the list. Sorry.

But, as previously mentioned, no group goes free from scrutiny. What about Jews or blacks or fat people or poor people? Doesn't the Internet have disparaging things to say about their diets, too?

Of course it does.

 

I'm wondering at what point caviar will stop being synonymous with extravagant wealth...
I'm wondering at what point caviar will stop being synonymous with extravagant wealth...
...while also wondering when we're going to stop having government-subsidized junk food as the only inexpensive option for people on incredibly fixed incomes.
...while also wondering when we're going to stop having government-subsidized junk food as the only inexpensive option for people on incredibly fixed incomes.

Interestingly, sometimes the exact same question is asked about diametrically opposed groups of people:

Ethnic and Geopolitical Culinary Stereotypes as Expressed Through Google; Or, Why Do White People Eat Breakfast?
Ethnic and Geopolitical Culinary Stereotypes as Expressed Through Google; Or, Why Do White People Eat Breakfast?

Yeah, why do all these skinny/fat people eat so goddamned much?!

Religion and race, too, drew their own share of stereotypes from the Google hive mind.

 

Again, nearly every culture enjoys chicken. But I guess we should count ourselves lucky that "watermelon" didn't show up as a search result.
Again, nearly every culture enjoys chicken. But I guess we should count ourselves lucky that "watermelon" didn't show up as a search result.
As a white person, I'd say a far more accurate stereotype is that we love brunch - not breakfast - beyond all reason.
As a white person, I'd say a far more accurate stereotype is that we love brunch - not breakfast - beyond all reason.
Catholics /= all Christians, Google.
Catholics /= all Christians, Google.
Everyone eats bagels now. We have the '90s to thank for that.
Everyone eats bagels now. We have the '90s to thank for that.
Muslims don't eat pork, which makes me suddenly even more terrified for the untold thousands of people moronically typing this question into Google's search box each day.
Muslims don't eat pork, which makes me suddenly even more terrified for the untold thousands of people moronically typing this question into Google's search box each day.

But no examination of stereotypes would be complete without a little ageism and sexism, right?

WE EAT CHOCOLATE ON OUR PERIODS BECAUSE WE'RE ALL INSANE MADWOMEN INCAPABLE OF RATIONAL THOUGHT DURING OUR RED DAYS. Good grief.
WE EAT CHOCOLATE ON OUR PERIODS BECAUSE WE'RE ALL INSANE MADWOMEN INCAPABLE OF RATIONAL THOUGHT DURING OUR RED DAYS. Good grief.
Hey, on the other hand, I don't want to discourage the third and fifth questions here. As you were, gentlemen.
Hey, on the other hand, I don't want to discourage the third and fifth questions here. As you were, gentlemen.
If your grandmother is eating cat food, she probably has dementia. Stop asking Google about it and get her to a doctor.
If your grandmother is eating cat food, she probably has dementia. Stop asking Google about it and get her to a doctor.
Are you sure you aren't confusing babies with dogs?
Are you sure you aren't confusing babies with dogs?

Even hippies, who aren't even culturally relevant anymore, aren't exempt from our culinary stereotypes.

Ethnic and Geopolitical Culinary Stereotypes as Expressed Through Google; Or, Why Do White People Eat Breakfast?

Shit, the only people eating granola these days are yuppies and bobos, which just goes to show: Stereotypes don't always exist for a reason.

Now if we could only get that message across to the rest of the Internet...



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