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Oprah's Swiss Handbag Masala and Spice Bias at Indian restaurants in Siam


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OK, the title here is kind of like the title of a 1960's absurdist experimental theater piece but bear with me, there is a meaning.

Oprah Winfrey, American icon, strong black woman, and mega-rich beyond imagination went into a shop in Switzerland and a handbag caught her eye. The shop clerk declined to show it to her protesting it was too expensive, that she couldn't afford itcheesy.gif . Oprah goes public about this and calls this racism. (Obviously if the clerk had known who exactly Oprah was this would have never happened.) The SWISS GOVERNMENT agrees and apologizes.

http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/gossip/oprah-winfrey-brush-racism-sparks-international-incident-article-1.1422325

Now ... my stories. Are they racism too? If not, why not? What's different?

In the last few weeks, I have had three separate experiences of SPICE BIAS based on my RACE (white on the outside) at Indian restaurants in Pattaya Thailand.

Will the Thai government apologize to me? If not, perhaps the good people in DELHI?

Here are the three incidents, told as briefly as I can manage:

1. Approached a new Indian restaurant. Perused the menu posted outside. A tout came out and point to an item called Kebabs, and said these are NOT spicy. My response, why did you point out that particular item on the menu to me, one that is not spicy, when Indian food is generally spicy. His response: Because Europeans do not like spicy food. (I did not offer my custom.)

2. Tried out a new Indian restaurant in town. Ordered two things.

-- Dal shorba, a thin yellow dal soup

When ordering I said I want this very spicy, I like spicy food. The waiters response, kind of a strange smile and wink, and then, really? YES REALLY!

The soup when it arrived was like lightly salted yellow hot dish water. No spice at all. Bland city. 80 baht down the drain which was where that soup belonged in the first place.

-- Momos w/ spicy garlic chili sauce (yes really a Tibetan origin dish on their Chinese Indian fusion menu)

The momos took 40 minutes to cook. I was hungry. When they arrived, NO SAUCE. The momos themselves were bland but that's OK they need the SPICY sauce. I complained. In response, the waiter pointed to the KETCHUP. They hadn't intended to even COOK the "spicy" sauce for me, wonder why?

I got them to cook me the sauce, by the time it came the Momos were ice cold.

Later I asked the waiter, why did you not make my Dal shorba spicy? Response: Europeans don't like spicy food. Me: I told you explicitly that I do.

3. Another Indian restaurant, a place I had been before.

Ordered a Amritsari Kulcha (google it)

The waiter was Thai.

This is supposed to be a delicious spicy Indian dish.

What was served to me was totally bland, no spices, almost no flavor.

I stupidly ate it because I was very hungry and really regretted it, without spices an awful dish.

When I got up to pay, the chef came out of the kitchen.

I asked him you cooked that dish for me? He said yes but had a sheepish look on his face. I knew exactly what had happened so I confronted him ... and told him how awful the dish was and accused him of cooking the dish that way because the waiter told him I was a f-rang. He basically agreed that's what happened and when he saw how angry I was (because there was really no defense and he KNEW how awful that dish was with no spice) he ran back into the kitchen.

I later talked to the manager and suggested this kind of treatment was a kind of racism. He said, no, it is not racism because you guessed it:

Europeans don't like spicy food.

Amazing!

So if Oprah's charge was true, isn't mine?

For anyone who does NOT think this kind of spice bias is a kind of racism, consider this reverse scenario. An Indian man peruses a French menu in Paris France. Staff comes out and suggests that the Coquille St. Jacques can be cooked Vindaloo style ...

Edited by Jingthing
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Easiest way to solve the problem is to learn Indian cooking yourself. No, those Indians would not apologize to you because you are not Oprah.

No the easier way is to find Indian places that don't act like that. Yes, they exist and I have found them. Not saying they all do that. My problem is that I like to try out all the NEW places ...

Anyway, I think you missed my point. This isn't about solving my personal culinary problems.

It's really about the question, is that kind of systemic treatment of SPICE BIAS based on race really a kind of racism or not?

I think it is. That manager didn't think so. I think Oprah would think so as well!

I also think it is much more severe when you clearly TELL them not to do the spice bias on you based on your race, and they do it anyway!

Let's Oprah-ize that shall we.

Oprah tells the clerk after denial of service, look girl, I am OPRAH ... THE OPRAH, I am a superstar and could buy this entire city if I wanted to, just show me the dam_n bag before you get your silly arse fired and cause an international incident, I don't care if it costs 100 million Euros. And then the clerk says, Nah, blacks can't afford bags like this ...

Edited by Jingthing
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This is not your first altercation in a restaurant is it? In fact in reflection of your own threads, I know it isn't and as we have only one version, obviously I understand the difficulties of getting both views, but perhaps the context of your restaurant reviews are based on this. However, I believe that your experiences are racist, and based on the limited information at my disposal, the racism is down to you, and what appears to be your complete contempt at their service/fare provided. I would suggest, based purely on your posting style here and your historic problems in restaurants, you are the common denominator. Think about it, just for a moment. I was in an area recently that was exclusively Thai, my Thai is fairly limited, I wanted my fare spicy, guess what?

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Why they were clearly being racist by thinking they were offering you something that was better suited to your palate.

You're clearly a white man who has earned too much money for too little work who has time to come up with such nonsense to make himself feel that he's above others yet also a victim.

The fact you use racism so casually is one of the reasons the word has no meaning.

My country is run by middle class liberals like you who throw this word around then run back to their little white bubble away from all those immigrants they expect the working classes to live alongside.

PS One of the reasons the person who "allegedly" upset Oprah didn't know who she was is because Switzerland doesn't show her show for the braindead, good to see English speaking nonsense hasn't infiltrated this bastion of democracy.

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This is not your first altercation in a restaurant is it? In fact in reflection of your own threads, I know it isn't and as we have only one version, obviously I understand the difficulties of getting both views, but perhaps the context of your restaurant reviews are based on this. However, I believe that your experiences are racist, and based on the limited information at my disposal, the racism is down to you, and what appears to be your complete contempt at their service/fare provided. I would suggest, based purely on your posting style here and your historic problems in restaurants, you are the common denominator. Think about it, just for a moment. I was in an area recently that was exclusively Thai, my Thai is fairly limited, I wanted my fare spicy, guess what?

They were Indian restaurants. Except for the case of the one place with the Thai waiter (the chef and manager were Indian) FLUENT ENGLISH was spoken by all as I was speaking to INDIAN people.

I know perfectly well how to get spicy food at Thai places speaking in Thai and the success rate is very high.

There seems to be a PATTERN with the local INDIAN places with the spice bias based on race, which in these cases, was basically ADMITTED in the three examples. I say that because these three Indian spice bias incidents happened within a very short time frame. Yes I call it a form of racism. They agreed it was a bias based on race but didn't feel this was a negative thing. I do because they want to take full payment but don't serve me REAL Indian food like they do their Indian customers, which is why I go to INDIAN restaurants to get ... INDIAN food. You do realize racism isn't only LYNCHING, it is really any automatic DIFFERENT treatment based on race. So this is just a question of semantics.

Edited by Jingthing
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The problem is that all of these tourists when you ask them go

"I LOVE SPICY FOOD"

but their definition of spicy is no the same as Thai/Indian definition of spicy so it creates problems.

I am sure if you spoke to them in clear Thai that you know most farang do not like spicy but that you are a true exception that it will be okay.

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The problem is that all of these tourists when you ask them go

"I LOVE SPICY FOOD"

but their definition of spicy is no the same as Thai/Indian definition of spicy so it creates problems.

I am sure if you spoke to them in clear Thai that you know most farang do not like spicy but that you are a true exception that it will be okay.

Oprah will be happy to hear about that. coffee1.gif

Except for the one place I was dealing with FLUENT English speakers.

At the one place with the Thai waiter, the Thai waiter was clearly enforcing some kind of restaurant policy to TELL the chef the RACE of the person ordering, as he was in a back room out of sight.

Honestly, I well understand people who who think calling this kind of spice bias based on race as racism is a bit OTP. But I did think that if the Swiss government agrees what happened to Oprah was racism, judging her ability to pay based on race, then these incidents could also validly be called a kind of racism, as these places are judging my ability to enjoy ACTUALLY authentically spiced Indian food based on race, even when I tell them directly to their face that is what I really WANT. Can't do much more than that. If they STILL treat differently based on race, it REALLY is on them.

Edited by Jingthing
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The Shop Girl must have been dumb,or never visited Geneva Airport where anyone can see Native Africans buying Rolexes by the handfull.coffee1.gif

Yeah, I like the idea of a gear shift to Oprah. People don't really seem very engaged with my Indian spice racism stories.

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The Shop Girl must have been dumb,or never visited Geneva Airport where anyone can see Native Africans buying Rolexes by the handfull.coffee1.gif

Yeah, I like the idea of a gear shift to Oprah. People don't really seem very engaged with my Indian spice racism stories.

I do, but then i liked Thai Food till i lived here. Its so over Pric. Spiced, Chicken could be Pork to me. Now thats Racist to P.C. nutters.giggle.gif

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The Shop Girl must have been dumb,or never visited Geneva Airport where anyone can see Native Africans buying Rolexes by the handfull.coffee1.gif

Yeah, I like the idea of a gear shift to Oprah. People don't really seem very engaged with my Indian spice racism stories.

I do, but then i liked Thai Food till i lived here. Its so over Pric. Spiced, Chicken could be Pork to me. Now thats Racist to P.C. nutters.giggle.gif

The ingredients in Thai restaurants in the west are often of much higher quality than is widely sold in Thailand, especially BEEF. As far as spice levels, I don't see how many people would have much problem asking for Thai food to be cooked blandly here. Not really a matter of PC or not. I have met many Thai people who don't like Thai food as spicy as I do and they have no problem getting it that way either.

Edited by Jingthing
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I never tried indian food, but think it will work same as with thai food.

When i order thai food, i speak thai, and in the very few instances they are uncertain, they will ask if i want spicy,

and i confirm.

Likewise i think if you learn the few sentences it takes to order indian dishes, in indian language,

there wont be much of misunderstanding, add that you'd want spicy in indian language too

Edited by poanoi
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Oh please. Is there something you didn't understand about the phrase: FLUENT ENGLISH. Most of the Indian places I go I am talking to waiters and owners in FLUENT ENGLISH. Not talking about Thai restaurants.

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Still, next time, ask out of curiosity how to say -"i want spicy indian food in Hindi ? "

it will give them a very good hint

OK, noted.

I generally don't ever go back to a restaurant that has dissed me badly such as the Momo place. Ketchup, were they joking?

In Pattaya there are scads of Indian places, they are opening and closing all the time. No need to reward bad places so I don't.

None of them are really that great though which is why I try to try all the NEW places at least once as hope springs eternal.

People living in places with one or two choices would be stuck.

Of course IF the food was exceptionally good, I would make an exception and try again.

The place where I insulted the Indian chef to his face about how bad his food was, that place, I'll never go back. No snot curry for me, thank you!

Edited by Jingthing
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This is not your first altercation in a restaurant is it? In fact in reflection of your own threads, I know it isn't and as we have only one version, obviously I understand the difficulties of getting both views, but perhaps the context of your restaurant reviews are based on this. However, I believe that your experiences are racist, and based on the limited information at my disposal, the racism is down to you, and what appears to be your complete contempt at their service/fare provided. I would suggest, based purely on your posting style here and your historic problems in restaurants, you are the common denominator. Think about it, just for a moment. I was in an area recently that was exclusively Thai, my Thai is fairly limited, I wanted my fare spicy, guess what?

Surely the OP had a right to have what he ordered.

It is not racist but simple Thai incompetence, or arrogance, in believing that THEY know best what a farang wants to eat. Having made it crystal clear that he likes spicy etc the OP deserved better service.

Advisory to OP - next time try a Thai phrase like "ooh, mai pet. mai arroy" - repeat 3 or 4 times and you might, MIGHT, just get something nearer to your tastes.

If you really want to test how big their <deleted> are also try "Mai chai Farang pet, Ao THAI pet - khao jai mai?"

If you want to test how big YOUR <deleted> are then tell the server (and preferably also the house manager) that you are specifically ordering your food SPICY and it if it does not come like that you will not expect to pay the bill.

Can't help you with the Thai on the last one but be prepared to expect something Bhut Jolokia-style that is in excess of 1,000,000 on the Scoville scale smile.png

Mossfin is probably suggesting that you contributed to your own downfall. I call that BS. It is not your responsibility to train the staff how to do their job properly - although my advice, correctly administered, should encourage them to get your order right.

Edited by cardholder
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Upon reflection, i think I too would take it as a personal insult if they came with ketchup.

How about grab the waiter by the ear and squeeze that ketchup down his throught and ask if he likes it ?

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Thanks Cardholder.

This was specifically though about spice race bias at INDIAN restaurants mostly with Indian English speaking owners and staff.

Personally I have little problem with this kind of thing at local THAI restaurants.

The real question also wasn't so much how to solve this problem in all cases at all places (you can't) but is it actually a kind of RACISM to think people who are a certain skin color really can't take authentically spiced foods and really don't want it even when you TELL them you want it.

It's crazy really. You go to an Indian place and the first thing that pops into their mind is that you really DON'T want to eat Indian food, it must be some kind of mistake. Like going to a gay bar and being told, your skin color only likes girls.

I still think yes, it is a kind of racism. A mild kind like the food they think you can only eat, but VERY annoying, and still racism.

As I said before imagine an Indian person approaching a fine French restaurant in Paris and offered a vindaloo style of Coquilles St. Jacques. Would he be insulted and think he was being racially stereotyped? I think so. Get the point? In fact, bizarrely I asked the same kind of question of the manager who claimed it wasn't racism at HIS restaurant and he agreed he would be very insulted if that kind of thing happened to him based on being Indian.

Edited by Jingthing
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Life is funny at times.What some people see as being racist I see as being helpful. "The kebabs are not spicy" Thank you but today I fancy something a bit spicy!

"We can do vindaloo style Coquilles St. Jacque". Excellent I will have some of that ...or... I think today I will have it French style! Too much PC for me, a bit like two boxers, Jones a negro and Smith a white man. The commentator says you can distinguish Jones as he is wearing red shorts! We can usually see ones race by looks and help is offered and maybe get a sale. Such help should be accepted as such and do not think it is a racist comment.

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Again, it's not funny to me.

Too many times these places demand full payment from me and didn't give me what I want, what I ASKED for explicitly, all because of my skin color.

It's not the biggest issue in the world, but it IS wrong.

It's also not a matter of PC really. It's about businesses treating customers really badly, again based on RACE, more like a CONSUMER issue. The Indians get full value for money, I leave unsatisfied and feeling correctly that I've been RIPPED off.

Edited by Jingthing
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Thank God the Indian restaurants here in SR are better; every one go to I am asked how I like my food (grew up with Indian food and thus like it spicy).

But I think the problem also stems from the guests. We (I work in a hotel) are often asked to make the food spice; once the food comes it is too spicy and sent backfacepalm.gif

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The Shop Girl must have been dumb,or never visited Geneva Airport where anyone can see Native Africans buying Rolexes by the handfull.coffee1.gif

Yeah, I like the idea of a gear shift to Oprah. People don't really seem very engaged with my Indian spice racism stories.

i am not at all comfortable with that mental image. thanks for nothing.

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The Shop Girl must have been dumb,or never visited Geneva Airport where anyone can see Native Africans buying Rolexes by the handfull.coffee1.gif

Yeah, I like the idea of a gear shift to Oprah. People don't really seem very engaged with my Indian spice racism stories.

i am not at all comfortable with that mental image. thanks for nothing.

I am not the boss of your interesting brain filters. whistling.gif

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