Is apple pie racist? Column claiming dish has colonial roots sparks debate

·2-min read
<p>Origins of apple pie sparks debate over racism </p> (Shutterstock / Split Second Stock)

Origins of apple pie sparks debate over racism

(Shutterstock / Split Second Stock)

Apple pie has been at the centre of a debate about racism after it was claimed the dish has colonial roots, in an article that has been widely shared on social media. 

Food writer and activist Raj Patel, in an article about “food injustice” in The Guardian on 1 May, argued that apple pie was born of American colonialism and slave labour. 

The article, titled “Food injustice has deep roots: let’s start with America’s apple pie”, also alleged that American food culture and identity were suffering from an “amnesia” about its colonial roots.

Watch: Concha on NJ teacher quitting over push for critical race theory, Guardian writer taking aim at apple pie

“In the drama of nationalist culture, the bloody and international origins of the apple pie are subject to a collective amnesia,” wrote Mr Patel. “The apple pie is as American as stolen land, wealth and labour.”

After the article went viral on Twitter in recent days, dozens of social media users reacted to Mr Patel’s claims with amusement, while others agreed with his article, and many offered criticism. 

“There are still people in this world who are having sleep for dinner tonight, yet we've decided that ‘food justice’ means arguing about whether apple pie is racist,” wrote a Twitter user, referring to food poverty. 

“I wonder if Raj Patel knows that Geoffrey Chaucer invented apple pie in 1381. That predates colonialism and the slave trade,” another wrote, in reference to the English poet and author. 

Another Twitter user wrote that “‘As American as apple pie’ will never mean the same again. Raj Patel brilliantly on the deep roots of hunger & injustice”.

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Patel, who is Indian-British, went on to argue in The Guardian article that everything from the gingham cloth frequently pictured with an apple pie on top, to its ingredients, were the result of “violence, exploitation, poverty and profit”. 

It included cotton brought to the US by English colonisers who “committed acts of genocide against millions” and sugar shipped from French colonies. 

“Apples travelled to the western hemisphere with Spanish colonists in the 1500s in what used to be called the Columbian Exchange,” added the food writer, “but is now better understood as a vast and ongoing genocide of Indigenous people”.

The article was written ahead of the first anniversary of demonstrations against racial inequality and injustice in the wake of George Floyd’s death on 25 May 2020. 

Watch: The Historical Reason We Associate Apple Pie with the Fourth of July

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