Jamie Oliver has been accused of cultural appropriation over a new microwaveable rice product called ‘Punchy Jerk Rice.’
The row erupted after British MP Dawn Butler, whose parents are Jamaican, called the well known chef out on Twitter for appropriating Jamaican culture to sell the product.
The problem is two fold: firstly, the product contains neither allspice or scotch bonnet peppers, which are essential to jerk, but strangely it does contain Jalapeños, and secondly, the term ‘jerk’ actually refers to the way protein, i.e. meat or fish, is barbecued.
Butler feels Oliver has simply added the word ‘Jerk’ to the product to make it more sellable.
#jamieoliver @jamieoliver #jerk I'm just wondering do you know what #Jamaican #jerk actually is? It's not just a word you put before stuff to sell products. @levirootsmusic should do a masterclass. Your jerk Rice is not ok. This appropriation from Jamaica needs to stop.
— (((Dawn Butler MP))) (@DawnButlerBrent) August 18, 2018
Others, such as Caribbean food entrepreneur Levi Roots, have also questioned Oliver’s thinking. What’s strange about this misstep is that Oliver has previously collaborated with Roots on a jerk dish and has a recipe for jerk chicken, using the right ingredients. in one of his cookbooks. Roots has suggested that perhaps Oliver wasn’t involved in the naming decision.
Oliver has since released a statement, saying: “I've worked with flavours and spices from all over the world my whole career, learning and drawing inspiration from different countries and cultures to give a fresh twist to the food we eat every day. When I named the rice my intention was only to show where my inspiration came from," reports the Evening Standard.