Food As A Racial Identifier In Invisible Man. For Many

1187 WordsMay 5, 20175 Pages
Food As A Racial Identifier in Invisible Man For many people, culture and identity are closely tied to identity-- sometimes so closely that the things they do, eat, or say may not even feel like a conscious decision. However, from an outsider’s point of view, it is easy to note the differences between cultures in many different ways. One of the most tangible examples of this is, of course, food. When speaking to many people from older generations, it is easy to see how much food is entwined in their stories from the past, whether they come from far away or are still living where they were born. Throughout Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, food is heavily used in many different ways to represent multiple races. In Invisible Man, the main…show more content…
Ellison, the author, writes; "I downed the acid drink, proud to have resisted the pork chops and grits. It was a an act of discipline" (178). It is vital to note that several of the foods mentioned-- especially grits-- have already been recognized as racially-charged. In addition to this, the fact remains that African Americans of this time were generally not of high economic standing, and thus had to prepare foods that fit their means. This idea of low-income or typically “black” food continues throughout the novel. While in a majority African American neighborhood, Harlem, the narrator observes the following scene; "...Withering fruits and vegetables. I could smell the stench of decaying cabbage. A watermelon huckster stood in the shade beside his truck, holding up a long slice of orange-meated melon, crying his wares with hoarse appeals to nostalgia, memories of childhood, green shade and summer coolness." (460). This scene that the unnamed narrator is describing to the audience fits under the description of a common concept known as a “food desert”. That is, the area is so incredibly impoverished that individuals living in the area have a very little amount of nutritional options. The people residing in Harlem are too poor to even afford fresh cabbage, much less more substantial foods, such as meat or bread. In another scene, during a riot, the foods that are stolen

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