This year marked the first time since 1993 that Toronto’s Greektown neighbourhood failed to host its annual Taste of the Danforth weekend food festival. I like to grumble about Taste of the Danforth because I live in the area, and it always feels like half the 1.5-million attendees are circling my block in search of parking. But as soon as the 2020 instalment was canceled, I started to miss it. More importantly, so did the hundreds of restaurants that depend on the event for a mid-summer business boost. Bankruptcies have been rife up and down the Danforth, especially now that patio season is over. Behind many of the for-lease signs you now see are working-class families that sank everything they had, and then some, into these businesses. Now they have nothing.
In the category of small mercies, however, lies the fact that these restaurateurs will be spared a young?Toronto?Star?journalist’s manifesto about the cultural appropriation on display. You see, relatively few Greeks still live in Greektown (which was mostly Italian in the 1950s, and an Anglo-Scottish-Irish enclave before that), as the sons and daughters of 1970s-era immigrants have migrated out to the suburbs. Most of my favourite Greek restaurants are staffed and run by Tamils, in fact. In the world that exists outside woke Twitter, no one cares about this. Nor do they care that the best sushi restaurant is run by Chinese immigrants, or that the two guys who heroically kept the local shawarma place open during every single day of the pandemic are South Asian. But of course, to a certain kind of perpetually aggrieved activist-cum-journalist, this is all delectable red meat, lined up for the skewer. I was never quite sure whether the?Star’s eventual take on Taste of the Danforth would be “Greek Culture Appropriated by Interlopers,” or “Foodie Fascination Built on Emotional Labour of Cooks of Colour.” (“‘It was like a punch in the gut and a kick in the teeth,’ Costa/Prahan told?The Star?as a stray tear extinguished the Saganaki he’d lit aflame.”) Or maybe both. It doesn’t matter, just so long as my neighbours were made to understand that serving or eating food created by a person with the wrong kind of DNA marks them with the garlic and sesame stench of white supremacy.
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