Flocking Asians Draw Culinary Fault Line In Northern Virginia
The Asians in Virginia, are now drawing culinary fault lines in the state’s supermarkets, mainly because their culinary preferences are running into a direct conflict with the State laws. While it is no news that Asians love their share of turtles, eels, and bullfrogs, these are the same items, which are prohibited under the State law as wildlife and their sale is illegal. So, there you have, a perfect recipe for conflicting tastes!
1) The Supermarkets are Empty
While the State supermarkets sell razor clams, baby smelt, and frozen conch without any inhibition, and crabs, sea bass and tilapia are also sold to the local population, who relish these delicacies from the sea. But on the other hand, the Asian population, which makes up for about 13.6% of the total population of the four Northern Virginia counties, is being deprived of its staple. It is simply because the State law doesn’t recognize the bullfrogs, turtles, and eels as edible food, thus, anybody who sells these is charged with criminal proceedings, as happened in case of two managers of the Great Wall supermarket in Falls Church.
2) Ancient Law, Modern Cuisine
One of the charged managers, Kai Wei Jin, who is in the middle of a criminal case, says, “We’re not trying to break the law. We just want to do business, and just support the culture.” It is as simple as that really. A few years ago, when the Asian population did not have such a significant presence among the locals, their culinary preferences were also not given so much attention. But today, with a sizeable chunk of the North Virginia population boasting of Asians, their food preferences are to be respected as much as that of locals and that is what the store managers were trying to live upto. Their main grouse against the State is that the laws governing wildlife or sea life have not been updated even in wake of the changing demographics.
3) Rise of the Asians
In 1980, when Asians and Pacific Islanders constituted just 3.2% of the total population in the four North Virginia counties, the laws suited all and sundry fine. However, according to the latest census data, in the past one decade, Asians were 13.6% of the four-country area, which also reflected in terms of the food being sold at the supermarkets, especially wildlife and seafood to cater to the Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean workers.
4) Deliberate or Not?
The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries says in its defense, “We really try to educate folks about the regulations before we ever try to bring charges. In this case, every attempt was made to educate about what’s legal. And, unfortunately, action was not taken.” It all started at the Great Wall Supermarket in Falls Church, where a “concerned citizen” reported the illegal sales. The department officials themselves went several times and bought turtles, bass, etc from the shops before returning in April 2011 and seizing bullfrogs, crayfish, eels, and turtles and delivering a warning to the shop managers. When the officials returned recently and found that the illegal food was still being sold, they brought in charges against the managers, both of whom have been indicted on four felony counts.
5) Discrimination, anyone?
However, more than depriving the Asian population of its staples, this is more about discrimination as can be derived from the fact that another Great Wall store in neighboring Maryland is selling everything from turtles to bullfrogs openly. While in case of Virginia, about a dozen cases have been brought in under similar circumstances in the last five years.
Asians may be accused of eating some of the weirdest snacks in the world but then, that is what they are used to eat and they can’t change it overnight, at least. While the State is being repeatedly accused of cultural insensitivity, there is no way out of this situation except for bringing in some much-needed changes in Virginia laws. After all, if an Asian can’t have his dose of eel, turtle or bullfrog, what else is he supposed to eat, razor clams and crabs?