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A matter of taste

James Corden is facing backlash for his Late Late Show.  Not because of his political stance.  Not because he had a controversial guest.

No, Corden is in trouble for offering a snack to some of his guests.  Included on the menu:  eyeballs, blood curd, and a thousand year old egg.

The segment, which has run for five years, is called “Spill Your Guts or Fill Your Guts.” Basically, it’s a food-focused version of the game, “Truth or Dare.”  Answer a question or eat something gross on the table.

At any other time, this would just be a silly game for laughs.  Unfortunately, viewers who have been enlightened over the last few years as to the hidden (and not so hidden) racism pervading our society are now sharing their rage on social media, calling the game – and its host – racist.

Apparently, items like balut, a fertilized duck egg known in Filipino food, have been on the game’s dinner table.  And while Corden – and his guests – have called some of the dishes “disgusting,” some viewers have been offended by this description.  These delicacies are, according to one viewer, culturally “significant” in some countries.  And she does not like that "They're calling Asian food disgusting on live TV."  A petition to change the food or scrap the recurring segment is now online.

I can understand that some might be hurt if someone comes into their home, eats their Nai Nai’s, YaYa’s, Nonna’s, Oma’s, or Lola’s lovingly prepared dish and calls it “horrific.”  That would just be rude.  And if these very old, highly traditional, but rarely-noshed-on-in-North-America appetizers are your idea of a yummy feast, please help yourself.  I’m sure there’s plenty left.

But every culture has a dish that is basically gross.  I’m Swedish and you won’t get me anywhere near my ancestors’ beloved lutfisk.  (In case you’re wondering, lutfisk is whitefish that’s dried out and then pickled in lye [something traditionally used as a major ingredient in soap-making] to a gelatinous texture for days before eating.  It smells like sour fish and ammonia.)

Some of these historic recipes were created when there were plagues, droughts, wars, religious influences, no refrigeration or limited food sources.  For the most part, things have changed.  So I can still honour and respect a culture’s history while gagging at an eyeball on a dinner plate.

Plus, I doubt anyone still eating these items on a regular basis in their country of origin is watching Corden and his guests try them for the first time on late-night television.  But if they did, they’d probably laugh.  (My cousin did when I tried lutfisk.)

Corden’s game basically brings us back to our childhood when everything we didn’t want was “yucky.”  And if you’re up after midnight, looking for something more thought-provoking and esoteric than a childish game of “Gross-out the Guest,” you’re probably not watching The Late Late Show with James Corden.

I believe in cultural and racial sensitivity.  So does Corden.  That’s why he’s adjusting his future menus.  But seriously folks, when did we lose our ability to laugh at ourselves?