Now, Taylor is facing criticism that her company has culturally appropriated and whitewashed the dish, claiming to have made it less “foreign.”
Taylor has since edited the blog post and removed her title as “queen” of the dish. Breakfast Cure has also apologized, saying on its website that “we fell short of supporting and honoring the Asian American community, and for that, we are deeply sorry.”
“We take full responsibility for any language on our website or in our marketing and have taken immediate steps to remedy that and educate ourselves, revising our mission to not just creating delicious breakfast meals, but becoming a better ally for the AAPI community.”
Taylor did not respond to a request for comment.
Taylor is not the first person to be accused of whitewashing Asian culture for commercial purposes. In January, a Dallas-based company called the Mahjong Line, owned by a group of White women, came under fire for selling redesigned mah-jongg tiles to give the game a “respectful refresh.” Critics argued the redesigned tiles signified cultural erasure, yet the sets remain online and sell for as much as $425 apiece.
In April 2019, New York restaurant owner Arielle Haspel also faced backlash after saying she wanted to make “clean” American Chinese food that didn’t contain “globs of processed butter,” MSG and sodium.
Congee is a rice porridge found in many Asian countries. At its base, it is made from water and rice, but it can contain anything from chicken to pickled eggs.
“It’s a way that Chinese people made something go a long way,” Valerie Soe, a professor of Asian American studies at San Francisco State University, told The Washington Post. “You only need, like, one cup of rice or less to make an entire pot of this stuff.”
Soe said the dish is something that many Chinese Americans grew up eating, noting it is especially popular in Southern China, where her family is from. There, she said, they call it “jook.”
Soe learned about Taylor’s congee company in recent days, and she immediately thought Taylor was “Columbusing” — a term referring to purportedly discovering a piece of culture that, in fact, has existed long before.
“It is disrespectful to the culture,” Soe said.
Taylor has deleted many of the comments her critics found disrespectful. Since facing criticism for not sufficiently supporting the Asian community, she has pledged to donate 1 percent of her sales to the advocacy group Asian Americans Advancing Justice.
She has made further attempts to show her support to the Asian community.
“In America, we really need to address systemic racism and I am totally committed to that, just to be super clear about that,” Taylor told Today.com in a Monday article. “But I also feel that we need to heal ourselves from an epidemic of obesity and broken digestion. … It’s pretty serious, and the wisdom from Chinese medicine offers a lot of potential healing for that.”
For now, her business model appears to be unchanged. As of early Thursday, customers could still choose between “Pear-fection Congee” and “Coconut Blueberry Bliss Congee.”