MAYA'S MARCH BEAUTY COLUMN: WHY I HATE TURMERIC
We all fall victim to it – sans sarif font families, recyclable containers, and organic ingredients. Tragically, that description lends itself to really any modern marketing mock-up (say that ten times fast). No, I’m not talking about the general post-everything narrative that seems to come in the fine print of every product available for our consumption in the current zeitgeist. Specifically, I’m talking about turmeric.
So, here’s the tea with turmeric. STOP putting it in your bricolage Western of tea blends from East Asia, the subcontinent of Southeast Asia, and various previously colonized Arab nations. Keep it the fuck out of your lattes. Stop allowing white people with dreadlocks to be the supreme opinion on turmeric’s health benefits. “Oh, did you know turmeric is a root?” Yes, I did. Why? Because it’s MINE.
Here’s what I mean – turmeric is a staple in Arabized nations. It is mixed in yogurts, sprinkled in stews, steeped in simple teas. It is an incredibly basic thing, turmeric, not the apathologized skin salve or magical foreign herb it’s chocked up to be. That's not to diminish the importance of turmeric, but to instead call out the role an everyday seasoning has in the West, and how it is colonized.
Western nations have a habit of arriving late to the party and pretending they invented fun, so to speak. Look at hummus, avocados – suddenly these cultural staples in Arabized/Middle Eastern countries and Mexican cuisine (respectively) are turned into superfoods by the FDA and foodie tastemakers (lol) alike. These foods were doing just fine before they entered the everyday galleta’s fridge. Spanish speakers will understand me on that last one.
Turmeric specifically bothers me, because of its application into Western beauty norms completely irreverential to its role in the cultures from which it comes. In Pakistan, turmeric is mixed with yogurt and herbs intended to be slathered on soon-to-be brides on their wedding days, a way of making sure her skin is nice and “bright” (shameless plug to my previous column) for her groom. Of course, codified in the word “bright” is “light” – turmeric in this mixture strips the skin of pigmentation. This fact can’t stop vegans from talking about their “holy grail” spice to sprinkle in their DIY face masks, though! See: here. The REAL question is how the umpteen bloggers doting on turmeric would feel if they knew their colonization of the spice conflicted with their Western notion of feminism in culturally Muslim areas?
I digress. But, what is to be said of these modern Christopher Columbus’s is undoubtedly substantial when considering the idea of newness in food and beauty that often represents a menagerie of colonized foods commodified in a truly bizarre sense of cultural capital. There’s this obsession with the “new” when it comes to foods – this idea of Western progress that underscores globalization under what - under a misnomer, might I add - is considered “diversity.” The constant trend cycle of food: its packaging, even its dillution to suit Western taste, is a reduction of whole cultures into mere condiments of the so-called salad bowl of American culture. We are not past manifest destiny, folks – the idea of America as a "house on a hill" exists arguably more-so, with this pithy dialogue simply wearing a better disguise. There’s this idea of ~REBIRTH~ in the popularity of these foods, of turmeric, in the common Whole Foods checkout line. And I’m here to tell you that it’s inaccurate.
Con todo mi amor,