I was approached by someone in PR at my university asking if I would write something about food for the holidays, and I knew there was not an elegant way to cram edible insects into an academic piece about holiday feasts. So I decided to use the opportunity to highlight indigenous foods more generally. I made the conscious effort to make the piece celebratory instead of derogatory (More "Yay indigenous foods!" and less "this holiday is made up; let's stop trying to pretend that the relationship between European settlers and the native peoples they conquered was a friendly one"). And I wanted to keep it that way as I engaged with readers in the comment section etc. But you can never be prepared for internet commenters!
My biggest fear writing a piece that would get such a large audience was that of impostor syndrome: That someone who knows more about the topic would point out errors that I made. I wasn't expecting people to "yuck my yum" because I wasn't discussing insects or any other food that I could imagine people would find disgusting. And problems with mansplaining never crossed my mind. Again, you can never truly be prepared for comments on the internet.
I am committed to public engagement and I stand by putting out good content with which the public can engage. I love having discussions but I believe it is important to avoid getting into fights.
So here is how I engaged with the comments I received in the first 24 hours:
YUCKING MY YUM
"Thank goodness...NO BUGS!"
I was expecting this. I went with the laughing emoji.
"I'd have to pass on the sobaheg stew"
[Thoughts to self: It's stew! Almost every culture has some version of a stew where you throw in a bunch of seasonal ingredients. How is this offensive???] I went with no comment.
""Most Americans probably don’t realize that we have a very limited understanding of the first Thanksgiving, which took place in 1621 in Massachusetts."....and even fewer Americans realize that the real first Thanksgiving took place September 8, 1565 in St. Augustine."
I first posted "Indeed, the award for who first conquered indigenous peoples on this continent goes to the Spanish." I then deleted it because I remembered my promise to not take this there and left no comment.
"Very interesting but what did they serve at Berkeley Plantation in Virginia at their first Thanksgiving more than a year earlier?"
[Thoughts to self: omg, really? Again? Am I going to be told of every feast on record prior to 1621?] I decided to craft an answer that I can use for any more of these that might come my way: "Feasting and giving thanks is common practice, especially for Native American tribes. So if we want the first first (not just the one in 1621 which was used for our made up holiday) we have to go much further back in time before any European settlers conquered the "New World"
In contrast to the above comments made by men, I received this one on the post itself: "Thanks for an interesting essay. I’m sure you are familiar with Janet Siskind’s classic article ‘The Invention of Thanksgiving" (Critique of Anthropology vol 12(2) 1992), which places the ritual in historical context…."
Polite AND with citation. Thank you, Barbara.