By Blake Neff
A restaurant in Portland, Oregon is being targeted by protesters who say its British Empire theme is offensive to minorities.
Saffron Colonial focuses on English cuisine, but in addition to afternoon teas and English breakfasts the restaurant also incorporates “globally inspired dishes from the height of the British Empire,” such as a Burmese curry dish. Owner Sally Krantz says she’s interested in historical dishes and wants her restaurant to reflect the unique dishes and meal combinations created through the existence of the British Empire.
And that has some Portland residents outraged.
A March 19 open letter by Stephanie Dünx lays out the core criticisms of Saffron’s theme.
“While molasses cookies and sausage rolls may come to mind for you when you think of British colonialism, many of us associate it with forced religious conversion/cultural erasure, famine, and slavery,” the letter says. “You may argue that those days are long gone, but India has been independent for less than 70 years, which means there are still people alive today who have experienced the harms of British colonial rule.”
Dünx’s letter also faults owner Sally Krantz for opening the restaurant in North Williams, a longtime hub of Portland’s black population that has become whiter with the advent of gentrification.
“It’s a slap in the face to people who have experience the harms of racist economic development policies (a legacy of colonialism), wherein land and resources were taken from black and brown people in order to make some white folks rich,” the letter continues.
It concludes by offering a series of suggested changes for the restaurant, including:
-Eliminating all references to plantations, such as the “Tortolan Plantation Press.”
-Apologizing for the “pain” inflicted on “black/brown communities”
-Hosting a listening session on gentrification
-Requiring a chef who called protesters “crazy” to apologize and attend unconscious bias training, and firing him if he refuses
In addition to her letter, Dünx also organized a protest march to Saffron Colonial. During the protest, demonstrators plastered Saffron Colonial’s windows with homemade signs declaring “Closed due to glorifying colonialism” and similar phrases.
Besides marching to the restaurant, critics have also started to sabotage its Yelp page with negative reviews.
“If you would like your eggs served with a side of bigotry and complete ignorance, this is the place to go,” one review says. “This food is racism, British Colonial, WINSTON CHURCHILL inspired food. You mean the same Winston Churchill that caused the Indian famine under his rule? … Somehow, in some way, that history makes me hunger for eggs and brunch. Have some taste people. Boycott this place until it dies.”
Thus far, Krantz says she won’t give in to the complaints.
“Nobody is protesting Southern cuisine,” she told The Daily Beast. “Nobody is protesting Arab cuisine. I’m not sure where that stops.”
Similarly, Krantz didn’t have much patience for complaints about a Winston Churchill-themed menu item.
“Most people like Winston Churchill,” she said. “Quite a fun thing to have a Winston Churchill breakfast.”