Letter to Michele Anna Jordan – VegOut SF

Here’s a copy of a letter I recently sent Michele Anna Jordan, the author of “VegOut: Vegetarian Guide to San Francisco Bay Area”.

Dear Michele

I am writing regarding your book VegOut: Vegetarian Guide to San Francisco Bay Area, and it’s review of Shangri-La Vegetarian Restaurant in SF (page 103.)

I understand and respect that everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

However, I am dismayed and disappointed that you chose to poke fun at their non-American grasp of the English language.

I quote –

“The menu here is riddled with mistakes in grammar and vocabulary, making it an interesting and amusing read. But you have to wonder about some of the names: Vegetal goose? Vegetal kidney? Shark Fin Vegetable Plate?”

As a European immigrant, I, too, sometimes unintentionally misuse the English language, or am misunderstood in “translation” to “American”.

Your remarks, as a professional reviewer who should have a good grasp of the written English language, were intentional. Your intent may be construed as offensive or even racist to some readers, especially those of an Asian heritage.

If you had bothered to ask, you would have found that the menu at Shangri-La is 100% vegetarian and one of the most vegan friendly places in town. In fact they’ve been in business in the same location, with the same owner and menu, for close to 30 years. Plus they’ve won many awards for “Best of” over the years from many sources, including Bay Area Vegetarians, the group that I co-founded.

When the owner of the restaurant showed me your review, I was as upset as he was by your ridicule, and gladly accepted his request to contact you.

This is one of my favorite restaurants, and I dine there frequently.

I think you owe an apology to the restaurant and to the readers of your guide book.

Sincerely,

Chris James

Here’s Michele’s reply, even though it’s polite, it still does not excuse her behavior.

Dear Chris,

Thank you for taking the time to write. I am sorry you took offense and I assure you that none was intended. I do feel that language difficulties, or translation difficulties, make it hard to people, especially newcomers, to navigate a written menu, in part because descriptions such as “vegetal kidney” do not sound at all appetizing.

Since many vegetarians shrink from the idea of eating even the most familiar cuts of meat, using innards and goose (not common in the US) as a reference point doesn’t seem to be very helpful. My commitment is to readers and I try to fulfill it.

The few times I’ve worked as a menu consultant, I’ve encouraged careful translations and descriptions that let customers know what they might be getting. This is especially important when spoken language is a barrier.

I travel extensively, make countless errors when I try to speak the local language and have friends from many parts of the world. I would never and have never ridiculed anyone for their use of English or any other language.

I regret any and all misunderstandings and I hope you might, on a subsequent visit, convey my best regards and regrets to the owner.

Thank you again for writing,

michele anna jordan

Comments

  1. It would have been nice if she had mentioned that it’d be revised for the next edition or future printing.