In Narayan's last chapter, "Eating Cultures" I think she makes some very good points. Narayan makes comments regarding the different way ethnic food and ethnic restaurants are percieved in different cultures. For example, Indian food in western contexts has undegone a few adaptations to cater to the tastes of the west. (ex: less spicy)
Also, Narayan says that although there are some traditional Indian restaurants, many offer food that is very different from what actually might be sold in India. Therefor people are getting a scewed image. Lisa Heldke's argument is that there is a "food colonialism" or a tendency for westerners to use eating "ethnic" food as a way to prove their elitist, or more sophisticated lifestyles. She says that people tend to spend less money on ethnic food and tip less, as a sign of how they view ethnic food as a 'lesser' commodity. Heldke argues that westerners should not only eat ethnic foods, but take the time to learn about the origins and history of the culture with which they are eating. Although Narayan does not seem to be in complete oposition to this position, she does say that she can see the complexities in doing this. She says that although she sees the possibility of eating ethnic food as a shallow relationship between different cultures, she thinks it is preferable to no relationship at all, where people refuse to eat food from other cultures because of it being different or "other." She also makes the point that people within the culture may have just as much trouble describing the origins of their food. I do not see this as a form of colonial imperialism. Imperialism is described as an ideal of one economic or military power holding control over another. I think it is important to eat at other restaurants. I agree with Narayan, that although food should not be used as the only means of understanding a culture or making assumptions about it, I see it as more positive than not eating at ethnic restaurants at all. Perhaps in a very shallow form, eating at ethnic restaurants is a form of identification with another culture. Eating at an ethnic restaurant could be in some sense seen as a form of respect, that a person cares enough to understand and appreciate the food that comes from the specific culture.