‘It is healthy to challenge ourselves’ - Norfolk reacts to restaurant racism row

Mambo Jambo restaurant is at the centre of a debate about the use of language. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Mambo Jambo restaurant is at the centre of a debate about the use of language. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

A Norwich restaurant's choice of language on its menu has ignited debate on whether offence should be taken from potentially outdated phrases.

Earlier this week city eatery Mambo Jambo was challenged for the language used on its food menu.

The concern raised by Osa Odeh, 39, and his friend, who wished to remain anonymous, was that the name of a black pepper sauce, 'cotton pickin'', was offensive and ignorant as the phrase is associated with slavery and the racist exploitation of black Africans.

Natalie Pye, manager of Mambo Jambo, denied any intention of racial implications saying she was 'shocked' to discover that offense had been taken and that the menu would be changed in light of this.

Julie Bremner of Norwich Stand Up To Racism condemned the language, calling it 'abhorrent and racist,' but a large number of commenters expressed their belief that the sauce name was not offensive.

Peter Mumford said: 'Too much of this stuff. Slavery existed, it is history, and certain phrases were used by both blacks and whites in the US south. People get way too sensitive over such issues.'

John Hayes added: 'There was no intent, for goodness sake, and been called that for 25 years. You can see something that isn't there if you look.'

AK Narey said: 'So it has taken 25 years before anyone decided that they were 'offended'. Surely there are bigger problems and issues in the world/Norwich? By the way, I hate real racism with a passion but this is at the very worst an unintentional slip by a decent local business.'

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However, some commenters voiced frustration with these perspectives.

A reader with the username Boudicaa said: 'Cotton pickin' has been used in the past as a racist insult. It may not be the only use for that phrase, but the racial insult usage is unquestionable.

'Mambo Jambo have chosen (for whatever reason) that's the most appropriate name for black pepper sauce. If you are of black origin, of which I suspect 100pc of those shooting this down as PC or snowflake are not, then you would understand how this name for this product could be offensive.'

Sophie Sharpe added: 'I am not a sensitive person and believe that the world has gone absolutely mad like most other people, but come on.

'Who on earth thought it was a good idea to put 'cotton picking black pepper sauce' on a menu? It's a miracle it's gone on this long without uproar.'

Others found fault with the language and those dismissing the idea of its implications, but said the restaurant had reacted appropriately by listening to concerns and saying it would remove the phrase from the menu.

A reader with the username Velvet Cat said: 'For those ignorant or flippant enough to comment about not being able to describe the colour of food like white sauce, brown sauce or even fairy cakes, those terms are not directly borne from American racist history.

'The phrase is rooted in slavery, and those who are 'outraged' have never had to worry about generations of their families being subjugated or marginalised because of the colour of their skin.

'No one believes that the restaurant is racist and I think it was perfectly acceptable to challenge the outdated terminology. The restaurant listened and took the comments on board. It is healthy to challenge ourselves and think about the words we use.'

What do you think about the debate? Let us know in the comments.