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New York Times Faces Harsh Backlash Over Photo Of New Asian-Inspired Steakhouse

The New York Times is synonymous with both “the elite liberal news media” as well as a century-plus tradition of being America’s most sedate newspaper of record. This means that the paper is so thorough and serious in its reporting and presentation of information that mistakes are rarely made, and there’s a real effort not to offend anyone.

That’s why what happened this week with the Times’ food section is so surprising. Florence Fabricant reviewed Jade Sixty, a soon-to-open restaurant that will serve big ol’ steakhouse steaks as well as traditional and familiar Asian cuisine, like wontons. Accompanying the review on the Times online edition, was a photo that tried to demonstrate Jade Sixty’s hybrid approach. Sasha Maslov’s image depicted a steak and a beer along with some recognizably Asian food items, particularly some dumplings. And then, there are some chopsticks placed seemingly at random, one pair on a vegetable dish, and another underneath a massive steak. Chopsticks, because, you know…Asia? Or something?

It’s a bit of a culturally insensitive cliché to have chopsticks in a photo of Asian food (and not every country in Asia even traditionally uses chopsticks), but the placement here, whatever the motivation behind it, is also culturally ignorant. Placing chopsticks upright, as done in the photo, is reminiscent of their use in a Japanese funeral rite, in which food is offered to the dead.

People who understand Asian culture, Asian food, and chopstick etiquette let the Times have it on Twitter.