Parkin is said to be facing scrutiny in Leeds after a city council document reportedly flagged the centuries-old Yorkshire delicacy for containing sugar – apparently exposing the cake’s slave-trade origins.
The gingerbread cake, which dates back to the 18th century, was flagged along with other local favourites, including Yorkshire Tea, over their potentially problematic ingredients, the Telegraph reported, citing a city council document.
“Historically, some of the ingredients used to make these ‘local’ products were gained through the triangular slave trade (for example, sugar),” the eye-opening internal report observed. To be fair, 18th-century parkin likely used sugar imported from Britain’s sugar plantations in the Caribbean.
Leeds’ city council purportedly hopes to dig into parkin’s sweet but colonial origins as part of activity “in relation to Black Lives Matter.” The proposed anti-racist sleuthing aims to reveal “how local products such as Yorkshire Parkin and Yorkshire tea are, in fact, reliant on global trade.” Eventually the council’s findings may be used to create teaching material for primary school pupils in the city, the Telegraph said.
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The council’s planned curriculum changes will highlight how, while Yorkshire delicacies put the county “on the map,” some ingredients for these items “would have been sourced from around the empire and would have involved the labour of enslaved people as well as exploitation of resources and communities around the world.” The document stressed that its criticisms of parkin reflect a “contemporary perspective” on the cake and its sugary cohorts.
The report is part of a study launched by the Labour-controlled council which seeks to identify “examples of how racism continues to be prevalent in everyday life.” It’s possible that the city’s leaders may have taken aim at cake after determining that there was a lack of problematic statues in the city ripe for removal. Unlike in cities such as Bristol – where a statue of slave trader Edward Colston was toppled – Leeds is without memorials that honour individuals linked to the slave trade, the report concluded. However, “themes of empire and colonialism are still prominent within the city’s heritage” and much can be done to promote greater “diversity” in the municipality.
The BLM-inspired culinary research could mark a turning point in parkin’s history. As the Telegraph noted, the cake’s origins are very much in dispute, with Lancashire also claiming ownership of the treat. Notably, the county has not yet launched its own probe into the cake’s allegedly racist past.
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