HuffPo goes fusion food shaming

The new HuffPo (its name is now “HuffPost”) has explicitly stated its mission as a social justice site, but given its regressive tendencies, that means we’re in for a lot of fun, and a lot of outrage on that site about trivialities as well as glorification of the hijab. The latest rageblog, on the front page, deals with something we’ve seen before: “cultural appropriation” of cuisine, in particular the cuisine of a marginalized group. Now I think it’s questionable whether Asians are marginalized in the US, but Asian Voices Editor Kimberly Yam is all huffy about how Americans and Brits have misrepresented or changed authentic Asian food. It’s in the article below: a “listicle” resembling those at Everyday Feminism  (click on the screenshot to go to the piece):

If there’s anything we Asians feel intensely passionate about, it’s our damn food.

We do not mess around.

So when non-Asians decide to toy with our beloved cuisines, whether it’s by introducing their own despicable take on a traditional food without honoring the original recipe, or by proclaiming our classic dishes “trendy,” among other offenses, it’s painful.

Only if you want to be in pain!

Here are two of her 9 examples; others include one in which Andrew Zimmern wrote about Philippine garlic short ribs, and the article’s photo showed chopsticks next to the dish (Filipinos don’t use chopsticks).

and. . .

Now having just had a superb meal at an Asian fusion restaurant, I’m not inclined to sympathize with Yam’s accusation of cultural appropriation. But is there any point to this kind of stuff?

Perhaps one: if non-Asians get credit for Asian cooking—and Yam and her links say that’s happened when some white chefs are celebrated for Asian-style cooking—while Asian chefs get no credit, laboring in steaming chop suey joints in Chinatown. And I think that’s true to some extent, though there are exceptions like Chicago’s own Tony Hu. And I do prefer authentic Chinese to Americanized or Westernized Chinese food; after all, the Chinese have had thousands of years to refine their dishes through experience, and they’re simply better than Americanized versions. However, like most Americans, I started with the Westernized version—a “gateway cuisine”. But if for reasons of bigotry chefs aren’t given credit for their own cuisine, then that’s deplorable. But it’s not the same as punching or lynching someone, or depriving them of their civil liberties.

At any rate, I don’t sympathize with Yam’s rage about Westernizing Asian cuisine, either for those who don’t like the authentic version, or simply to create something new. After all, American food has been changed in other countries to conform to local tastes. In New Zealand, for instance, I saw that McDonald’s has a “Kiwi Burger,” which is basically a hamburger with a slice of pickled beet on it. Kiwis like to eat burgers that way. I didn’t get enraged, but then I’m a cis-gendered privileged white male, and maybe you can’t do fusion with cuisine if you’re “fusing down”. (On the other hand, there’s always some inequality between peoples eating different cuisines!).  I suspect that Yam, as a PuffHo editor, is also privileged, and is casting about for something to be outraged about. Such is the Regressive Left, who aren’t happy unless they’re fuming.


  1. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted May 8, 2017 at 1:21 pm | Permalink


    Why does this word make me feel weird?… hmmm…

    Might I suggest “listactite” or “listagmite”, as suits the preference.

  2. Kevin
    Posted May 8, 2017 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    Reminds me of playing the guitar last night: a mash of Gershwin and Mahler set to to bluegrass-alt-heavy rhythms of Tool and 311.

    For dinner tonight: Thai enchiladas with a Halibut fish stick covered in left over Julia Child’s beef bourguignon sauce.

    Worth a try is one of my son’s discoveries: a Ritz cracker with salami and swiss with strawberry Skittle and/or any fruit Mentos smashed in the middle…yum.

  3. Jeremy
    Posted May 8, 2017 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    Japan has easily the best Chinese food in the world. Not sure what point I’m trying to make but I’m a white male married to a Japanese woman which makes it all ok amiright? Gosh it’s hard keeping up.

    • Mark R.
      Posted May 8, 2017 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

      Then there is the ubiquitous and universal love for the Japanese specialty Yakisoba noodles. And Yakisoba sauce? The foundation is Worcestershire sauce. (Just like many other Japanese sauces.) And that sauce was arguably first created by an English aristocrat in Bengal, India. This was in the 19th century.

      I find it ironic that the snowflakes are outraged by this food-appropriation idiocy; they act like it started occurring last year.

      One of the dumbest outrages of post-modern “aggravations”.

    • nicky
      Posted May 8, 2017 at 11:58 pm | Permalink

      Japanese are very much appropriating food. What about all those curries? And I gather that tempura is also an import.
      And then a pet peeve of mine: the sushi ‘salmon roses’ are topped with mayonnaise! Can you believe it? Although I love mayonnaise in some other foods, sushi and mayonnaise are incompatible, gotspe, blasphemy, a turd on a chocolate browny (as said a pet peeve). Have the Japanese no respect for their own cuisine?
      I have other peeves, such as Tarama with potatoes in it, but I think I better leave it at this.

      • nicky
        Posted May 9, 2017 at 12:05 am | Permalink

        Just one more, -since talking about mayonaise: the Macedoine. It is peas and overcooked carrot-cubes, drowned in mayonnaise. Disgusting.
        If I were Macedonian I would mount a campaign to have the association of my country with this garbage dish outlawed.

  4. Paul Schoeckel
    Posted May 8, 2017 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    K. Yam,
    1) Cultures don’t prepare food, people do.
    2) No one has 100’s of years of culinary experience.
    3) Not everyone prepares a meal the same way.
    4) Authentic \= good.

    • Harrison
      Posted May 8, 2017 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

      The vast majority of all cooking is peasant food, made from necessity with what people could afford to have.

      As the world has gotten wealthier, foodies have refined these dishes to near perfection. And people mistake these exquisitely refined versions as being the “authentic” ones.

  5. rom
    Posted May 8, 2017 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    Jerry … next time you are in Vancouver make sure you go to Vij’s restaurant … it is excellent … the atmosphere and service are wonderful. Indian-Canadian fusion

    [sarcasm] and when the owner comes by asking how everything was, you can give him a hard time for appropriating Canadian cuisine [/sarcasm]

    • Posted May 8, 2017 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

      Ha! Good one!

    • Posted May 8, 2017 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

      I was there as a guest of Larry Moran at the Imagine No Religion meetings two summers ago. We had a FANTASTIC meal. I even had my picture taken with Vij.

    • John Frum
      Posted May 8, 2017 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

      I bought one of Vij’s recipe books based on a recommendation on this site some years ago. The lamb popsicles are fantastic and so is my favourite curry with goat.

      • Mark R.
        Posted May 8, 2017 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

        Goat? There are a number of Indian, Mexican, Moroccan recipes I’ve wanted to try that call for goat. Problem is, I can’t get goat. Substitute lamb, but am told it’s not as good. hmpf.

  6. darrelle
    Posted May 8, 2017 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    I thought that the “westernizing of Asian food” occurred when Asians in western countries westernized their food in order to sell more of it to westerners. I don’t think anything that western chefs are doing currently could compare to the magnitude of bastardization that Asians themselves perpetrated on their cuisine in order to sell it to westerners.

    • JonLynnHarvey
      Posted May 8, 2017 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

      Exactly the point I wanted to make.

      The submarine sandwich and wedding soup are likewise Italian-American inventions. The “Italian beef” sandwich was invented in Chicago.

      But we don’t generally worry about oppression of Italians.

      Because it is common for Jews to eat in Chinese restaurants on Christmas Day December 25th, many Chinese restaurants have developed a special kosher version of Chinese food.

      I post here the Swingle Sisters singing a jazzed up version of some music by Bach.

      • darrelle
        Posted May 8, 2017 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

        They weren’t portrayed as Jewish, it was after all a Christmas movie, but your mention of Chinese restaurants and Christmas dinners reminds me of a scene in the movie A Christmas Story.

        The neighbor’s dogs have stolen the turkey that was on the kitchen table resting so the family goes out to dinner at a Chinese restaurant. The proprietor proudly delivers a whole goose to the table which discomfits the mother somewhat. He then, with a flourish, chops off the head of the goose with one mighty blow of his cleaver, causing the mother to momentarily lose her composure.

        I am sure this movie, this scene especially, would horrify Yam. I thought it was pretty funny though.

      • Roger
        Posted May 8, 2017 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

        Oh my gosh this brought back memories of the Christmas dinner at one of the relative’s house which began with an “appetizer” of a huge bowl of “famous wedding soup” plopped in front of me that consisted of nothing but broth and soggy bread cubes. Had to be polite and down the whole thing. Still have not fully recovered from that, lol.

    • harrync
      Posted May 8, 2017 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

      I grew up in California and Texas of the 1950’s. The best places to get really good Mexican-American food [as opposed to “authentic” Mexican food] was in small mom-and-post restaurants run by Hispanic families.

      • harrync
        Posted May 8, 2017 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

        Is there a way to kill automatic spell check correction? It decided I wanted “post” instead of “pop” when I apparently mistyped “pos”. The fact that “post” made no sense in the context was beyond the grasp of the program. As I have probably said before, auto-correct seems to cause more problems than it solves.

      • darrelle
        Posted May 8, 2017 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

        After living in California and New Mexico good Mexican-American, authentic Mexican and New Mexican food are things that I’ve sorely missed living in the part of the country I have been in for the past 25 years.

  7. Posted May 8, 2017 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    Here is an anthropological perspective. Cultures have been borrowing from each other and adapting aspects of each others’ cultures for as long as man has existed. Those who rail against it are in their own way being bigots, and their efforts are futile.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted May 8, 2017 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

      I agree.

      And, if food appropriation is all you’ve got to worry about you’ve got a pretty great life. Get over yourself.


    • Kiwi Dave
      Posted May 8, 2017 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

      That’s a relief. For a moment I thought I would have to report my Chinese wife to the mafia for eating pizza with chopsticks.

  8. Posted May 8, 2017 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    On what planet does Ms. Yam live on? Food has always “done” fusion the moment two kinds encounter each other.

    If you don’t like the fusion food, flippin’ don’t eat it! Don’t try to tell others what they can’t eat or cook/create.

    How exactly are people who like Asia cuisine (me included), including the Americanized versions, insulting, injuring, or damaging Asian people?

    I love (most) authentic Asian cuisine. I’ve been brought to the appropriate restaurants by first-generation immigrant colleagues and loved every bit of it. But I also happen to love your basic American-Cantonese brown sauce dishes as well (and I do not feel guilty about it. 🙂 ). Where is the problem?

    This just strikes me as food snobbism.

  9. Ken Kukec
    Posted May 8, 2017 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    Time was, wasn’t anybody wasn’t French was bitchin’ about other cultures tampering with their food. Back then, people wrote it off to … well, wrote it off to their being, you know, French.

    Now, seems tout le monde has gotten snobby about their cuisine. Sheesh.

  10. Pliny the in Between
    Posted May 8, 2017 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    I never culturally appropriate foods. I horticulturally appropriate herbs and spices from a variety of ecosystems and geographic regions that may, coincidentally, be home to some hominids with customs differing from my own.

  11. Jenny Haniver
    Posted May 8, 2017 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    Gimme a break. It’s been noted before and will be again — Banh mi, Vietnamese sandwiches came into being when Vietnam was a French colony and they brought the baguette with them. The result — a quintessential fusion food, which is now held up as authentically Vietnamese and nobody better mess with them culturally approved fillings.

  12. jeffery
    Posted May 8, 2017 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    A sad person leading a sad, petty life: with all the other problems this world has (a big one of which is food availability), She’s going on and on about FOOD?

  13. Derek Freyberg
    Posted May 8, 2017 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    Kimberly Yam’s bio from HuffPo:
    “Kimberly is the Asian Voices editor. She graduated from Georgetown University, where she majored in Regional and Comparative Studies. Kimberly is from Saugerties, New York, and has a mild (okay, maybe more than mild) obsession with Lord Of The Rings.”

    So she’s Asian from Saugerties, New York; and this qualifies her to comment on Filipino food (which is a mix of pre-Spanish Filipino with influences from China, Spain, and the US, plus goodness knows where else), Chinese soup dumplings, sushi, banh mi, and so on.
    Is this “I am one kind of Asian (the American-Asian kind), so I get to tell you white folks what you are allowed to do with anything Asian?”

    Give me a break!

    • darrelle
      Posted May 8, 2017 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

      Wait a minute! Is she allowed to read Lord Of The Rings? Wouldn’t that be inappropriate cultural appropriation?

      • DrBrydon
        Posted May 8, 2017 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

        No, it only works one way.

    • Posted May 9, 2017 at 12:15 am | Permalink

      Its ok in this context for her to speak for 4 and a half billion people because of Huffpo but if you ask her about life in Tajikistan in her role as Asian Voices editor is that problematic.

  14. Craw
    Posted May 8, 2017 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    I do hope her Asian food does not include:
    chilies, tomatoes,potatoes, corn, chocolate,
    pineapple, peanuts, sunflower (or it’s precious fluids), or any kind of squash.

  15. Posted May 8, 2017 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    Glad that *someone* is making sure people don’t prepare food the way the want to and give it different names. The Horror! The Horror!

    • grasshopper
      Posted May 8, 2017 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

      In the future, the purchase of a Chinese meal will provide a licence to eat it. The provisional EULA states that whatever the chef puts on your plate is authentically Chinese, and that he reserves the right to replace ingredients, cooking methods and eating utensils, when necessary, to improve your gustatory experience. You must agree to these terms before you can sink your fork into the bean shoots.

      • Posted May 8, 2017 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

        Along with the “I ACCEPT THESE TERMS AND CONDITIONS” document, one presumes. 😀

  16. Robert Seidel
    Posted May 8, 2017 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    Well, us Germans get lucky: There’s little risk of someone appropriating sauerkraut.

    • Posted May 8, 2017 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

      We (Bulgarians) have. Many even ferment it at home.

    • stephen
      Posted May 8, 2017 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

      Except for the Poles,Czechs,Hungarians and … French! 😉

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted May 8, 2017 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

      You talkin’ about “liberty cabbage”?

    • eric
      Posted May 8, 2017 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

      There was really no need; the different peoples from across the entire Asia+Europe landmass all independently developed their own ways to ferment cabbage (I guess to ward off starvation in the winter? Since pickled/fermented food keeps for months without refrigeration).

      Why all these folks chose cabbage is beyond me though. Dare? Starvation? Pickling while drunk? But I expect that the squirrels around them were probably thinking “humans stick that in the ground for a month and then eat it…and yet they call us stupid?”

      • darrelle
        Posted May 9, 2017 at 7:19 am | Permalink

        I tried to make sauerkraut once. Something went wrong. I just filled the hole back in and left it.

    • Posted May 9, 2017 at 7:09 am | Permalink

      I eat (‘Murican) sour (sauer) kraut all the time. Love it. And Kimchee.

    • Robert Seidel
      Posted May 9, 2017 at 7:24 am | Permalink

      Now I’m offended …

  17. Posted May 8, 2017 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

    In my e-mail today:

    May (or may not, I’m not sure) be viewed at

    • Posted May 8, 2017 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

      sorry, that image didn’t post. Two non-Asian women cooking Korean and teaching us how to at America’s Test Kitchen.

  18. Robert
    Posted May 8, 2017 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

    According to a friend from China: “in China the only thing with 4 legs we don’t eat is a table.”

    • Posted May 9, 2017 at 7:10 am | Permalink

      And “The only thing with wings we don’t eat is an airplane.”

  19. DrBrydon
    Posted May 8, 2017 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

    Can someone’s take on a cuisine truly be “despicable”?

    Commerce, and restaurants are just commerce, is replete with stories of people who couldn’t make a go of an original idea. Is the person who does to be blamed or applauded? At this point can any cuisine be said to be original to any person?

  20. FloM
    Posted May 8, 2017 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

    As a Bavarian I am deeply traumatized by what you Americans have done to our delicious Brez’n (you call them Pretzels, that alone is an insult in itself). If you had only appropriated them. But you have turned them into a rubbery salty mess.

    • darrelle
      Posted May 9, 2017 at 7:20 am | Permalink

      I’m with you on that one and I’m American.

  21. eric
    Posted May 8, 2017 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

    So when non-Asians decide to toy with our beloved cuisines, whether it’s by introducing their own despicable take on a traditional food without honoring the original recipe, or by proclaiming our classic dishes “trendy,” among other offenses, it’s painful.

    Tomatoes, pineapple, peanuts, and cashews all originated in the Americas. So it turns out many traditional asian recipes are despicable takes on a traditionally Amerindian food.

    Oh when will these damnable cultural appropriators stop easternizing our traditional foods!

    • Posted May 9, 2017 at 11:50 am | Permalink

      Not to mention the potato – I’ve been told that potatoes are now big in China because they are cheap, reasonably tasty and grow in a wide range of places.

      (I was at a – now closed – Northwestern Chinese restaurant here in Ottawa where we had had, amongst other things, “potato and eggplant, sweet style” – the latter to accommodate my mother, who doesn’t like very spicy foods.)

  22. Posted May 8, 2017 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

    I sent an email to Jerry recently which is relevant to this post. I didn’t get a reply, but I think many readers may be interested, so I’ll just copy and paste it here unedited. Sorry for the length, but I think it’s worth it (of course I would).

    Hello. You recently (or somewhat recently) asked for book recommendations on your website and I’m so thrilled by the book I’m currently reading that I am going to break my rule of never recommending a book I haven’t finished to suggest this one even though I’m only about a third of the way in. It is written by a professor of linguistics and computer science at Stanford and is about the etymology of food and drink related words. It is absolutely fascinating, and knowing from your website that you appreciate quality regional cuisine, I think you would absolutely love this book.

    Less than a third of the way through, I’ve already learned why “entree” is basically synonymous with “appetizer” in France and England, but means “main course” in the USA (1). I’ve learned that “ketchup” is a Cantonese word and that before it evolved into the tomato based version which is our national condiment, it began as a Fujianese fermented fish sauce (2), as well as the battle between spellings “catsup” or “ketchup” and why “ketchup” is winning (3). I’ve learned that the Portuguese brought tempura to Japan and how Britain owes its national dish (fish and chips) to the expulsion of the Jews from the Iberian Peninsula (4). Also, why the word “toast” is used for a social drink of alcohol wishing someone good health (or luck) and how the answer to that question leads to the evolution of the word “soup,” which in turn helps explain why in England “dinner” means “lunch” and in America “dinner” means “supper,” except in a few places where “supper” is still used (5). Finally, how to pronounce the word “pecan,” which is native American, and why the pronunciation is closely correlated with both the natural range of the pecan tree and the home region of the Illinois tribe (6).

    If any of that sounds interesting to you, you should just go buy the book. And (spoiler alert), if you’d like some of the explanations now, I will give them below. But first, this book is doubly relevant for the website Why Evolution Is True, both for the food and science (it is well researched and full of citations) writing, as well as being a clear, irrefutable demonstration that the Regressive idea of “cultural appropriation of food” is incoherent.

    Expanded, but still brief, descriptions (these are from memory and so may not be entirely 100% accurate)

    1. Entree is from the French, meaning “entrance” or “to enter.” In fancy medieval meals, the opener or entree was a large prepared dish of meat and sauce. Eventually the style changed and smaller soups and salads were served before the main “prepared” dish. In England and France, the first dishes became known as “Entrees” because they came first, as the word implies. In the U.S., “entree” continued to be associated with the larger, prepared, meat and sauce dish, so it means “main course,” rather than opener. So we’re both right.

    2-6. Sorry, I started this email a few weeks ago before I went on vacation and now I forgot what I intended to write here. Rather than take the time to finish it, I will just send it out as is. I can tell you I’ve since finished the book and it did not disappoint. I think you’ll really like it a lot. You can probably finish it in one or two sittings and learn something interesting on nearly every page.

    Here’s a link:

  23. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted May 8, 2017 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

    Well, all the best neighbourhood takeaways, burger joints and fish-and-chip shops here in Auckland (New Zealand) are now run by – Asians.

    Ruthlessly culturally appropriating our burgers, hot dogs, and fish’n’chips.

    It really is a scandal. One that I happily contribute to.


  24. Posted May 8, 2017 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

    Ms. Yam is the Asian voice editor. Regretfully, Ms. Yam is from New York, and therefore cannot call herself Asian as she is not from there. She is appropriating someone else’s heritage. Shame on her. She is only allowed to call herself “American”.

    • Dan
      Posted May 9, 2017 at 1:20 am | Permalink

      You’re correct. She is only Asian by ancestry, not culture. And she doesn’t speak for any Asian. She doesn’t speak for us Filipinos, and we’re happy to share our cuisine for all the world to fuse into their own.

      If you can fuse balut with Italian cuisine, I’d bee impressed, not outraged.

  25. Dan
    Posted May 9, 2017 at 1:18 am | Permalink

    Stupid article by PuffHo. I am Filipino and I don’t give a hoot about cultural appropriation. Halo Halo is just a mix of fruits and jellies in crushed/shaved ice. There are different ingredients from different regions and no consensus on what it should contain other than ice.

    Indeed, people are encouraged to mix their own ingredients into Halo Halo. By all means, please put gummy bears or other exotic fruits not found in our country. And don’t let those SJWs tell you otherwise.

    But yeah, eating sliced banana with a chopstick is not “sushi”. That is going too far.

  26. Posted May 9, 2017 at 6:46 am | Permalink

    Here in Scotland the Sikh community have been culturally appropriating our Haggis for years. No complaints here.

    • Posted May 9, 2017 at 7:17 am | Permalink

      Oh, that is hilarious! And it sounds very yummy to me (as someone who loves almost all Asian food and who is of some Scottish heritage).

    • Posted May 9, 2017 at 11:53 am | Permalink

      Wow. Despite my name (and part of my background) I have to confess I am not terribly fond of Scottish foods (though I do like oatmeal with maple syrup, which might almost count). Haggis (like fugu and human) are foods I’ve decided I don’t want to eat. Yet that pakora …

  27. Doug
    Posted May 9, 2017 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    Maybe we can cut down on smoking by saying that it is cultural appropriation for anyone other than a Native American to use tobacco.

    • Posted May 9, 2017 at 11:54 am | Permalink

      There *are* Native American activists of sorts who *do* say that non NAs shouldn’t consume tobacco, at least outside of the relevant cultural contexts. (Peace ceremonies, etc.) This is regarded as extreme, not to mention unworkable, from what I understand.

  28. Posted May 9, 2017 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    I have fond memories of my food experiences involving borrowing. One of them is when I went to a deli of sorts in Vancouver run by Indians (the original, not NA kind) where I ordered a jalapeño pizza bagel. My friend who came with me is a Chinese-Canadian whose family came via Singapore and she was (from what I remember) actually from Australia originally.

    Another Vancouver one, with the same friend. She used to make (for parties and things) something called “American sushi”, which was cream cheese and red pepper in a spinach tortilla.

    How many “rules” have we broken? 😉

  29. kelskye
    Posted May 10, 2017 at 7:02 am | Permalink

    What’s the alternative – to be so steeped in tradition that it closes off the possibility of having cultural exchange and learning? That we are to be so tightly coupled to our predominant culture that we must reject all forms of influence other cultures have?

    Sometimes it seems to me is what a portion of the left did when they threw off the shackles of conservative religion is anointed themselves a priestly caste in the subsequent cultural exchange. And articles like the one linked above serve nothing for the particular conversation about food and cultural traditions, but to perpetuate the people who can pontificate on the moral questions in the wider culture.

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