Ethnic Enclaves!

Ram, M. et al. (2000) “Currying Favor with the locals”: Balti Owners and Business Enclaves. International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behaviour and Research 6(1).

 

Lem, W. (2009) Daughters, Duty and Deference in the Franco-Chinese Restaurant in D. Beriss, and David Sutton (eds.) Restaurants: the Anthropology of Where We Eat. London: Berg

 

 

Ram discusses this idea of ethnic enclaves which idealistically encompasses cultural business owners to cater to their own cultural communities’ needs.  These ethnic business are the staple for cultural unity and togetherness; having immigrants working for immigrants. Also these ethnic enclaves are said to pay their employees more then and puts ode business. Realistically ethnic enclaves are spaces of extreme competitive and have harsh work practices. Policy makers can have a huge effect on these ethnic enclaves by decreasing or promoting gentrification; the restoration of run down urban areas. De-gentrification will cause high turnover of citizens, unstable business model, and increase competition while gentrification will do the exact opposite.

These ethnic businesses are heavily dependent on family labor to keep cost down and keep their competitive edge. These cultural ties are believed to keep employees honest and hardworking; employees feel an obligation to help out their family. By hiring family work practice also diminish and can become quite harsh. Ethnic enclaves also train their family members through apprenticeship where the men are given most of the praise and women are usually taken for granted. 

Ram focuses on the Birmingham Balti Quarter which has a large South Asian ethnic enclave. The area is a typical run down urban center; high unemployment, high crime rate, environmental degradation, etc. there is also a high number of businesses both old and new which keeps competition at the forefront. Many restaurants moved to this Balti Quarter quite easily, policy wise, and were knew there was money to be had. All of these new businesses saturate the market and most people receive a lesser piece of the pie. Fast food chains also have a negative impact on these ethnic businesses. Policy maker are torn between protectionism, free competition, and cost and benefit analysts. Balti ethnic enclaves use family labor to keep costs down and increase trust in their employer- employee relationship. Price is also another main way in which the businesses stay competitive. Lastly, these businesses do not believe in formal training for two reasons; apprenticeship is good enough and they could have a high employee turnover. 

Lem begins by describing Le Salon Imperial restaurant and the renovations that are taking place to transform the restaurant from takeout to a sit down restaurant feel. The author demonstrates how these ethnic enclaves use family labor to success at business. The author also hints at the beginning about how women are taking for granted in these businesses and actually start to accept their role. Lem then goes on to explain why immigrants left Wenzhou, China to come to France. Immigrants came to make more money and improve their life. Most of them started off working in a. Restaurant until they saved enough to open their own. France has a huge Chinese cultural enclave that is flooded with many Asian restaurants. These restaurants are gaining popularity and success mainly due to their use of family as employees to keep costs down. Chinese culture; the importance of family, patriarchy, collectivism, and hierarchy may not be the key to their success because these traits can be found in many other cultures. Network building among the Chinese diaspora offer a more complete answer to their success. These networks help new Chinese immigrants to learn about their new societies; find jobs, places to live, and learn cultural norms. The networks also offer financial backing that other cultural groups do not have and this can be a main factor to their success. Also a mixture of the networks, managing style, and cultural traits can all attribute to their success. Lastly, Lem focuses on women in the Chinese enclaves and the sacrifices they make for their families and the success of the business. Women give everything to their restaurant and family and are under appreciated.

Both articles address the idea of ethnic enclaves and how family employees are really important to the success of the restaurant. Ram does a better job than Lem is describing the external factors that affect these ethnic enclaves. 

 

Do you think that these ethnic enclaves will survive the multinational fast food chains?

 

Do you think that Lem’s description of gender roles in these ethnic enclaves are over dramatized?

 

Chicken Tikka Masala Food Colonialism and Being Stuck in a Chinese Restaurant Family

Buettner’s article discusses how Indian food has worked it’s way into being a stable in British cuisine. “Going for an Indian” or “out for a curry” has become an everyday part of British social, economic, and cultural life since the 1960s. Estimates reveal that Britain now has 9000 restaurants and take out establishments run by South Asian immigrants, with the majority of their customers being white. Buettener highlights the fact that although curry may have been incorporated into British cuisine, the desire to assimilate the Indian people and their culture entirely was not present. She analyzes the history of the rise of the popularity of Indian food in Britain, and uses it to open the broaden the scope to examine the larger racial and cultural tensions.

She argues that multiculturalism as a culinary celebration or as a white consumer practice constitutes only a limited form of tolerance, a form of food tourism as Professor Macdonald would say. Buettener points out that calling a restaurant “Indian” has become a blanket term in Britain for food establishments that serve a variety of food from Pakistani, and Bangladeshi chefs. Many of the dishes served are not necessarily accurate to current Indian cuisine. She goes so far to state that Britain calling chicken tikka masala “a true British national dish” is a form of modern food-colonialism, as they are extending outside their borders to claim another cuisine as theirs.

The history of Indian restaurants in Britain is outlined, discussing the demand for Indian restaurants by ex-colonial officers demanding a “real curry”. Her noting the creation of Indian stereotypes, curry powder being used to cover up spoiled food, and unsanitary conditions was particularly interesting. Buettener outlines the transition Indian restaurants experienced from being a touristy fear-factor style dining experience to a widely accepted, then culturally celebrated activity. Overall a very informative article on how a cuisine can serve as a reverse cultural penetration into a colonial power.

Lem’s article is on Wenzhou Chinese people in Paris opening restaurants, accounting for 50% of the overall Chinese economic activity, and examining this as a form of immigrant entrepreneurship. I really like how she used the restaurateurs as an example to shed light upon the idea that Chinese people have a cultural and value system responsible for their growth and expansion of Chinese businesses. When I was traveling in Beijing, I had a classmate who told me the Cantonese had an “uncanny” way of doing business. They explained this meant Chinese people were really good at figuring how out the concept of a product, then mass producing it, and selling it at high volumes. Sushi at TNT for example is a made by a Chinese chef team, mass manufactured quickly, and sold cheaply just to get daily foot traffic in the store. I go there frequently just to buy cheap take-out sushi and end up patronizing the rest of the store. It’s brilliant if you think about it.

Lem discusses the role of Confucian submission, children to parents, wife to husband, people to government etc to outline how the Chinese family values assist in the stability and running of the business. I was sad to read Lorie was asked to quite her accounting job to help out in the family business, but I would argue this is not typical. Many Chinese families would prefer their children to make more money in corporate jobs than be stuck working in restaurants forever, or even worse, laundries. I also want to note that the author has decided to focus on a very specific group of Chinese immigrants. There are many generations of affluent Chinese immigrants who’s children would be able to go to school, work what jobs they would like, and have disposable income. I see a lot of Western-Chinese literature cover this topic, and it’s usually the same theme. Poor immigrant Chinese family moves to a Western nation and has to work some low paying, grueling job in order to survive and adhere with the family values.

Lem uses the second example of Jenny working at Lotus Graden to hammer in her argument. I dislike the fact the author has decided to focus her entire article on two specific cases of Wenzhou immigrants who were both trapped in restaurants. I would argue it’s an example of worse parenting and business management than an example of “gender duty’. My father, aunt, and uncle all grew up in a Chinese restaurant family, profited, and all went on to graduate university.

 

Two Questions:

1.) Why are all these Western-Chinese writers focusing so heavily on the failure stories of Chinese restaurant families? I feel after studying the Chinese diaspora as my major, I almost feel like the research has been skewed in a way to only depict Chinese immigrants as failures.

2.) I’ve been required to do a lot of Chinese-diasporic readings for my major, and I’m curious when the authors will move on and cover more contemporary topics. Where is the second generation of diasporic-Chinese writers? When are we going to cover more modern issues, like universities being too Asian? Or Asian drug use, or the little emperor phenomena amongst Asian foreign students overseas?

 

The Ethnic Enclave

For this week’s readings they were centered on the topic of ‘Where’s Little India? Enclave Eating and Cosmo-Multiculturalism’. The first reading was called Beyond co-ethnic solidarity: Mexican and Ecuadorean employment in Korean-owned businesses in New York City’ by Dae Young Kim. In this reading the primary focus is on the employment of both the Mexican and Ecuadorean among the Korean businesses. The first point that Kim raises is the subject of ethnic enclave in which it involves the process of ethnic owners hiring co-ethnic employees. In New York this seems to have become a trend for Korean owners to hire outside of their ethnicity. Kim lays out the reason for this action which is the fact that these labourers are found to be cheaper than hiring their own. However this was not always the case, when Koreans first started to develop their businesses, they began to hire within their own ethnicity, for the simple fact that there was no language difficulties as well as discrimination. Within this time, the process of these Korean owned businesses prompted other new immigrants to open their own businesses. However during the 1980’s the immigration of Koreans had decreased, leaving their work force in open to other types of ethnicities. Even those who were Korean working for their own ethnicity did not consider their jobs to be permanent ones. According to Kim, it became a trend to hire Latinos to do minor simple tasked jobs in order to get them done cheaper. There were factors though that led them to want to hire Latinos over Blacks. The reasons here Kim stated was due to the fact that the Koreans were in fear that their workers would be subject to discrimination. With that in mind, the hiring of Mexican and Ecuadorean workers shows the changes within the ethnic economy. Due to the fact that these workers will work for fewer wages, shows just how desperate they are to maintain work in order to live in the United States. However this shows on the part of the Koreans that they are fully aware that they can hire these workers for less and keep them employed for extended amounts of time.

Kim’s reading helps to shed light on the topic of ethnic enclaves and the process of hiring outside of the ethnic community that one is a part of. However I found to the reading to be excessive with some of Kim’s points, I did appreciate how he included interviews and feedback from these Koreans business owners. I found that this gave the reader a better look into what he was discussing. The experience for some Korean owners varied from others, as in, many thought the co-ethnic workers did a good job of maintaining their duties. Yet, others thought they these workers were lazy. Therefore from this it is hard to draw a conclusion about the true feelings that Koreans have towards these workers. I did find it useful how Kim added statistics of the immigrant workers after the lack of Korean immigrants failed to arrive during the 1980’s. It helped to paint a picture of just how many immigrants were able to enter the work force.

The second reading that will be discussed is called ‘Currying favour with the Locals: Balti owners and business enclaves’ by Monder Ram, Tahir Abbas, Balihar Sanghera and Guy Hillin. The primary focus behind this reading seems to be discussing the promoting of cultures in deprived areas within a city. The promotion is in order to get people to start to visit these areas more often. In England the creation of the Balti Quarter did just that. According to the reading ethnic enclaves within these communities is seen as where immigrants come together and establish their own ethnic enterprises, such as markets and businesses. Many of the employees of these businesses use this experience in order to open up their own. The authors of this reading state that when it comes to the amount of restaurants within the Balti Quarter, that they have no problem getting themselves established. The reason behind the promoting of this area was due to the fact that there were higher levels of employment but low levels on income. Therefore by attracting people to the city it would ensure that the businesses within this enclave would make some money.

The authors of this reading provided us as readers with extensive amounts of information in which they explained how the transformation of the Balti enclave worked. It stated how through the promotion of a city and the consent advertising of its goods and services, that it is possible to attack new clients and consumers to the area. However it is not only about the advertisement, it is also about the pricing within these city businesses, along with the quality of the product and the service that is being provided.  This is a good way to build up an area that lacks the attention of the people and gives businesses a chance to flourish.

Questions

  1. Within Kim’s work, do you believe that they are helping these new immigrants or taking advantage of their cheap labour? Does this promote co-ethnic relations or hinder them?
  2. Through the promotion of deprived areas, do you think it will eventually lead to these ethnic businesses changing their overall appearance to cater to new clients that are now frequently visiting the area?

Re-Membering the Self

Last semester I wrote a paper on the diasporic use of Skype. The paper reflected a lot of the notions explored by both Young Rae Oum and Sandra Soo Jin-Lee. The main point of the paper was to examine the ways in which Skype allowed immigrants to integrate the past within the present and the present within the past. Jin-Lee expresses this particularly well through her conception of ‘bodily memory,’ whereby the body becomes a medium through which life experiences are re-membered, while also being a site of agency where one may change the perception of these experiences. Here, food selection and consumption is seen to construct group boundaries, empowering the consumer with agency through the choice of where to position oneself with regards to these boundaries. But this choice presents a dilemma, a dilemma that both scholars address as ‘the struggle for identity.’ For Jin-Lee, this is because identity is constantly being reconstructed and maintained through food consumption practices, while Oum’s notion of identity struggle revolves around the maintaining of stereotypes. In both cases, the question ‘what work does food do?’ can be examined through the point of view of memory, identity reproduction, and choice.

Both Oum and Jin-Lee introduce the reader to the Korean dish kimchee. The dish has particular significance in Korean society because it has come to signify the wider Korean culture. Its particular pickled, salted, and extremely hot (spicy) tastes create social boundaries by indicating who is truly Korean through their ability to cope with the dish’s heat. As Jin-Lee shows, kimchee has become inextricably linked to the Korean national identity, giving examples of Koreans living in Japan who despite their inability to digest kimchee well, continue to consume it for the sake of being a good Korean. Jin-Lee masterfully shows the reader how identity is maintained. Much like scholarship on nationality, identity must be performed and re-performed in order to be maintained. But in the case of consumption, arguably we consume what we aspire to be, not what we are inherently. This is most readily shown by the example of the elderly Korean woman who states ‘If I am Korean I should eat kimchee.’ In this way the woman shows us how she is not inherently Korean, but must consume kimchee in order to materialize and concertize her belonging in this group.

Additionally, Jin-Lee shows how identity changes and that this may be mapped out on the body. Not only does Jin-Lee show how the body changes during the migration process, but she also shows how the body changes over time through aging. Poignantly, one man who moved from Korea to Japan lost his ability to enjoy the extreme heat of the quintessentially Korean kimchee dish. Jin-Lee shows how this is symbolic of the man’s feeling of loss of ‘Korean-ness’ and increasing adoption of ‘Japanese-ness.’ Yet for him this comes with a sense of loss, as the migration and integration process inevitably does. Additionally, the elderly men and women Jin-Lee describe feel a sense a loss when they are unable to recreate their Korean-ness. This was exemplified by an elderly lady who lamented her inability to teach future generations how to eat kimchee if she could not digest it herself. This idea is reminiscent of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s work ‘Why We Need Things,’ explaining that we embed objects with ephemeral memories and social currency (such as nationality, gender, class, etc.) because the human body is itself ephemeral while objects are less so.

Equally, Jin-Lee speaks to the idea that these methods of employment of objects to create group boundaries, if shared, can lead to collective memory through shared experiences. This is arguably the case for Oum’s Korean-American women. In Oum’s case study, Korean women who married Americans and moved to the United States cooked kimchee, but their husbands would rarely partake. Oum positions this in the article as an indicator of isolation and loneliness for these women, as they cannot share their nationality with their husbands. What’s more, the Korean nationality is positioned as ‘exotic’ (within Said’s notions of Orientalism) while the American cuisine, and thus nationality, is seen as ‘normal.’ Oum therefore shows the dislocation within the Korean-American family as played out through the medium of food and its social currency as representing nationality and belonging.

Interestingly, Jin-Lee expresses the idea that identity is forever changing. She does so by explaining the way in which the past is lived through the present. This is exemplified by the reflections her subjects reveal in how they deal with corporeal change such as aging or the movement from Korea to Japan and the accompanying change in taste-buds. For Jin-Lee, the bodily memory is one’s life narrative and experiences being performed in the present, but these performances and embodiments depend on the social situation one finds oneself in the present. Therefore, the past is always dynamic as it is incorporated into the present. In this way, the past is continually being re-membered and changes depending on how it is employed in the present. This in turn changes the perception of one’s life narrative, as this occurs in a broader process of meaning-making. Jin-Lee skillfully shows how food is an essential part of this meaning-making process, as the past is continually re-assessed alongside the present and the future. As both of these articles articulate, the reason identity is sometimes a struggle, is because there is a negotiation between having agency to control one’s identity in defining one’s life narrative, and not having agency as one’s life narrative enacts agency on us. In both cases, the site of negotiation is the body and its practices and performances.

Q: 1. Jin-Lee’s article touches on the idea of reverse culture shock, whereby when one moves to a place and integrates into a new set of culture practices, upon returning ‘home’ one finds it is not ‘home’ anymore. Have you felt this discomfort play out through food?

2. Oum describes the process by which foods become linked to prejudices and stereotypes. Have you witnessed food consumption practices that have been transformed to being detrimental for a group?

The Power of Culture: I am what I eat

In Dafna Hirsch’s article, “Hummus is best when it is fresh and made by Arabs”: The gourmetization of hummus in Israel and return of the repressed Arab” she examines the significance of hummus as an “authentic cuisine” in Palestine, its cultural biography over broad chronological stages and how it was appropriated by the Israeli’s to form their cultural identity. Hirsch proceeds to argue that foodstuff travels in several directions to become apart of an individual’s identity. The natural consumption of eating becomes apart of one’s cultural habitus. In doing so, the Israeli’s adopted an Arab’s historically known dish, hummus, and cultivated and deemed it into the Israeli’s national identity and reproduced this identity of “Israeliness”.In the beginning of the article, one statement that stood out to me to the most was when she says, “just as the museum has emerged as a privileged symbol of intercultural relations of travel, exchange, and appropriation, so should the dinner table”. I agree with Hirsch, food is this internalization process that allow humans to associate themselves to be apart of collective unit. Hirsch also discusses the realities of the power of culture that has been hammered out over time. She explains that Jews began serving hummus, which then advocated and supported this “Israelization” process and thus suppressed the Arab identity that was once was of hummus.

I am aware that food does travels and it cannot remain the same, just as humans who cross geographical borders and adapt to their new environment and thus transforms themselves into that particular culture. For this case, it was the Isreali culture who took it upon themselves to adopt a food stuff and commercialize it, which ultimately gains precedence in cultural imperialism. Who did it first? Who  makes it better?

I particularly enjoyed reading Hirsch’s article. She does excellent work in capturing the reader’s attention to understand how one culture, in this case the Arab’s were known specifically for hummus and how another culture, can take it and make it their own, and even better. Ultimately, the importance of acknowledging authenticity and where it originated is rather significant and she maintains that notion through writing this article in the first place.

In Young Rae Oum’s article entitled, “Authenticity and representation: cuisines and identities in Korean-American diaspora” she discusses how a national dish is a representation of an individual’s identity. For Oum, her argument is that food varies for people who are in different area and who come from a different class. Oum examines the Korean food structure and it is problematic to define a national cuisine. With that being said, Oum identifies that there is common basic meal structures and a variation of foodstuff that are recognized as “Korean”, which is shared on a common principle in the Korean culture. The Korean cuisine is based on an ancient, consistent meal structure that is commonly known and past down to generations. Omu makes a valid point by stating, “National cuisines are by no means purely indigenous nor antithesis to globalization”.

Omu addresses the term “authenticity” and explains that is it a subjective experience that is defined by the experience and the style of cooking rather than the food itself.  Omu references a cookbook example and shows that Hyun tries to establish authentic cooking methods used by Koreans but is not successful in employing these methods to guarantee authenticity. There is so much emphasis on cookbooks to facilitate an “authentic” dish and for Omu all it does is creates and disseminates a hybridity of cuisine instead of cooking traditional Korean cuisines.Both articles addressed similar ideas about authenticity, but showed how they can be interpreted different in different parts of the world. Although we do know that food does travels, people do exhibit various interpretations of the food being introduced into that particular culture. Moreover, there is this desire to create an authentic dish to represent or be a part of a certain identity or to even try to be “exotic”, but it will always be different. No one cooking is the same. I believe that cultural habits can make for an authentic dish.

1.  Do you think that authenticity is just apart of a way to commercialize and capitalize on cultural imperialism?
2. Do you think at some point we will be free from these cultural challenges of what is consider authentic and start to create new dishes instead of taking from other cultures and making it our own?

What does authenticity really mean?

In the following article, “Hummus is best when it is fresh and made by Arabs”: The gourmetization of hummus in Isreal and return of the repressed Arab, by Dafna Hirsch explains the significance of hummus as an authentic cuisine in Palestine and how it was later adopted by the Israeli’s as they reconstructed the dish to symbolize a form of cultural identity for Jews as well. Hirsch argues that as food travels it becomes part of one’s identity to represent the culture itself and when Israeli’s adopted this historically Arab dish, it became known for its significance of Israeliness and became a national food in Israel. Traveling food items, such as hummus, produces and reproduces notions of identity and difference within a shared space and represented self-expression. Hirsch explains that when Jewish Oriental restaurants began serving hummus, it supported its “Israelization” and suppressed Arab identity of hummus. Although hummus became to be known as a national dish in Israel, Hirsch argues that authenticity of the dish still remained in Arab origins and hummus made by Arabs was viewed as better and more authentic. As food travels it begins to undergo differentation along geographic lines and quality lines, which tells us that along food travels it dos not remain the same, it adapts to the society in which it is consumed and represents something different for each individual, but in the case of Palestinians and Israels, hummus represents cultural identity and ethnicity.
The research question and problem being addressed for Hirsch is that food can travel and be reconstructed but its authenticity will remain in its original creators and the recent gourmetization of hummus in Israel was defeated by the reemergence of authentic Arab identity of hummus. Food shared among Arabs and Jews represents a relationship between both communities, but Hirsch questions whether it represents closeness or distance between the two.
Hirsch does a good job at explaining the significant history hummus holds and how it later became adopted by Israelis and known as a national dish for Israel, just as it always was for Palestinians, but she concludes with the argument that as food travels it reconstructs its authenticity of the dish but in the end authenticity lies in Arab made hummus and Arab identity. Hirsch does a good job at explaining what this dish represents for both cultures and how the identity of the dish changes throughout time but she does not thoroughly explain why Arab made hummus is better and more authentic, she does give people’s opinions on it but does not fully explain why it represents more of an ethnic food for Arabs.

In the second article, Authenticity and representation: cuisines and identities in Korean-American diaspora, By Young Rae Oum holds a similar argument to Hirsch’s, stating that for a culture a national dish represents a certain identity but Oum argues that national foods are not indigenous when studying recipes and cooking in Korea; national cuisines are represented by what is commonly consumed by Koreans and what is imagines as traditional and custom to them. Oum explains that the idea of national food changes based on certain conditions such as commercial interests and are effected by internal variations such as region and class. Koreans have constructed cook-books that they consider authentic foods but they do not represent traditional Korean cuisines because most often one or more ingredients or cooking process is adjusted or changed. One research question Oum addresses is what constitutes a Korean cuisine, in which Oum finds that some consider it the Korean foods they eat at restaurants or at home or it is what some Koreans imagine as a national food. Others believe that it is only considered a national food if it is unique to only Korea.
Although Oum holds some similar ideas to Hirsch, difference lies between their interpretation of the idea of authenticity. Oum states that authenticity is defined by the relationship of a person with a style of cooking and eating rather than a quality embedded in the foods. Oum also explains that what is seen as authentic changes as food travels, specifically when Oum explains the difference between Korean-American foods to Korean food in Korea. Oum states that traditions of food changes when introduced to Westerners and that Westerners and Koreans interpret the food differently which changes the authenticity of the dishes. Westerners reconstruct Korean dishes, which is why it is not considered authentic, similarly to Hirsch’s point in how Israelis reconstructed Arab identity of hummus.
Overall, although diasporic groups try to maintain authenticity in their foods in order to represent an identity in relation to their homeland, Oum explains that reconstructed food is not 100% authentic just as national cuisines are not purely indigenous.
Throughout both articles, the idea of what is considered a national dish and authentic is the main focus for both authors, and we learn that as food travels, identity changes and interpretation of the dish changes within each community and cultural group.

Questions:

  1. Do you think food that is reconstructed in Western culture can ever be considered “authentic”? Why or why not. If so, what factors consider the food to be authentic.
  2. Oum stated that Mintz believes there is no such thing as a national cuisine and that cuisines are more regional because a style of cooking and eating cannot be divided by politically determined borderlines. Do you agree that there is no such thing as national cuisine? Explain
Lee talks about the role memory and to a certain extent, the role nostalgia plays as people who are living in a diaspora, or away from their native land attempt to reconnect with their homeland. He also touches upon the subject of generational aging, whereby identities are often negotiated especially once the members of the older, first generation migrants slowly fade away and the second and third generation members of their diasporic group come into being and start to question who they are and what they really identify as, especially now that they can make their own decisions without having to rely on what their parents or grandparents say. This idea connects to Forero and Smith’s article who discuss the tension felt by Ukrainians living in Britain since the second and subsequent generations after them now identify as British-Ukrainian, a stark contrast to their grandparents, first generation Ukrainians who tried hard to maintain their identity.


Lee says that the role of memory is very central to the concept of diaspora. After all, even if they are already in another country, people tend to look for the familiar; the things they are used to. One way they can do this is through the food they eat. In his article, he discusses how Koreans attempt to recreate Korean dishes as they lived in Japan. Of course because of the constraints they have, not everything will remain the same as it is eaten in Korea and as proof, Lee says that Korean food cooked in Japan is much milder and sweeter than they are accustomed to. One can assume that the proximity of Korea to Japan makes it easier to transport or import Korean products to the Japanese market. However, as seen here, that clearly is not the case and the taste of Korean food is altered. It then makes me wonder how much harder it is for other people living in a diaspora who are so far away from their homeland. To recreate the taste of the food they grew up with is harder and so it brings into question how they introduce it to their children or grand children born in their new land. Lee’s article also touches upon Cho’s story who experienced a different Korea upon his return to his homeland. To him, the food did not taste as good as the one made in Japan by his wife. Forero and Smith also say that food preferences are adapted and transformed into the practices of everyday life. Therefore, for migrants and people living under diasporic conditions, authentic becomes transformed to fit what they have in the country they are staying in. To completely reproduce a recipe based on how one would cook it in their homeland is hard and so they make do with what they have in their new home and call it authentic when they introduce it to their kids or grandkids. Forero and Smith also say that Ukrainian food actually borrows ingredients from a range of traditions and therefore, what is authentically Ukrainian is actually a mishmash of food from other traditions, as most cuisines do. Reading these articles made me question authentic is, and it brings me back to class discussions as we attempted to define what authenticity means. Because each person has a different memory of what constitutues authentic food is and is very subjective, it leads one to question whether the notion of authenticity even matters, why vendors peddle and label their products as authentic, and why consumers look for authentic foodstuffs.


1. think back to a time when you were trying out and looking for a product from another country you’re not familiar with. once you saw it in the aisles, did you feel compelled to buy the product with the word authentic on its label?


2. do your parents or grandparents ever tell you of their experiences like that of Cho’s? Or did you ever experience it if you were an immigrant to Canada also? Did they ever come back to your homeland and get disappointed with the quality of food served there?


Food and politics, discussion of “national cuisine” across time

Oum examines the relationship between food and politics, especially how the acceptance or rejection of Korean food by “Americans” reflect Korean Americans’ marginalization or integration in America. Claiming certain ethnic food as “smelly,” mainstream Americans imply that their own food is “normal, good, hygienic and pleasant.” American husbands’ cross-cultural food adventure is celebrated while Korean wives’ obligation in cooking “American” food is taken for granted. The narratives of Korean dining experience as a series of lacks—lack of menu diversity, individual portions, and hygiene—is egocentric and condescending. Several ideas from previous lectures are resonated in Oum’s interrogation of the construction of “national cuisine” by Korean government and Korean diaspora in America. Firstly globalization is not a new phenomenon and global trades and cultural exchanges have occurred since ancient times. The fabrication of kimchi as Korean “national cuisine”—like French wine, Italian pasta, Mexican taco, and Japanese sushi—is embedded in modern nationalist movements, commercial interests, and international competitions. At the same time, Oum quotes a Korean-American cookbook author who suggests readers to “sit down on the floor” while eating Korean food to optimize “authentic” experiences. By manufacturing “authentic” space to achieve “authentic” identity is similarly captured by Sangmee and Yan. Patronizing western establishments like Starbucks and McDonald’s, the customers believe they are endowed with modern values thus are ‘superior’ to the ordinary. The article lacks of focus; while the repertory examples of “smelly food,” military wives, and misrepresentation of Korean food in America capture the relationship between food and politics of Korean-American identity, the discussions of globalization, authenticity and ordering of Korean food are not coherently structured.

Forero and Smith’s article focuses on how different generations of Ukrainian-English use foodways to exhibit their different food ideologies. For example the first generation’s consumption of Ukrainian food is expression nationalism, and cooking practices and eating patterns were influenced by post-war shortages. For children or grandchildren of the “primary settlers,” foodways are artifacts and tokens to maintain their collective ethnic membership. For members of younger generations who refer themselves as British Ukrainians, Ukrainian food is their cultural heritage and they see Ukrainian food as any other foreign food (i.e. Chinese and Indian) that come to their kitchen space (exo-cuisine) followed by restaurant consumption (endo-cuisine). 

Forero and Smith’s analysis on cross-generational food ideologies using Bourdieu’s habitus is incongruent. Bourdieu’s habitus describes certain knowledge that one possess, including language, skills, education etc., to advance his/her social standing. My sociological understanding of cultural capital is that it’s inherited, circulated and kept within own social or cultural groups, but different generations of Ukrainians have always been one ethnic group. The second generation would not have been proficiently assimilated into mainstream British society without the former generation’s presence and the endurance of marginalization, as Anthias puts it “diaspora is both a condition and a societal process.” What’s more, cultural capital is also a social marker thus it can’t encapsulate all Ukrainians in the same generation who have different socio-economic status. Thus I think Gordon’s acculturation might be a more appropriate framework describing Ukrainian-English generational difference than Bourdieu’s habitus.

 

 

Questions:

  1. As we’ve read in Padoongpatt’s “Too Hot to Handle:      Food, Empire and Race in Thai Los Angeles” that public acceptance of ethic      food doesn’t translate to social mobility of ethnic groups, why is that? What      distinguish Thai immigrants in the US and Ukrainian diaspora in England?

 

  1. Forero and Smith describe the genuine appreciation that      Ukrainian descendants have toward Ukrainian ethnic heritage and food. Can      they still pursue the “authentic” self by tracing “authentic” roots? What’s      being overlooked in the process?

Food Away From Home

The key theme for this weeks readings is the connection between nostalgia, memory, and food.  Food is said to be a powerful object that can manifest memory through the senses of smell and taste.  Each author conveys the central point that when food travels with people away from the home, it can represent a cultural site and point of identification.  Food is said to be an object that can participate in creating and recreating social bonds.  This can be seen in the first article entitled “Side Dish Kitching: Japanese-American Delicatessens and the Culture of Nostalgia” by Christine Yano.  Yano discusses the cultural significance of Japanese-American fusion take-out restaurants in Honolulu, Hawai’i called Okazuya’s.  She focuses her attention on the Sagara Store and outlines the purpose and function of the restaurant as a side of the road space that is also a center of the road home for the local clientele.  Although visually unappealing or aesthetically attractive, the okazuya restaurants are primarily family owned and run and are known for the unchanging nature of the fusion food.  The Okazuya’s act as sites of sociality where people can travel away from Honolulu, and upon their return be granted a sense of nostalgia and familiarity when they consume the restaurants dishes.  This is an example of how taste and smell are primary senses that rule over the visual in order to evoke memory and meaning when eating a dish.  In addition, Yano describes how the dishes are not authentically Japanese or American, they are adaptations and interpretations of multiple dishes that are combined together to represent a new cuisine.  The clientele do not eat here in search of authenticity, but perceive the dishes as a new category of authentic that is only offered in okazuyas.

The second article entitled “Synesthesia, Memory, and the Taste of Home” by David Sutton describes in further detail how food is connected to memory through the senses, creating and enhancing social experiences of transnational food.  When food travels with an individual or is sent back home, it can be eating in any location that is transformed into a cultural site and point of identification.  This can be seen as a coping mechanism from those who have left their home and long for a sense of familiarity.  This feeling in Greek is called Xenitia, meaning absence from the home.  By consuming a physical object like feta cheese, an individual is able to “return to the whole” through the taste and smell of the item.  Sutton uses the term Synesthia to describe a sensation when the senses elaborate on each other instead of being experienced discretely. He believes that taste and smell are more powerful than vision in terms of evoking episodic memory.  He also makes an interesting point that although taste and smell are technically universal, they are also culturally elaborate and laden with memories and associations that go beyond the physicality of the food.   This particular point is the most compelling idea because I believe that our taste and likes or dislikes of dishes, items, or flavours is greatly affected by the cultural associations we place with them.  For example, my grandmother always serves cheese and bread with her homemade prosciutto before or after we eat a meal, therefore I associate the flavour of prosciutto with cheese and find that if one is eaten without the other then something is missing. 

This brings me to our discussion topic from last class regarding the difference between taste and flavour.  I wondered to myself what and how could change the way we taste something?  How do our likes and dislikes of particular food items change over time?  Why is it that our culture and history of exposure to food affects what we like and dislike dishes?   Here are some further questions regarding this topic.

Questions:

1).  Would negative memories associated with a particular food item/dish affect the way we taste that item/dish?

2).  How does location affect the way we taste food? If we are used to eating something at a certain time, at a certain place, with certain people, will the food be less enjoyed if it is eaten away from these associations with ‘home’? 

Imagine.

This week’s papers are on food memories. Anita Mannur and Christine Yano examine the nostalgic attachment of food and eateries. Yano’s piece focuses on Japanese American delicatessens in Hawaii. The delicatessen, called the Sagara Store, is also known as an okazuya, which translates to ‘side-dish house’. Yano analyzes the Sagara store others like as a place of a ‘nostalgized discourse’ and argues that these establishments are a symbolic of the past. According to Yano, the okazuya is a “gap” that is both an alternative to American society and intensifies nostalgia and the sense of home.  The sense of home is invoked through the taste and smells of the foodstuffs being served at the okazuyas.

Okazuya’s have been around since the 20th century and are commonly found within Hawaii. They are not the same as delicatessens in Japan in format. Okazuyas takes on an Americanized (Hawaiian) format. Okazuya’s became popular during the 1920s when male Japanese workers were laboring in Hawaii’s sugar and pineapple fields. Okazuya’s serve their portion to suit individualized needs unlike their Japanese counterparts, whose food is made to be shared amongst a group. Okazuya specializes in strictly carry out, transplanting the Japanese “obento box” method that is made to be eaten while on the go. Okazuya’s presence in Hawaii attends to the need of the busy modern day commuter in need of a quick bite. Yano maintains the okazuya is a site of sociality. The sociality exists on both sides of the counter and in the transactions between them (pg.52). Since these businesses are relatively small, they are dependent on family members as employees. If family members do not want to run the business, the owners would rather shut down the shop than sell it to someone who is not a family member.

One thing about these family run businesses is that they close within a matter of years. As they close, it is marking an end of an era, or an entity going extinct. The concept of “space on the side of the road” denotes a small, intimate and non mainstream place.  They are competing against hegemonic fast food eateries such as McDonalds and as these Okazuya’s disappear, it becomes a symbol of what once was.

Nostalgia in this sense ascribes to a sense of home, not so much longing for Japan, but the sense of a small, cozy, intimate setting, where one can find a smiling elderly couple, serving wholesome foods. It reproduces the idea of home for their customers. Okazuya’s are representation of the local and to lose one is losing a large part of the localized self.

In Anita Mannur’s piece Culinary Nostalgia, she explores how Indian diasporic communities contend with Indian food. Mannur has traveled and lived in various parts of the world where there is a large concentration of Indians. The places where she visited, she finds that living outside of India there are variations of traditional dishes where substitutive ingredients are utilized. Living in the diaspora, one may not be able to find a particular ingredient to make a dish so they have to simply make do with what they have. Mannur maintains that everything she learned about Indian food was in a place other than India, hence her fascination in understanding how food plays a role in making or breaking one’s identity. Nevertheless, Mannur’s sense of identity does not appear to be compromised.

I find that Indian food in particular is relatively versatile. No matter what substitutions one puts in their dish, it will always be considered as Indian. This cuisine, as Mannur demonstrates, transcends geographical boundaries and is bonded with a sense of nostalgia. This nostalgia is subjective. Mannur does not say that one has to have memories of India in order for nostalgia of Indian food to be invoked. There was a longing for the taste of home, but an acceptance that such taste can never be achieved, so they settle with what is available. In comparing both articles, nostalgia has nothing to do with a sense of  home that is neither Japan nor India specifically but rather a place where one feels familiar. I used to maintain that nostalgia is a static concept that can apply to a specific temporality and as both authors demonstrated, nostalgia is not fixed, it is imagined.

 

With that, I ask my peers:

  1. How do you describe nostalgia? Where do you encounter it most? Is it through food? Or other activities?
  2. Do you also agree with my notion that Indian food being considered “Indian” no matter how differently it’s made?
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