Eating Asian America

Eating Asian America: A Food Studies Reader

Ku Robert Ji-Song
Manalansan Martin F. IV
Anita Mannur
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 453
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  • Book Info
    Eating Asian America
    Book Description:

    Chop suey. Sushi. Curry. Adobo. Kimchi. The deep associations Asians in the United States have with food have become ingrained in the American popular imagination. So much so that contentious notions of ethnic authenticity and authority are marked by and argued around images and ideas of food.Eating Asian America: A Food Studies Readercollects burgeoning new scholarship in Asian American Studies that centers the study of foodways and culinary practices in our understanding of the racialized underpinnings of Asian Americanness. It does so by bringing together twenty scholars from across the disciplinary spectrum to inaugurate a new turn in food studies: the refusal to yield to a superficial multiculturalism that naively celebrates difference and reconciliation through the pleasures of food and eating. By focusing on multi-sited struggles across various spaces and times, the contributors to this anthology bring into focus the potent forces of class, racial, ethnic, sexual and gender inequalities that pervade and persist in the production of Asian American culinary and alimentary practices, ideas, and images. This is the first collection to consider the fraught itineraries of Asian American immigrant histories and how they are inscribed in the production and dissemination of ideas about Asian American foodways.Robert Ji-Song Kuis Associate Professor of Asian and Asian American Studies at Binghamton University. He is the author ofDubious Gastronomy: The Cultural Politics of Eating Asian in the USA.Martin F. Manalansan IVis Associate Professor of Anthropology and Asian American Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He is the author ofGlobal Divas: Filipino Gay Men in the Diaspora.Anita Mannuris Associate Professor of English and Asian /Asian American Studies at Miami University. She is the author ofCulinary Fictions: Food in South Asian Diasporic Culture.

    eISBN: 978-1-4798-1895-2
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. An Alimentary Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    Understanding and apprehending Asian American food experiences begin and end with the body. The categoryAsian Americanis a historical U.S. federal census designation that rests in part on the long history of what might be described as the Foucauldian control and discipline¹ around the movement of Asian bodies to America, in part on their toil in various agricultural fields and plantations, fruit orchards, fisheries, and salmon canneries in Hawai‘i, California, the Pacific Northwest, and the South. That these same bodies sweated and slaved over hot stoves and small kitchens to produce many of America’s ubiquitous ethnic take-out food establishments...

    • 1 Cambodian Donut Shops and the Negotiation of Identity in Los Angeles
      (pp. 13-29)

      When the communist Khmer Rouge regime came to power in Cambodia in 1975, Ted Ngoy, a major in the Cambodian army working at the Cambodian embassy in Bangkok, fled with his wife and three children “aboard one of the first refugee airplanes to leave Asia for the [United States] West Coast.”¹ “All the way over we just talked about having enough pigs and chickens to take to the market,” Ngoy later told theLos Angeles Times. “That was my dream.”² The family joined the more than fifty thousand Vietnamese and Cambodian refugees. They relocated to, were processed in, and moved...

    • 2 Tasting America: The Politics and Pleasures of School Lunch in Hawai‘i
      (pp. 30-52)

      February 2009, Kabuki Restaurant and Delicatessen, Waimalu Shopping Center, Aiea, Hawai‘i, 11:00 a.m. I am here with Wanda Adams, former food editor for theHonolulu Advertiser,¹ and fourteen retired “cafeteria ladies” (school cafeteria managers) from the Ewa-Waipahu school district.² Wanda and I have been invited to one of their regular lunchtime gatherings. Mrs. Oshiro, the woman in charge, greets us and ushers us through the dark, nearly empty restaurant to a section in the back, which is noisy with the chatter of familiarity. Wanda and I are the last to arrive. In local Japanese American fashion, if an event is...

    • 3 A Life Cooking for Others: The Work and Migration Experiences of a Chinese Restaurant Worker in New York City, 1920–1946
      (pp. 53-77)

      On December 27, 1925,New York Timescolumnist Bertram Reinitz published a special piece entitled “Chop Suey’s New Role.”² As the designated cultural and social commentator for this widely circulating newspaper, Reinitz used the approaching New Year to reflect on “the changes of character and custom that this sizable city has lately undergone.” “At the lunch hour,” he marveled, “there is an eager exodus toward Chinatown.” With the throngs of clerks, secretaries, and sales ladies descending on Chinatown, it seemed as if everyone had gotten the office memo on where to eat lunch. This curious trend of people streaming into...

    • 4 Learning from Los Kogi Angeles: A Taco Truck and Its City
      (pp. 78-97)

      Local Los Angeles lore credits Raul Martinez with creating the firstlonchera—also known as a taco truck—when he converted an ice-cream van and began selling tacos in front of an east LA bar.¹ Martinez’s innovation proved so lucrative he eventually parlayed his mobile money into a popular brick-and-mortar chain named King Taco. The company still operates taco trucks on the streets of LA—you can even hire one to cater a private party—and while they rarely come up in conversations about the city’s bestloncheras, the fact that one can even have such a debate is a...

    • 5 The Significance of Hawai‘i Regional Cuisine in Postcolonial Hawai‘i
      (pp. 98-122)

      At first glance, Hawai‘i regional cuisine (HRC), like other American regional cuisines, seems nothing less than a paean to the state’s diverse ethnic communities and foods and to the islands’ natural bounty, air, land, and sea.¹ Given the history of the Hawaiian Islands as, first, an independent kingdom (1795–1893) and then a U.S. colony (1898–1959), however, Hawai‘i regional cuisine has a much greater significance.

      Traditionally, fine dining in Hawai‘i was assumed to be continental cuisine, which was usually found at restaurants in Waikiki. These establishments had long hired French, German, or Swiss chefs with impeccable credentials, who had...

    • 6 Incarceration, Cafeteria Style: The Politics of the Mess Hall in the Japanese American Incarceration
      (pp. 125-146)

      George Takei, best known for playing Mr. Sulu onStar Trek, is one of the most famous of the World War II Japanese American incarcerees. His autobiographyTo the Stars, little known except among Trekkers, begins in the camps when he was four and might well be his first memory. Then, when the camps were being closed, Takei’s father left his family temporarily to see whether Los Angeles was still too hostile an environment for Japanese Americans. With the family separated, Takei’s child memory suddenly fails completely.

      Mama says she decorated a tumbleweed with fruits and candies. She says we...

    • 7 As American as Jackrabbit Adobo: Cooking, Eating, and Becoming Filipina/o American before World War II
      (pp. 147-176)

      My father Ernesto Tirona Mabalon arrived in Stockton, California, in 1963 to be reunited with his father, Pablo “Ambo” Mabalon, who had left their hometown of Numancia, Aklan, for the United States in 1929. Mylolo(grandfather) Ambo ran a popular Filipino American diner, the Lafayette Lunch Counter, in the heart of Stockton’s Little Manila. Almost immediately after he arrived, mytatay(father) was “itching to have dried fish” and craved his favorite variety, calledtuyo. When my lolo stepped out one afternoon, my father threw sometuyoon the restaurant’s hot grill. The reek of the fried, fermented fish...

    • 8 Lechon with Heinz, Lea & Perrins with Adobo: The American Relationship with Filipino Food, 1898–1946
      (pp. 177-185)

      If you had sat down to dinner at the Manila Hotel in 1936, only a few dishes on the menu would have been Filipino. Most of the items—the olives in the India relish, chicken gumbo soup, braised sweetbreads, squab casserole, beans, carrots, potatoes, and petits fours—were so classically French that you easily could have been in a hotel in New York or London. A few Filipino items—mango frappé,pili nuts, lapu-lapuin browned butter, and bamboo shoot salad—hinted at the hotel’s location in America’s most important imperial colony in Asia. But the meal made clear that...

    • 9 “Oriental Cookery”: Devouring Asian and Pacific Cuisine during the Cold War
      (pp. 186-207)

      “Cooking is considered an art in the Orient,” Ruby Erskine explained to students in her cooking class at the Women’s Auxiliary to the Salt Lake Chapter of Life Underwriters in Utah. “And the food in the Orient,” Erskine added as she used chopsticks to stir-fry vegetables in an electric skillet, “is a happy combination of good eating and good health.” It was 1970, and Erskine had been teaching courses like these with “tremendous enthusiasm” for several years throughout Salt Lake City. She regularly spoke on the topic of “Oriental cookery” in front of church and civic groups, organized Oriental-themed benefit...

    • 10 Gannenshoyu or First-Year Soy Sauce?: Kikkoman Soy Sauce and the Corporate Forgetting of the Early Japanese American Consumer
      (pp. 208-228)

      On September 19, 2007, the Kikkoman Corporation placed a full-page color advertisement in theNew York Timescommemorating the company’s fiftieth anniversary in America. The ad is essentially a letter of thanks to America from Yuzaburo Mogi, the company’s chairman and CEO. “Arigato, America,” the ad reads in large letters. A large photographic cutout of a smiling, grandfatherly Mr. Mogi appears beneath the 160-word letter, accompanied on the left by a bottle of Kikkoman soy sauce hovering over a special gold emblem expressly designed for this occasion. The emblem, announcing “50th Anniversary in America,” is flanked by two dates, 1957...

    • 11 Twenty-First-Century Food Trucks: Mobility, Social Media, and Urban Hipness
      (pp. 231-244)
      LOK SIU

      Just as I turned into the parking lot, I suddenly realized I had no idea what Jae Kim, the founder of Chi’Lantro Food Trucks, looked like, and I had forgotten to ask for some mark of identification when we confirmed our meeting. But without giving it a second thought, I rushed toward the front door of Asia Café, a major Austin, Texas, landmark for delicious northern Chinese food. There stood a young man in his late twenties or maybe early thirties, wearing dark blue jeans, a stylish pullover sweater, and black sneakers. He had his face down, looking intently at...

    • 12 Samsa on Sheepshead Bay: Tracing Uzbek Foodprints in Southern Brooklyn
      (pp. 245-254)

      In southern Brooklyn, at the very tip of the borough where the beaches are the main attraction, runs Ocean Avenue. Along this long street, which begins on Emmons Avenue and ends near Prospect Park, is a long stretch of apartments, which, in the 1980s, were managed by Turks, Tatars, and Uzbeks. The buildings were hardly six stories high and nearly identical, distinguishable only by a few shades of brick, yellow or red. My childhood was spent zipping from one building to the next, playing in basements with the reckless freedom of childhood. My friends were the children of the superintendents...

    • 13 Apple Pie and Makizushi: Japanese American Women Sustaining Family and Community
      (pp. 255-273)

      In 1930s Los Angeles, Natsuye Fujimoto, a second-generation Japanese American teenager, compiled a booklet she entitled “Recipes (Japanese).” Carefully documenting the food her family enjoyed and considered Japanese, she included dishes ranging from “Nasu-Ni (Sautéed Eggplant)” and traditional New Year’s “Ozoni” soup, to “Shrimp Salad” and “Baked Flat Fish” with “Pesha Meru” (béchamel) sauce.¹ The notation “Serves 5”—the number in the Fujimoto family—on many of the recipes suggests that these dishes constituted part of the family’s regular diet. Fujimoto’s “Shrimp Salad” with pineapple and cucumber shows how Japanese immigrant families adapted the idea of the Western salad, dressing...

    • 14 Giving Credit Where It Is Due: Asian American Farmers and Retailers as Food System Pioneers
      (pp. 274-287)

      A tour through any supermarket yields rich anthropological information: who lives nearby, what they like to eat, how they clean their bathtubs. Much has changed in American supermarkets since 1965, when the Hart-Cellar Act lifted harsh regulations on Asian immigration. Most have added an “Asian” or “Oriental” section, with products like sesame oil and soy sauce for shoppers who wish to begin experimenting “outside their lane” (literally). But what about the neighboring aisles? How have Asian American farmers and retailers transformed so-called American food, as well as our understanding of it? Beyond supermarkets are Asian restaurants identifiable with virtually every...

    • 15 Beyond Authenticity: Rerouting the Filipino Culinary Diaspora
      (pp. 288-300)

      A few years ago, I took one of my regular jaunts to Woodside, a neighborhood in the borough of Queens, New York City, where I first lived after arriving in the United States in 1984. Since the 1990s, the neighborhood has become increasingly populated by a variety of Asian Americans, including Korean, Chinese, Indian, Thai, and Filipino Americans. Along Roosevelt Avenue, from roughly Sixtieth to Seventieth Avenue, is Little Manila, where Filipino stores, bars, and restaurants can be found in abundance.

      On this day, I took a couple of my American-born and -raised foodie friends to a Filipino restaurant called...

    • 16 Acting Asian American, Eating Asian American: The Politics of Race and Food in Don Lee’s Wrack and Ruin
      (pp. 303-322)

      Greedy land developers. Estranged Korean-Chinese American brothers. Chocolate ice cream. Buddhist precepts written on paper airplanes. Organic brussels sprouts. These are but a few of the plot elements that propel Don Lee’s second novelWrack and Ruin(2008). Lyndon Song, former world-renowned sculptor, is besieged by visitors to his organic brussels sprout farm, including his Los Angeles wannabe movie producer brother, who is also a former Wall Street embezzler; an aging and washed-up Hong Kong martial arts film star; a former art curator turnedshiatsumasseuse; and two environmental activists trying to save the snowy plover from a golf course...

    • 17 Devouring Hawai‘i: Food, Consumption, and Contemporary Art
      (pp. 323-353)

      For contemporary visual artists of Asian and Pacific backgrounds, tropes of food—embedded in lived experience and intermeshed with themes of place, material culture, commerce, and migration—provide a plethora of multisited metaphors and iconographies for global circulation, intersections, and cross connections among peoples and cultures. This growing body of work, here mainly by artists from Hawai‘i of Asian or part-Asian backgrounds, offers insights into the expressive formation of globally mediated localism that underscores how the local is shaped and transformed by the global, and how diverse external influences have long been appropriated and reworked for local

      Over the past...

    • 18 “Love Is Not a Bowl of Quinces”: Food, Desire, and the Queer Asian Body in Monique Truong’s The Book of Salt
      (pp. 354-370)

      Monique Truong’sThe Book of Salt(2003) is a foodie reader’s fantasy. The novel abounds with tantalizing, mouth-watering concoctions: duck braised with port-drenched figs, tarts crisped with sugared butter, ripe quinces gently simmered in honeyed water. But for the characters in the novel, these delicacies are rendered all the more fascinating because they are created by Bính, the queer Vietnamese chef who works in Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas’s Parisian household. It was, in fact, this surprising morsel of real-life intimacy—the relationship between Vietnamese laborers and two of U.S. modernism’s most famous figures—that inspired Truong’s novel. In...

    • 19 The Globe at the Table: How Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian Reconfigures the World
      (pp. 371-392)

      The figuration of the world traveler that Jaffrey describes and the autobiographical fashioning of self in her cookbooks already have been analyzed. But an addition to this analysis is the configuration of Jaffrey’s world. In other words, her books’ “gastropoetics” have been analyzed, but the gastocartographies that she maps—or elides—have not. The conventional thinking about global cuisine follows two archetypal configurations: that of each culture bringing to the table its special flavor, its unique inflection of signature tastes or that of the multinational corporation—McDonalds, Taco Bell, KFC— that represents a branded flavor recognized everywhere, with a chain...

    • 20 Perfection on a Plate: Readings in the South Asian Transnational Queer Kitchen
      (pp. 393-408)

      During the last decade, a wide corpus of writing about food in diasporic contexts has emerged in ethnic studies and its interlocutory fields of gender, race, and sexuality studies. One such work is Krishnendu Ray’sMigrant’s Table, a sociological inquiry that maps the foodways of Bengali American households in the United States.¹ Through a series of interviews and thick ethnographic research, Ray establishes the central desires and ideas at stake in the Bengali American culinary imaginary. But implicit in his analysis, as with several inquiries into foodways in the domestic space, is the notion that food preparation in the home...

    (pp. 409-424)
    (pp. 425-430)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 431-444)