Monday, March 17, 2008

It is amazing to see that America is not the only country embracing diversity (a slow process that still needs a lot of work). I have never been able to travel much, so I was intrigued by the integration of Chinese food in every niche of the globe. It won’t be long before dishes from every country resembled one another, emphasizing the change in transnational identities. Ethnic/racial categories for food might just become nomenclature, but the true culture behind the dish exists within its deviation from what anyone might think it should be (its evolution to a new taste might become the identity). The politics associated to food becomes integral to its change.

The dishes shown in the documentary was reminiscent of tastes I have experienced in Chinese restaurants in several regions and yet they were entitled to their own acquired taste. The richness of Chinese cuisine exists in its ability to reshape and become localized. The adoption of Chinese food into its community encourages me to think that taste=local culture. Regardless of the country (Republic of Madagascar, Cuba, etc…) the traditional Chinese recipes evolved to accept the taste of its community. Chinese food in Cuba had a pinch of Spanish spice and Chinese food in Madagascar steamed with African, Indian, and Chinese taste. Often times in the film, the chefs had never been to China, trained to cook Chinese food in China or formally taught to cook at all. This leads me to believe that the acknowledgment of “culture” is left to those it seeks to cater (it would be the locals in this case).

This makes the idea of “chow mien sandwiches” seem all the more interesting. When Prof. Lee first talked about the sandwiches, I thought that it was just strange. But, now I can’t wait to try one as it is a step closer to being initiated into Rhode Island citizenship. It had never occurred to me how much history is linked to food and the appreciation of the region’s signature dish bestows a sense of belonging.

I feel that the morphology of cuisine should not challenge authenticity. It is not legitimate to compare the regions' distinct dishes (mentioned in the film) to that of mainland China. With every change to the spice and adopted style of preparation, one can taste the legacy of the family working in the kitchen. In between the stir fried noodles and the bun of the chow mien sandwich (I am not sure if it is stir fried) is a story marinating the need of local factory workers for a convenient and affordable lunch and the entrepreneurship of a Chinese-Rhode Island family. Whether the families intentionally tried to tell their story of growth and survival, it is uttered in their attempt to cater their dish to the acquired taste of the local community. The acceptance of the new dish is a marriage of citizenship between locals and the family preparing the meal.

No comments: