Sunday, March 16, 2008

thoughts on eating Asian and global food culture

Ming Tsai and his fusion ways
I remember watching Ming Tsai in high school on Food Network. My mom loved Ming Tsai and was thrilled to see an Asian American chef on TV next to figures like Emeril Lagasse and Bobby Flay...plus my mom found him really attractive.
On that note, it was interesting in the Manalalasan's reading in Alien Encounters about how Ming Tsai's body and image was read as a central piece of his show East Meets West. Participants commented on his tall, athletic body, speech and body movements. One participant even characterized Tsai as a "white jock". Several participants noted the “whitening” of his voice. To me this was implying that the audience saw a level of assimilation (along with his fusion cooking) to white-dominate American culture and a "disconnect" along class lines--many, if not, all the audience participants were immigrant working/lower middle-class--as Ming gives off an educated, wealthy class sensibility, which appeals to his audience base.

Gender in the audience participation is something that can be explored just on its own. Most of the female participants were not surprised the guests on the show were male. Cooking in public for pay and in public both in "back home" in China and in America, one participant claimed, is still the domain of men.
I feel like there are several shows now on Food Network (and other cooking shows) that exotify and objectify the female chef/hosts. Giada on Everyday Italiananyone? How would East Meets West be framed differently if the chef/host was a woman?

Chinese Restaurants
After watching this documentary series by Cheuk Kwan, I saw a lot of common threads within all of the countries . I'll just list them cause there's kinda a lot:

>Food service as a mode of survival: "When Chinese open restaurants abroad it's basically for survival" (restaurant owner in Brazil)
>Generational issues: many of the parents wouldn't want to pass on the business to younger generations. The work being tiring came up a lot and most parents wanted their children to pursue an education
>Government repression: In almost every country from Bombay, India to Cuba to Mauritius to Canada. How did the government exclude Chinese immigrants, force them out of the country, etc.
>Race and nationality: How do people identify and how does that change/shift based on generation? immigration? This was extremely profound for me and really made me question my own understanding of race in the U.S. versus abroad and the similarities (experiencing racism as an Asian American and many others) and the differences. How is racial identity constructed here in the U.S. versus in India? Trinidad and Tobago? Norway?
>Racial mixing in almost every country (this really stood out to me in Cuba and India).
>Feelings of connectedness to the "homeland" - immigrant versus later generation.

I apologize for not putting this into paragraph form! This documentary series especially raised a lot of questions for me that I hope we will explore on the blog and in class.

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