July 21, 2005
In "The Other as Resource," Heldke basis her argument on Said's Orientalism. I found the article very interesting because I know that I have never thought for a second about the food I eat at my favorite resturant, Dragon House (in Columbia Heights), let alone eating a taco at Taco Bell. Heldke was able to make clear that eating "ethnic" foods is dangerous and harmful to a culture when their history or the practices behind the food. It is so easy for "Westerners" to separate themselves from other cultures and see our culture as superior. This superiority easily allows us to eat ethnic food. The separation of us vs. them also allows us to ignore any and all attachments a particular culture has to the particular food. Just as non-colonizers, in Uma's article, picked out certain aspects of Indian culture to incorporate into British culture. Both of these readings brought to light so many things that happen all too often in my own life.
Posted by surm0003 at July 21, 2005 2:43 PM
I look forward to reading more about food and culture in this class because it is something that I have not studied or taken any in-depth consideration or analysis before. Uma Narayan is a brilliant, brilliant woman and just reading her article alone made my mind spin about 55 times. Her comparison with the consumption of Indian food and Indian culture is shockingly true. When she states, "Thinking about food can help to reveal the rich and messy textures of our attempts at self-understanding as well as our intersting and problematic understandings of our relationship to social Others" is an excellent way, another way, to respect what so many people, especially Americans, take for granted every single day- food. The fact that "curry" is not curry, but acturally named masala is proof in itself that differences are things that should be construed into one, according to those that wipe out a culture and call it their own. Masala meaning different spices and curry meaning only one "thing" made into one. Like colonization is trying to make it "theirs" while still using what wasn't theirs before. The conmparison intrigues me and is brilliant knowledge that people must respect when entering an ethnic restaurant. When Narayan states that even those of a certain ethnicity decide to eat at a restaurant that serves the food of their culture can be just as close-minded as the Westerners stepping into that ethnic restaurant is terrifying. It says a lot about the devourment of culture and the lack of knowledge with it even amongst those that are being interrogated before their very eyes. And this is just food we are speaking of. But Narayan is saying that there is no "just" when speaking about food because it shadows the direct harsh treatement towards those that are signified as the Other.
Narayan's article had so many interesting facts that really made me think. One thing she stated was that "'ethnic restaurants' are an important form of economic enterprise open to immigrants to the West..contributes to economic survival of immigrants." I guess I had never really thought this was something very common, but now that she's exposed that to me, I find it to be sadly true.
In her whole discussion about how Indian food and 'curry' in Western contexts is something totally different from the Indian food she grew up with was fascinating because it reminded me of something I had recently experienced. I traveled out of the country just a few weeks ago, and there were all these restaurants that had "American food". "Surprisingly" the only thing they served at these restaurants were hamburgers, french fries, and ice cream; and chicken sandwiches if you were lucky. Yes, this may be the cuisine that we eat SOMETIMES but its definitely not our main meals. So, I found this whole article really relating to my experience which made the article even more interesting.
Narayan's article seemed to correspond very well with Mills and Said, particularly Said's "Orientalism". Narayan discussed curry and how the Brittish in England (versus the Brittish colonizers living in India) adopted curry and made it what it is today. Curry and Indian decor was alluring because it seemed fanastic and romantic and supported the Western image of India that was almost entertainment. This section was very interesting because it was so similar to Said's argument but applied it to food and showed how curry became mainstream as a way of upholding the Western image of India, and of course, the curry that Westerners know today is a modification of the true "curry". A second part of the reading that I found interesting was how Indian immigrant families use food as a way of maintaining cultural indentities and how, then, the women's role becomes important in this maintenance. I also found it very odd that there is no political category for Indians living in England and that they define themselves as 'Black' on political surveys for the lack of a category that acknowledges their English citizenship as well as their Indian race.
After reading Uma’s ‘Eating Cultures’ I am
disheartened. Am I never supposed to eat ‘ethnic’
foods in America? Before I do should I read a few
books on the history of their foods? Or is it enough
to leave an unreasonably large tip? I am completely
sympathetic to her point that colonialism, and the
development of the other as a part of self has led to
an unfortunate inequality between prices and employees
of traditional American diners and ‘ethnic’
restaurants, but yet I am unsure of what she proposes
we do about it (perhaps she proposes nothing). I am a
huge proponent of knowing where your foods come from,
and how their growth affects other people, but in
examples of coffee plantations and beef I can easily
choose not to consume these products. In the case of
immigrant owned restaurants, I think that choosing not
to patronize these places would actually increase this
unfortunate dichotomy, not dissolve it. Of course you
are going to have a different understanding of a food
if you prepare it yourself, but I do not see how this
can aid in easing the disparity between traditional
American foods and the foods of ‘others’ unless the
preparation also involves a study of the culture and
history of the peoples of whose food you are enjoying.
I really disagree with Heldke’s assertion that to
experience another’s culture is taking something away
from the culture, especially her idea that the
‘European’ wants to be included in the culture without
actually being part of the culture. Perhaps this is
the intension of some people, but it is also important
to look beyond that to people wanting the share their
foods with others who are unfamiliar with it, and also
people who cannot eat their cultures ‘traditional’
foods due to allergies or moral reasons.
I found the Heldke article to be interesting, because it points out food that we can eat (as an outside culture) and do not have any respect for. I found the example of Taco Bell (in the first comment) to be very true. As Heldke points out: "an ethnice food has likely been purged of anything but its common denominators of sat, fat, and sugar; the partisans of authenticity will have lost interest in it." How many times do we see people stop at an ethnic restaurant, mispronounce the food when they order, then complain that it's too bland or too spicy (when that is how it is intended to be served)? I think there's a lot of important culture lost in the fact that we people love variety--- like eating a cusine meant to use chopsticks with a fork and spoon.
"As we work to cultivate anticolonialist ways of eating, adventurers should continually ask ourselves, why am I interested in becoming a food anticolonialist?" I'm not sure what Heldke means by this, but what I think she is trying to talk about is the disconnect between most food industry writers, food critics, food advnturers, food travelers etc. and the ways in which food are prepared and how they have come to be presented at our tables here in america and our role as conquerer, colonizer, dominater, western attitudes about these foods. That we are still approaching foods from other lands as 'us' and 'them', the exotic, the strange. Even though we appear to be providing a voice to the 'other' by letting 'them' present and prepare these foods for 'us'. We still are not allowing them to be their own agents in the food process. Heldke uses the cook book as an example, the 'us'(westerner, beneficiary of the racial contract, the privilidged) goes over to the 'other' asks 'them' to participate (within 'us' defined peremiters) in presenting foods (recipes) that the writer feels should represent the 'otherness' of that culture. But of course the writer is in complete control of everything. The 'other' isn't even given all the information to make an informed choice about their participation in the food presentation. The 'us' then walks away thinking they have participated in something that is 'anticolonialist' something that will change everyone, and empower the 'other', but in actuality, nothing has been changed. The structures of dominance and power haven't been shifted al all, our lens is in the exact same place as it was before the encounter. I believe what Heldke is saying not only be aware of this and to avoid these privilidged, interchanges but also lets begin dismantleing the structures of privilidge and perhaps a good place to start is at the symbolic dinner table.
After reading Heldke's article on Exotic Appetites I feel she makes good points about how people look at ethnic or authentic foods. She states that she identifies the Other as unfamiliar. "And once I have defined the Other,I have made them into the kind of being I can treat differently from the way I would treat any being like myself." People eat out all the time and never really think twice about it. And when eating out at a restaurant where the food is clearly different from what a person is used to, for instance Thai food, they can benefit from it and take with them a piece of Thai culture without even knowing anything about Thai culture. It is true what Heldke says about how eating different foods is a way to share cultures but it can also harm the culture sharing it (whether "it" would be food or culture)
I think it is true that people categorize food as authentic by their own judgement whether food is unfamiliar or exotic in their own definition. She also bluntly says "If I don't eat that food, don't cook in that style, don't order the courses in my meals thus-then it must be an authentic part of their cuisine."
She also makes a good point about how people view and value ethnic restaurants. "Because money indicates value in a consumerist society one equates fine cuisine with expensive cuisine." So if the food is inexpensive the value of it isn't worth much either. She brings up a good point though. People from other countries come to the U.S. to escape repressive and exploitive conditions in their own country and sometimes the only thing they can do is open up a restaurant. (p.52) It is true that people might do this in consideration of ones personal and cultural expense.
I wanted to comment on Volpp's article. Something that really struck me is her comment about the western definition of what makes one human is the notion of agency and how westerners are defined by the ability to make rational choices, "..to thrust some communities into worlds where their actions are determined only by culture is deeply dehuminizing." In much the same way to define gay people in terms of only their sexuality. To define black women and men in only terms of their race, and define poor people only in terms of their class. We all know, especially as feminists that these are big no no's, because all of these are imposed social structures, yet we can't make that leap to muslim women of the middle east who choose to wear the veil. We still continue to define them in terms of their 'culture', but a culture that is our social construct of what we think their 'culture' is, which is an imposed myth. So, as Heldke states in her article, if we really want to change the structures of priviledge then we have to go about dismantling those structures of priviledge and allow (for lack of a better word) the 'other' to set the agenda for the discourse and we be the attentive, invited guest(hopefully, while dining on some wonderful food).
My humble apologies for my atrocious spelling of words like, priviledge.
I find it crucial to pair pop culture references with this subject because it is really telling about what people think/expect/want to see. because mmediately after I began reading Heldke's article, I started thinking about the lavish spread prepared for Indiana Jones and his companions (I think it was the temple of doom)in which the meal begins with oversized leeches and snakes, a mid-course of huge beetles and then a dessert served out of the top of a monkey's head. I have seen this scenario in many films in which the white man has to eat disgusting "ethnic" foreign food for risk of insulting the host. One would think that the guests (and thus the filmaker) is trying to promote diversity. However in every one of these pop-culture depictions, the gross meal is a staple of one of the varied cultures on the bottom of the cultural hierarchy that Heldke mentioned on page 51: arabic, african, native american. At the same time, I remember seeing a recent film (galaxy quest) in which the food supposedely prefered by one of the main alien characters was also made of the same disgusting ingredients: beetles and leeches. So being ethnic is thus equated with being alien on a whole other level. What also is interesting is that the experience of eating a fancy meal has the power to uplift someone of the lower classes/races IF they can manage to master it (eating snails for exampe in "Pretty Woman".
Concerning the concept of respecting a cultures foos practices and the like, it appears that American culture has provided "foodies" a way to experience ethnic foods without so-called slumming. All around the country, "new-age" or "new-american" cuisine is sprouting up as the signature style of many new restaurants. here, chefs add an ethnic spin to popular american foods (wasabi seems to be in EVERYTHING these days), or american-ize ethnic foods (fusion restaurants such as chino-latino or pretty much any tapas bar features things like sushi made out of ice-cream ingredients or mexican sautees).
Food a new concept of exploring others
First it is clear Lisa Heldke not only heard about Said concept but also she took a further step of identifying what the dominant culture is doing wrong. The thing for me is that her article made me aware of that there is more to food. Food is not only “any substance that can be metabolized by an organism” to give energy and build tissue no there is more to it then that. What Lisa is talking about is using non-familiar food as adventure, like going to unfamiliar place. But Lisa emphasis on is that this journey is open to everyone apart from of race, ethnicity, or class. However the journey looks different for a “white person” from the western culture. The difference is that this person looks from a different angle and they don’t identify most of the time themselves with the culture, what they highlight is the “otherness”. The otherness is why most of food consumer of the “western culture” take the journey to explore the different food. Lisa Heldke is encouraging us to think critically about how we approach food as an adventure.
Reading Heldke's article was fascinating because some of the things that she mentions about different cultures foods just stunned me a lot. When she talks about the fear of eating culture foods because it might be harmed. I was shocked because I never really thought of that ideas as I eat thai, chinese, indian, and american foods. I was always taught that even if I don't like the food of the different cultures, I should show respect to those people and eat it down anyway. Heldke also bring up Said's idea of Orientalism, which I don't really understand why Heldke compare about cuisine with the Orient. I don't see where there should be a comparision because foods all serves one purpose to human being and that is to feed us. It shouldn't be used to compare what culture made the best, tastly foods. I feel that when Heldke compare the types of foods "other" have, she is pointing that foods also cause racism between different nations. I don't quite agree with her about the tipping money in restaurant because I think that people shouldn't be thinking about the history of the food and tipping it on it. When I go to restaurant, I tip according to how much services I get, not the foods quality. I also think that other people might think like that too because when one is hungry, I don't see how they would still have the time to sit and wonder about the history of that dish.
Reading Narayan's article kinda of made me frustrated( sorry to say this out loud) because I just don't like that ideas of the authors talking about British copying Indian recipe for curry. Even comparing the different reactions that the two nations have for each other's foods. It is only foods, why does two nations have to agrue about how is cheating and who is not. Shouldn't food be somethings that people of different nations share with each other for the joy that there is foods to keep them alive. However, I guess Narayan wasn't going at that directions with foods. She seem to talking about food colonialism and culinary imperialism which touch on the social meaning of western ideas of foods, differently from other immigrants views. In her article, she talks a lot about colonlism and domination of the two nations.
Again, i find these two articles intereting. I never knew how food can be such an issue in the ways that Narayan and Lisa explained in the two articles that we had to read. I have to admit that i agree with what Lora says that to experience someone's culture is to take away something from their culture. How would one be able to do that when their culture has always been their culture. I also disagree that food can be a dangerous thing to what it means to the other culture. I think that because food is needed to eat everyday and to enjoy as long as whose culture we eat it from and we respect their recipe, this should not be any problem.
Thai Kitchen world cusine shopping favorite taste chilli and the best product of Thailand
Hello! Good Site! Thanks you! axwllrtofq
I find this sort of thing very interesting. When my family moved to the UK the only work they could get was in restaurants. I do feel that peoples perceptions of cultures is heavily influenced by food and categorised as a result.
I think it is. Very good stuff, I agree totally.
I guess it is. Very good stuff, I agree totally.
The future of posting isn't what it was previously. It used to come to be podcast and vlogs still it's morphing into something more important that's very unpredictable. Just as we think we have a good handle on it, chaos erupts resulting to the emergence of one or two creative geniuses who help us utilize the possibilities.
Appreciate Uma Narayan for her brilliant piece of writing. It opens our minds to understand and appreciate different food cultures of the world.