Fusion vs. Lack of Authenticity

June 3, 2007

I want to make an aside by commenting on what I observed when I was in New York last week. I entered several places and saw a remarkable mix of cultures and ethnicities, but some really stood out at me. In a Chinese restaurant, I saw Latinos preparing the food in the back and also serving. Also, I saw many people working in the kitchen of an Italian restaurant that were clearly not Italian and the food had a distinct fusion characteristic associated with it. I think we often like to say that anything that is not conforming to a strict set of guidelines may lack authenticity but is this really the case? We have seen instances (like in intersex) where we have to “think outside the box” and look at things on a case-by-case basis to come to an understanding of it so does this same logic not apply to foods?

Elsewhere in Manhattan, I saw extremely eclectic work forces in many different sectors and my point is that in a city that is so culturally diverse, it is inevitable that there will be fusions of one manner or another and that this is not necessarily a bad thing or a loss of authenticity (although Hitler would disagree). In other words, we do not need to maintain these purities in what we consider authentic, but we must acknowledge that every culture or ethnicity has its own distinct and rich history. However, in this century there is increased globalization and integration among all of these cultures that is leading to new and exciting cultures born from mixes across many individuals.

The foods can be thought of as a case in point so to speak. We have fusions of Japanese food in types of sushi (like the California roll or New York roll) but we also have this type of integration culturally as well. For example, Latinos or Latin Americans are a mix of Spanish or European descent with the Native inhabitants of the land that has lead to a fusion and creation of a new culture. This is not a loss of authenticity in the Latino individual, he is no longer neither Spanish nor Native American, but something else all together. Such is the beauty of diversity. Food, I think, is the same way and this is something we have to appreciate no matter what it is applied to.

On that note, I will say that the whole of New York is obsessed with pizza and that I’ve noted many an Italian enjoying a good slice without any complaints of it’s lack of authenticity as it pertains to Italian food. Rather, they seem quite fond of this fusion of Italian-American.


Globalization: Fashion, Video Games, Food and Media

May 25, 2007

Power point presentation on globalizaiton. Santte Blatiey, Alan Nieves, Soton Rosanwo and Tina Shen.

Toys/Clothing Merchandise
Globalization of Japanese Pop Culture
Japanese products that are globally available and massively consumed:
Fashion Trends
Kanji Shirts
Japanese Tattoos
Harajuku Girls
Shibuya Girls
Superflat Accessories
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On “classy” Japanese food and the need to preserve authenticity

May 23, 2007

These are my 2 cents’ on some of the issues brought up.

On why Japanese food is classy viz Korean:
In principle, when it comes to exporting East Asian food, I think much of the philosophy or culture behind the food is lost in translation. Who bothers to wonder why Koreans use metal bowls and not porcelain, or why much of their Kimchi is heavy on the preservatives? (You can take a look at this link by PBS with a brief discussion on this here. All we know is good barbecued meat. This ties in with the issue of authenticity which I will discuss shortly, but first, why Japanese food is “classier.” Given the absence of more historical appreciation of these different cuisines, I think people take to taste, health and presentation amongst other things. While taste is subjective, Japanese food has long been known to be very healthy. Read the rest of this entry »

Authenticity? Why can’t we just call it “food?”

May 23, 2007

The whole issue of authenticity with regard to Japanese food baffles me.

In particular, I think it’s very important to note the difference between something that is authentic and something that is quality. Sushi produced from fresh fish and rice with a smear of cream cheese might be high quality and displayed very smartly, but that doesn’t make it authentic Japanese-style sushi (the cream cheese does it in). It seems that a lot of restaurant owners would support the idea of authentication certificates…but only as a way to up their prices because they’re selling “the real thing.” People think that because sushi is presented authentically, it must be great. Granted, traditional Japanese sushi chefs pride themselves on using the freshest and best quality ingredients (so there, quality = authentic)…but here in America, there is far less emphasis on the stylistic and cultural elements of sushi preparation and display. As Lauren mentioned, subtle details as the temperature of sashimi can make or break a meal — and these details are so often overlooked here (hence the reason we get freezing cold sashimi presented haphazardly on a plain plate). Shi-shi restaurants mark up their sushi prices because they serve it on a pretty plate with lots of garnish and colorful add-ins…it’s probably better to look at than consume. Kappabashi models, anyone? But as Miho said, when people go to Chinatown, they seem to understand that what they order isn’t exactly what they would eat if they went to China, taking available ingredients and regional variations into account. So why don’t critics do this when they rate Japanese food?
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