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Eating Asian America

A Food Studies Reader

Robert Ji-Song Ku

Publication Year: 2013

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 Reader collects 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 Ku is Associate Professor of Asian and Asian American Studies at Binghamton University. He is the author of Dubious Gastronomy: The Cultural Politics of Eating Asian in the USA.
Martin F. Manalansan IV is Associate Professor of Anthropology and Asian American Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He is the author of Global Divas: Filipino Gay Men in the Diaspora.
Anita Mannur is Associate Professor of English and Asian /Asian American Studies at Miami University. She is the author of Culinary Fictions: Food in South Asian Diasporic Culture.

Published by: NYU Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-vi

List of Figures and Maps

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

The familiar food-related adage cautions, “Too many cooks spoil the broth,” which may be true, but not for this book. A great number of “cooks” have had their hands in the completion of this collection. First and foremost, we thank the seventeen contributors for their enthusiasm, diligence, creativity, erudition, and friendship. ...

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An Alimentary Introduction

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pp. 1-10

Understanding and apprehending Asian American food experiences begin and end with the body. The category Asian American is 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, ...

Part I: Labors of Taste

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1. Cambodian Donut Shops and the Negotiation of Identity in Los Angeles

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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 ...

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2. Tasting America: The Politics and Pleasures of School Lunch in Hawai‘i

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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 the Honolulu 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. ...

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3. A Life Cooking for Others: The Work and Migration Experiences of a Chinese Restaurant Worker in New York City, 1920–1946

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pp. 53-77

The kitchen in which I had to work was a very long one. There were six huge ranges in it each having two very deep and large fire boxes. . . . Since the ranges had to be gotten ready and kept at the highest degree possible of heat for the cooking of dinners for more than a thousand guests, I had to remain in front of the six sizzling hot ranges ...

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4. Learning from Los Kogi Angeles: A Taco Truck and Its City

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pp. 78-97

Local Los Angeles lore credits Raul Martinez with creating the first —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. ...

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5. The Significance of Hawai‘i Regional Cuisine in Postcolonial Hawai‘i

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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) ...

Part II: Empires of Food

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6. Incarceration, Cafeteria Style: The Politics of the Mess Hall in the Japanese American Incarceration

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pp. 125-146

George Takei, best known for playing Mr. Sulu on Star Trek, is one of the most famous of the World War II Japanese American incarcerees. His autobiography To the Stars, little known except among Trekkers, begins in the camps when he was four and might well be his first memory. ...

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7. As American as Jackrabbit Adobo: Cooking, Eating, and Becoming Filipina/o American before World War II

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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. My lolo (grandfather) Ambo ran a popular Filipino American diner, the Lafayette Lunch Counter, in the heart of Stockton’s Little Manila. ...

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8. Lechon with Heinz, Lea & Perrins with Adobo: The American Relationship with Filipino Food, 1898–1946

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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. ...

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9. “Oriental Cookery”: Devouring Asian and Pacific Cuisine during the Cold War

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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.” ...

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10. Gannenshoyu or First-Year Soy Sauce? Kikkoman Soy Sauce and the Corporate Forgetting of the Early Japanese American Consumer

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pp. 208-228

On September 19, 2007, the Kikkoman Corporation placed a full-page color advertisement in the New York Times commemorating 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. ...

Part III: Fusion, Diffusion, Confusion?

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11. Twenty-First-Century Food Trucks: Mobility, Social Media, and Urban Hipness

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pp. 231-244

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 ...

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12. Samsa on Sheepshead Bay: Tracing Uzbek Foodprints in Southern Brooklyn

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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. ...

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13. Apple Pie and Makizushi: Japanese American Women Sustaining Family and Community

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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, ...

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14. Giving Credit Where It Is Due: Asian American Farmers and Retailers as Food System Pioneers

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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, ...

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15. Beyond Authenticity: Rerouting the Filipino Culinary Diaspora

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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. ...

Part IV: Readable Feasts

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16. Acting Asian American, Eating Asian American: The Politics of Race and Food in Don Lee’s Wrack and Ruin

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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 novel Wrack and Ruin (2008). ...

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17. Devouring Hawai‘i: Food, Consumption, and Contemporary Art

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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 multi-sited metaphors and iconographies for global circulation, intersections, and cross connections among peoples and cultures. ...

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

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pp. 354-370

Monique Truong’s The 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. ...

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19. The Globe at the Table: How Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian Reconfigures the World

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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. ...

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20. Perfection on a Plate: Readings in the South Asian Transnational Queer Kitchen

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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’s Migrant’s Table, a sociological inquiry that maps the foodways of Bengali American households in the United States.1 ...


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pp. 409-424


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pp. 425-430


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pp. 431-444

E-ISBN-13: 9781479818952
Print-ISBN-13: 9781479810239
Print-ISBN-10: 1479810231

Page Count: 480
Publication Year: 2013