Tag Archives: food

Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations – Philippines

by Guest Contributor Geo, originally published at Prometheus Brown

The un-anointed are always surprised at how good Filipino food is, offering well-meaning but condescending compliments I’ve long learned to accept with a smile and a lighthearted “I told you so.” Probably has a lot to do with that old stereotype that we Filipinos love dogs. For dinner. I once had a friend (a white guy, if you wondering) over for dinner in 6th grade. As my pops handed him a plate, he paused and stared at the rice and chicken adobo and asked “what is this, dog?” before he excused himself from the table. We stopped being friends shortly after.

Somehow, suddenly, we’ve become the flavor of the month. Filipino chefs have been making noise on the last couple Top Chef seasons (Dale was fucking robbed!). Still can’t forget George W.’s backhanded compliment about his personal Filipino chefs during dictator Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s last US visit. And now, with the Travel Channel’s Anthony Bourdain finally taking his No Reservations food/travelogue show to the Philippines, our sweet, salty and sour secret is out.

Though I only catch it when it happens to be on, I’m a fan of Bourdain’s show. Yes — there’s a tourist, exoticizing element to it, but you can’t front on Bourdain’s presence and palate. And when he says that our lechon is the “best-cooked pig in the world,” it almost makes me want to eat pork again.

Of course, an hour isn’t enough but the representation is respectable: Tapsilog in the opening breakfast scene, followed by street vendor foods (Chicken balls, Tofu w/ Tapioca Syrup), Pancit Palabok (”Not the greatest thing ever, but good” – and I agree), before moving onto provincial dishes such as Sinigang. Kalamansi rightfully gets its own quick feature. And when sisig makes a cameo (and is pronounced correctly) it becomes official that this episode is a pretty big deal. A redemption of that borderline-racist episode of Bizarre Foods that featured Filipinos eating bugs like it’s our national dish. Continue reading

Quoted: Richard Owen from the Times (UK) on Gastronomic Racism

The tomato comes from Peru and spaghetti was probably a gift from China.

It is, though, the “foreign” kebab that is being kicked out of Italian cities as it becomes the target of a campaign against ethnic food, backed by the centre-right Government of Silvio Berlusconi.

The drive to make Italians eat Italian, which was described by the Left and leading chefs as gastronomic racism, began in the town of Lucca this week, where the council banned any new ethnic food outlets from opening within the ancient city walls.

Yesterday it spread to Lombardy and its regional capital, Milan, which is also run by the centre Right. The antiimmigrant Northern League party brought in the restrictions “to protect local specialities from the growing popularity of ethnic cuisines”.

Luca Zaia, the Minister of Agriculture and a member of the Northern League from the Veneto region, applauded the authorities in Lucca and Milan for cracking down on nonItalian food. “We stand for tradition and the safeguarding of our culture,” he said.

Mr Zaia said that those ethnic restaurants allowed to operate “whether they serve kebabs, sushi or Chinese food” should “stop importing container loads of meat and fish from who knows where” and use only Italian ingredients.

Asked if he had ever eaten a kebab, Mr Zaia said: “No – and I defy anyone to prove the contrary. I prefer the dishes of my native Veneto. I even refuse to eat pineapple.”

—Richard Owen in his article “Italy Bans Kebabs and Foreign Foods from Cities” writing for The Times Online

White American Culture is General Tso’s Chicken and Chop Suey

by Guest Contributor Restructure, originally published at Restructure!

Finally, somebody summarized the myths that non-Chinese Americans have about Chinese food. Most of what White Americans consider “Chinese food” is mostly eaten by white people, and would be more accurately described as “American food” (and perhaps even “white people food”).

Jennifer 8. Lee has a great video on TED Talks titled, Who was General Tso? and other mysteries of American Chinese food.

Here are some important points from the video:

  • Fortune cookies are almost ubiquitous in “Chinese” American restaurants, but they are of Japanese origin. Most people in China have never seen fortune cookies. Fortune cookies were “invented by the Japanese, popularized by the Chinese, and ultimately consumed by Americans.” Fortune cookies are more American than anything else.
    • General Tso’s chicken is unrecognizable to people in China. It is the quintessential American dish, because it is sweet, it is fried, and it is chicken.
    • Beef with broccoli is of American origin. Broccoli is not a Chinese vegetable; it is of Italian origin.
    • Chop suey was introduced at the turn of the 20th century (1900). It took thirty years for non-Chinese Americans to figure out that chop suey is not known in China. “Back then”, non-Chinese Americans showed that they were sophisticated and cosmopolitan by eating chop suey.
    • Continue reading

    Is the Food Network the whitest of the cable stations?

    by guest contributor Jae Ran Kim, originally published at Harlow’s Monkey

    I read a while ago on someone’s blog that Food Network was one of the whitest cable stations and after a week of watching I have to agree it’s pretty bad. Most of the major celebrity chefs are white. Other than the new host of a show that features Latin food, it’s all white hosts. What happened to Martin Yan from Yan Can Cook and his heavily accented, chop-schtick antics? Even Al Roker went missing. It seemed like it was show after show of white men and women cooking their fusion-style, All-American dishes.

    All week, Food Network showed clips of it’s upcoming show, Down Home with the Neely’s. Now, I’d heard the Neely name mentioned in at least three different shows, because they are a big name in BBQ. So yesterday morning the premiere episode came on, and I’m watching it. Part of me was skeptical right away, because this show seemed to be straight out of a program developer’s notebook on “Southern Black Family 101.” They showcased BBQ ribs, slaw, strawberry salad. Everything looked great, the food, the personalities of the Neelys seemed genuine, all good. Why am I crabbing?

    I just hope that this isn’t going to be the sum total of what Food Network thinks is “Black” food. Just like “Asian” food is much more than Tyler Florence showing up at a family’s house to show them how to cook Korean food as he did in one episode of Food 911. So glad for Lisa that Tyler was there to show her how to make authentic Korean-style BBQ! Whew, poor Lisa would have been so screwed if Tyler wasn’t there to show her how to be more authentic Korean!!

    And what made me wince in pain more than my stitches was when Pat Neely, in a little bit just before commercial break, announces that February is Black History Month.

    Woah, Food Network, you sure fooled me. Really – February is Black History Month? What an ingenious time to introduce your one and only show featuring an African American family who actually COOKS! I’m just saying, it’s time to give that program assistant a huge gigantic raise!

    (I have to say, HGTV, for some of your schmaltzy shows, you do a far better job of featuring hosts of all diversities, both as designers and in real-life families. And without the stereotypic “ethnic” design segregation. What a relief that your African American designers are not limited to only featuring African masks and animal prints in their designs, or that Vern Yip isn’t forced to place bamboo in every re-design. That they actually get to design what they want is refreshing).

    Yes, it seems Food Network is very behind the times here. All the white cooks can do all kinds of different ethnic foods. Ingrid Hoffman only gets to cook Latin-inspired dishes since she’s Latina. And since Giada and Mario identify with their Italian heritages so they must cook everything Italian. Guess the philosophy of Food Network is if you want the freedom to cook whatever you want and cross those ethnic boundaries, don’t let it be known what your racial or ethnic heritage is – or you’ll be forever segregated into a cooking ghetto.

    On the plus side, I have a whole load of new recipes I can’t wait to try!

    Page Skimming – Articles of Interest from the End of 2007/Early 2008

    by Racialicious Special Correspondent Latoya Peterson

    Colorlines Magazine
    November/December 2007 Issue


    This entire issue of Colorlines is worth a full, thorough read, but here are a few of the articles that caught my eye:

    Wasting Away in Margaritaville (p. 10)

    Exploring the construction of mega-casino, Margaritaville (a $700 million dollar joint venture between Harrah Casino and Jimmy Buffet), the article points out how the people living and working in East Biloxi have been shut out of the city planning dialogue.

    Q & A: Etan Thomas (p. 16)

    A refreshing peek into the mind of an athlete who embraces speaking out about social and political political issues.

    Inner Peace (p. 48)

    Article Tagline: “As more Americans take to the mat, Black teachers use yoga to uplift their community.”

    Bomb Magazine
    Winter 2008 Issue


    This entire issue focuses on discussing the contemporary art scene in Brazil. Not to be missed: Adelia Prado’s poems “Opus Dei” and “The Dictator in Prison”; the excerpt from the new novel Jonas, by Patricia Melo; the interview with Bernardo Carvalho, in which he says “There is nothing further from posing than art. On the contrary, literature is the affirmation of truth.”

    Glamour Magazine
    January 2008 Issue


    3 Condi Surprises (p. 29)

    Condoleeza Rice wants to run for Governor of California, and may possibly run for Vice President in the future. I have no words.


    Continue reading

    Once and for all, fortune cookies are not Chinese

    by Carmen Van Kerckhove

    The first time I ever heard of a fortune cookie was when I read Fifteen by Beverly Cleary. I was 8, and at the time was attending an American school in Shanghai. There’s a part of the book where the protagonist goes on a date in Chinatown, and I was fascinated. Chinatown sounded awesome: like a Disney version of the very un-glamorous reality of living in mainland China in the mid-80s. And what on earth where these “fortune cookies” they spoke of?

    (Later in life I would become equally fascinated by another supposedly Chinese thing: those cardboard Chinese food takeout boxes I would see on American sitcoms playing on Hong Kong TV. Hong Kong was thoroughly wed to styrofoam, so cardboard seemed oddly barabaric to me.)

    So if fortune cookies aren’t Chinese, where did they come from? According to the New York Times, one researcher believes they’re actually from – wait for it – Japan!

    Her prime pieces of evidence are the centuries-old small family bakeries making obscure fortune cookie-shaped crackers by hand near a temple outside Kyoto. She has also turned up many references to the cookies in Japanese literature and history, including an 1878 etching of a man making them in a bakery – decades before the first reports of American fortune cookies.

    The idea that fortune cookies come from Japan is counterintuitive, to say the least. “I am surprised,” said Derrick Wong, the vice president of the largest fortune cookie manufacturer in the world, Wonton Food, based in Brooklyn. “People see it and think of it as a Chinese food dessert, not a Japanese food dessert,” he said. But, he conceded, “The weakest part of the Chinese menu is dessert.”

    Amen to that. Red bean soup? Bleah!

    Early on, Chinese-owned restaurants discovered the cookies, too. Ms. Nakamachi speculates that Chinese-owned manufacturers began to take over fortune cookie production during World War II, when Japanese bakeries all over the West Coast closed as Japanese-Americans were rounded up and sent to internment camps.

    Mr. Wong pointed out: “The Japanese may have invented the fortune cookie. But the Chinese people really explored the potential of the fortune cookie. It’s Chinese-American culture. It only happens here, not in China.”

    Curry metaphors are a must when writing about desis

    by guest contributor Manish, originally published at Ultrabrown

    The New York Times licks its typing finger and reels off Yet Another Curry Review, because after all these years, it’s so original. Even lamer, the movie is about a 2nd genner. You can take India out of Shelley Conn, but Shelley can’t take herself out of India — the Times won’t let her:

    A cloying blend of Bollywood sentiment and Amélie whimsy, Nina’s Heavenly Delights is a lesbian-foodie fairy tale… the director, Pratibha Parmar, is more interested in pappadams than passion… Fetch the turmeric! … groans beneath ethnic stereotypes and half-baked performances. Blander than a cumin-free curry… cringeworthy dance routines (courtesy of a flamboyant troupe known as the Chutney Queens)… [Link]

    One can only imagine how the Times reviewed Alfonso Cuarón:

    A cloying blend of mariachi music and lucha libre whimsy, Y Tu Mamá También is more interested in tacos than pasión. Fetch the cayenne pepper! Acting worse than a two-dollar chimichanga and blander than a chili-free burrito.

    Oh, it didn’t? Not even a whiff of exoticism?

    … one of those Bildungsroman films… The director, Alfonso Cuarón, works with a quicksilver fluidity, and the movie is fast, funny, unafraid of sexuality and finally devastating. The film, which takes place in Mexico, follows two hormonally consumed teenage boys, Julio (Gael García Bernal) and Tenoch (Diego Luna), whose infantile macho games seem more like baby steps when they meet Luisa (Maribel Verdú), a sad-eyed young woman who is married to Tenoch’s older cousin. [Link]

    Snark is great, but what’s with the baby talk? On the plus side, the Times has finally run a review as badly-written as its movie. Much respect. There’s a kind of beauty in that.

    Update: Reviewer Jeannette Catsoulis writes back that the piece’s clichés were partly intentional:

    … When reviewing a film in 200 words or less, I usually try to give readers a flavor (no pun intended!) of what to expect, and, to be honest, this film was one long cliché. I responded with clichés of my own, mostly out of irritation and disappointment. As for the curry/spice issue, I grew up in Britain (in Glasgow, which had made me more excited about the film), and was probably corrupted at a very early age. No excuse, however, for falling into the pit of knee-jerk regional metaphors — however well they seem to suit the tone of a particular film…

    But most of the time the Great Curry Metaphor strikes papers unironically and with maximum kitsch.