Archive | blog 2 RSS feed for this section

Fukuoka and the Foodie Dilemma

16 Sep

Fukuoka, a scientist by education, came to the realization that the application of science to nature, and more specifically agriculture was not correct. Through his enlightenment he developed the idea of “do-nothing” farming. He reasoned that if plants and vegetables had grown naturally without any intervention for centuries, what was the need now to add fertilizer and till the soil to help the plants to grow? Fukuoka would not approve of the modern day foodie.

Today a foodie is someone who has a keen taste for food and loves to critique and try different combinations and flavors of food. Fukuoka would deem this behavior as unnatural and would not endorse it. Foodies were important in the Meiji era because they were the ones who really pushed for the meat, and specifically beef eating craze in Japan. Up until this time Japan had essentially been practicing isolationism and rejected Western ideas. The fashion of eating meet was purely a Western concept and thus Fukuoka would deem incorporating meat into the Japanese diet as being unnatural. It can also be argued that the foodies of the Meiji period are a large reason why Japan opened its doors to the Western world.

Although Fukuoka was correct in his analysis that nature is able to take care of its plants on its own, human intervention, and more importantly human invention in the kitchen pushed the limits of Japan in the Meiji era and opened their country up to the world. Today, the foodie culture is pushing our cuisine to new limits and is an integral part of our evolution as a human race.

Burgers, Anyone?

16 Sep

It can safely be said that the vast majority of people has had a burger at least once in their lives, and that a lot of people like it. Quite frankly, I was a burger fan until around last year when I stumbled upon an article that shocked me. This article discussed the less known facts about beef patties in many gourmet burgers, some even from top tier restaurants. It was no surprise to me that research found these beef patties to contain an exorbitant amount of hormones, but the real alarming fact was some patties contained up to 128 distinct sets of DNA, or more simply, is a mix of who knows what from 128 different cows. I’m not talking about 1 dollar burgers from McDonalds, but rather a few (anonymous) high class restaurants that “foodies” would fancy.

So what would Fukuoka say about this “foodie” meal?

First of all, he would not be too happy about the idea of the burger itself. Ground beef isn’t natural, and neither are the (most of the time) commercially grown buns that go over it. In terms of the beef, it’s parallel with his description of chicken eggs. “And commercial chicken eggs are nothing more than a mixture of synthetic feed, chemicals, and hormones” (Fukuoka, 94). Many cows are constantly injected with hormones to help them grow faster, which is obviously not how nature intended for them to be grown, let alone the fact that 128 different cows are put together to create one patty. As far as the buns are concerned, pesticides are used in the production of wheat buns. Again, something that Fukuoka points out as going against the forces of nature.

As Fukuoka says, “At the heart of natural farming is an understanding of the unity of existence; the ability to see the natural patterns in everything.” But nowadays, the only patterns we see, even in “foodie” foods, are cheap production and a high selling price.

Nowadays, unless it has the word “organic” written all over it, I always think twice before ordering a burger.

A New Generation of Pretentious Diners: Foodies

16 Sep

Fukuoka discusses the modern style of dining and preparing food and the way in which it has deviated from a “natural” style of dining. He believes that a natural person can achieve the right diet because they are satisfied with simple food that is nutritious, tasty and useful in daily medicine. He takes issue with a new generation of pretentious diners, which he refers to as “foodies.” Foodies tend to be more concerned with the way in which food is prepared rather than the taste of ingredients in their natural state. He claims, “Modern people have come to think that if they do not prepare food with elaborate seasonings, the meal will be tasteless. If you do not try to make food delicious, you will find that nature has made it so” (Fukuoaka 137). Fukuoka explains that in our effort to make rich luxurious foods, useless foods are made, and it becomes harder to satisfy people’s appetites.

This modern style of dining rose during the time of the Meji period, a time when Japan became its modernization and rose to world power status. After this period not as much of Japanese society relied on farming for economic purposes and as industry boomed more people were spending money on food rather than farming it themselves for consumption. With the increase in popularity of “dining out,” people became more accustomed to luxurious dining and prepared food that was highly saturated with flavor, often times covering up the taste of the ingredients entirely, eliminating the taste that nature gave the food. Though “foodies” love and appreciate the taste of food, just as Fukuoka does, they do not value it’s true taste and that is the issue that Fukuoka discerns in “The One Straw- Revolution.”

Slow Food, Fukuoka’s Foodie

16 Sep

In a Korean drama called Pasta, a definition of a best cook is to be able to make delicious food even though ingredients might be in low-quality. The cooks in this drama prepare dishes for lunch and dinner by roasting, melting and steaming with a bunch of artificial flavors (soy lecithin) and preservatives. If Fukuoka Masanobu could see this terrible situation, he would be disappointed at them because he emphasized that human should prepare food with nature intent without intervention. He prefers a simple life by connecting with natural food with souls in the Meiji era.

As the age of industrial society came and population increased rapidly, human beings cultivated vegetables with numerous agricultural chemicals to accomplish mass production, while ignoring traditional dining culture. The modern population has no choice but to follow mass production to meet huge demand of food and it’s impossible for now to stick to the old method of cultivations. Asian countries especially followed western culture and made an effort to catch the concept of Modernology.

We think critically of Fukuoka’s message called “do-nothing farming” in considering his background since he lived in the Meiji era, not the 21st century. Although natural style is good for human beings and the environment, industrialization leads people to follow fast food rather than enhance qualities of the ingredients. That’s why it is difficult to say whether Fukuoka’s foodie style is completely right or whether unhealthy food style is wrong.

Nowadays, people are against unnatural foodie because they are sick and tired of unhealthy food. People search for organic goods and open organic restaurants as well as groceries. Asian cultures view this as a Slow Food trend, as they seek for natural food and ingredients. Living in the world today, people get used to contemporary foodie. However, it would be better if people realize the pure taste of natural ingredients and avoid artificial flavors.

Is Snow White the Only One Eating Poisoned Apples?

16 Sep

So what exactly is a foodie? A foodie is defined as an individual who keeps up with the latest trends in food. Sometimes these foodies get a bit carried away and try to impose their passion on other people, like the man in “The Beefeater” who claims that those who do not eat beef are barbaric. Although these individuals insist that they know the best things to eat, Masanobu Fukuoka begs to differ.

Many people will pay anything to eat fresh produce out of season. According to Fukuoka, this obsession drives food producers to make things like fruits and vegetables, which are supposed to be gifts from Mother Nature, as artificial as possible. They do this because they know how much profit they can earn by selling as little as one crate of apples. If merchants were to sell the actual amount of successfully grown fruit, their revenue would be so little that they would barely be able to keep themselves from starving to death. Keeping this in mind, Fukuoka explains to readers how bruised apples “magically” turn picture perfect after the process of artificial coloration. If the majority of the apples in the crate look delectable, it is highly possible that a very large number will be sold, thus resulting in a greater profit for the merchant. Not only is this unfair to the consumer who expects to receive quality fruit for the amount that he is paying, but it is also extremely unjust to the farmer who works for hours in the hot sun for wages close to nothing.

Fuokoka would call the modern day foodie an idiot, to be quite frank. They may know where the best apple pies are served, but are they aware of what has to be done in order to make these apples look fresh? If they knew the amount of chemicals they were ingesting, they would probably never touch an apple pie again.

Asian Fusion

16 Sep

Fusion cuisine is an increasingly popular type of cookery and often sparks an interest for “foodies” especially in LA. The innovation to mix and match cuisines and give a twist to traditional meals mostly appeals to these so called “foodies” or food experts. As an Asian, born and breed in Asia, Asian fusion does not appeal to me or Fukuoka as the mix of taste loses the traditional and nature taste of how dishes are supposed to be like.

For example the Asian fusion dish, cream cheese wonton. The idea is to wrap wonton skins with cream cheese filling then deep frying it. Although you can put a variety of stuffing into wontons, putting in cream cheese which is a western ingredient messes up the simple taste of wontons. Instead of a light dish usually filled with vegetables, you get a heavy pungent and sticky dish. The nature of wontons is lost when the filling is substituted by a very western ingredient. Instead of being healthy, this cream cheese wonton is very oily and fattening.

Fukuoka would not be like this dish unlike “foodies” since this dish is too contemporary and untraditional. Fukuoka would have probably liked the traditional approach to wontons as it is simple and made with lots of vegetables and little meat. A “foodie” will have the complete opposite approach and will most likely want to explore the different fillings that wontons can have.  Fukuoka has a completely different attitude of food which includes being one with nature than a “foodie” who puts emphasis on innovation which leads to perhaps a rather pricey dinner bill.


Service, Ambiance, and Decor

16 Sep

There is a high-end restaurant called Evia that specializes in classical Greek cuisine. A couple of years ago, my family made reservations for a late evening dinner. Although I do not recall the exact circumstance of our reservation, I vividly remember Evia’s delicate candlelit ambiance to be quite beautiful, though I suppose humbler than the feast of the Japanese dignitaries Cwiertka mentions in Western Food, Politics, and Fashion. Nevertheless, this restaurant unsurprisingly had courses ranging from $50 to $100 a plate, so it was by no means a mere food joint. As there were plenty of striking parallels between the two food experiences I recall an epiphany I had that evening after finishing my meal.

First of all, food arguably in itself––its taste––maximizes its physical sensory pleasure without having to be upper-class culinary masterpieces. Cwiertka mentions this with the overarching Japanese ideology of washoku as “tasty,” beautiful, yet less classy sustenance compared to the more nutritious and expensive yoshoku. Today, perhaps the tastiest foods out there are from noodle stands along streets in Bangkok or at a hole-in-the-wall taqueria in east LA with burritos to die for. However, what does differ between these types of eateries in terms of “class,” “quality,” and cultural “taste” is use of––as mentioned––service, ambience, and decor. The Seiyoken’s managers understood this, as did our sharply dressed waiter at Evia whose simple actions––describing the evening’s specials in salivating detail, making suggestions with warmth and professionalism, and taking orders through memory without the use of a notepad––elevated my dining experience to that of “taste.”

Ironically, I ordered the roasted wild boar with vegetable-filled parchment as my main course that evening. The waiter complimented my choice, saying, “It is a most exquisite meat. Once you try wild boar, you can never go back to pork or beef again.” (This is true, he actually did say that.)

SocioCuisine on Roller Skates

16 Sep

When you think of harbingers of social paradigms, I doubt that Sonic Restaurants come to mind. For the uninitiated, Sonic is a chain of fast-food joints strongest represented in the midwest. You might have seen its somewhat annoying ad campaigns pushing its rocking drink selection; I’ve heard of people states away from their nearest Sonics catching the spots on TV. If you haven’t, Sonic bills itself as a jack-of-all-trades restaurant dealing in a host of Americana dishes – hamburgers, hot dogs, tater tots, wild mixed limeades, and the like – with roller-skating hosts that bring your order to your car. It’s a unique idea. It’s also a pretty bad restaurant.

My humble, Western Pennsylvania region saw the TV spots before anyone had an idea of what a Sonic was. How novel it seemed. In time, one sprung up seemingly overnight in a nearby city. My friends and I HAD to have it. We’d seen the commercials, and we wanted our limeades – and we wanted them on ROLLER SKATES.

In the sense of a mystery belying a reality, and creating a socio-culinary force, Sonic came to my home in much the same way as Beef came to Japan. We had known about it for some time- it seemed more an abstraction; not the taboo that Beef was for pre-Meiji Japan, but alike in the way it fascinated us and had its own, special aura. Kanagaki Robun, in his “Beef Eater” snippet, describes a somehow lousy man riding the Beef Bandwagon and polluting the atmosphere of a diner with his extroverted pro-westernism in early Beer era Japan. Sonic’s TV presence polluted our social atmosphere for a time- until we tried it. Unlike Beef’s ultimate catch in Japan, we quickly saw behind the veil of Sonic, and were severely underwhelmed.Tease.

Onward, Toward Complexity!

15 Sep

Fukuoka would rather kill himself than live in our contemporary society. Fukuoka’s life revolved around the belief that humanity is one with the universe, and one with nature. He believed that we weren’t an exception to life on Earth, like many individuals would have you believe. He desired that we eat, much like every other living being on this planet, a very natural, modest diet, which comes from the Earth itself. More specifically, he said eating a meal is to connect “food with souls.”

His beliefs were drastically different from what a modern day “foodie” follows. Contemporary foodies pamper themselves with extraordinary complexity. Thousands of different flavors and textures flow with every bite. If one were to dine out in Los Angeles today, one would have a near impossible time finding a meal suitable for Fukuoka. Society has evolved into believing that complication is superior, and the culinary arts are no exception. Fukuoka’s affinity for simple, basic, bare-minimum food is an idea of the past.

He preached the advantages of eating food purely out of necessity, rather than out of enjoyment. He only ate foods that were available to him based on his location, and he ate solely what grew on his land. The disgust that Fukuoka holds for “foodies” would make his life in a contemporary urban society nearly unlivable. Perhaps he could survive if he only ate what he grew on his land, but if he tried to live where we live, he wouldn’t be able to make it.

Natural Food

15 Sep

A “foodie,” a term coined by Paul Levy, is used to refer to food lovers, people who are obsessed with food and everything about it, ranging from its taste to its preparation to its science. Foodies will engage in such activities as watching food-orientated shows on television, reading food magazines, and of course eating food. Unlike most gourmets, they are amateurs, not professionals with refined taste buds. Foodies just have very deep passions for food and seek to constantly expand their ever-growing knowledge of it.

Fukuoka Masanobu believed in natural farming, or “do-nothing” farming. He did not believe in using technology for farming. Rather, he reasoned that since farming was doing fine before we started “improving” it with technology, there is no need for this technology. Farming through nature, according to him, is the best method.

According to Fukuoka, “Food is life, and life must not step away from nature.” By adding all these extra and artificial items to food, foodies are stepping away from nature and thus stepping away from life. Fukuoka believed in keeping food in its natural state. All the unnecessary add-ons to gourmet dining take the food further and further away from its natural state. For example, while Fukuoka would eat seaweed in its natural state, today’s society tampers with it in all kind of ways, adding extra ingredients and preservatives to it.

Instead of “improving” food with new technology and making it look prettier, Fukuoka believed that we should stay simple and focus on what is really important: the food in its natural state. However, Fukuoka’s stance on this issue does not appear to be shared by the majority. Elaborate dining and tampered-with food is an important part of today’s society, enjoyed by many people. This aspect of society will live on.