Archive | food nationalism RSS feed for this section

Public link for Wednesday’s reading + reading questions for Tanizaki

23 May

Link will take you to a .pdf file here.

I’ll also give you a hard copy in class.

Tanizaki discussion questions

  1. What kinds of language does the narrator use to describe appetites?  Find one or two passages and discuss.
  2. What kinds of experience does the Chinese restaurant promise to offer the narrator? Find one or two passages and discuss
  3. Does the language of a Jonathan Gold restaurant review from the LA Weekly–see below–seem to echo Tanizaki’s in any way? See “The Gourmet Club,” p. 116. Find one or two further passages and discuss.


Cold as a Kudzu Vine in Winter

Yu Chun’s naengmyon for a hot summer’s day

A A A Comments (1) By Jonathan Gold Thursday, Jul 29 2010

Is there anything more refreshing than naengmyon on a blistering summer day? Because if anything can reduce ambient body heat more efficiently than a bowl of the cold noodle soup at Koreatown’s Yu Chun Chic Naeng Myun, medical science has yet to discover what it might be — drifts of strong broth, so cold that they rise from the bowl in airy snowdrifts of beefiness, as tart and sweet and chilled as a properly made cocktail. (Is ice the bartender’s flame, as Eric Alperin suggests? Very well: Ice is also the flame of the naengmyon chef.)


Chillin at Yu Chun

The noodles, made from the ground roots of the same kudzu vine that is the bane of gardeners in the American South, are wire-thin, impossibly stretchy and of a tarry blackness, at least when wetted, that is intense enough to suck light out of the air. (When the waitress comes over to snip the noodles into manageable lengths, she uses what I swear are heavy-duty garden shears.) There is a halved boiled egg, a few slivers of pickled daikon, and a slice or two of cold boiled beef. You are given the opportunity to doctor the broth with stinging spoonfuls of Korean mustard, like the Philippe’s condiment multiplied by three, but you probably won’t bother.

You’ve had naengmyon, at least I’m pretty sure you have, that odd cold-noodle dish that shows up toward the end of a Korean barbecue meal: a big, chilled stainless-steel bowl from which you sample two bites before you push it away in favor of the last burnt tentacle that had been hiding under the charred clove of garlic. The ignored naengmyon tends to come in one of two varieties — either as mool naengmyon, floating in a gamy, underseasoned meat broth that tastes like way-overboiled beef; or as bibim naengmyon, sealed in a thick, sweet chile sauce, often with chunks of boiled stingray. You can alter the beef broth with vinegar and Korean mustard. You’re kind of stuck with the red goo, although you can always requisition some of the sharper chile paste, called gochujang, which is undoubtedly hanging out in a small dish somewhere on the table. Naengmyon, even in its more exalted forms, has never seemed like one of Koreatown’s more exalted attractions.

Yet sightings of great restaurant naengmyon have been floating around Koreatown for decades, and when you try the famous places, the noodles can be pretty good. Ham Hung, a restaurant I first paid attention to when it ran an exotic-meats buffet in the 1980s, is far better known in the community for the stretchy potato-starch naengmyon, a specialty of the North Korean city from which the restaurant takes its name. The restaurant Chung Ki Wa has always been known for its especially beefy, buckwheat naengmyon, although most of the customers seem to come for the inexpensive barbecue.

And of course the weird but compelling naengmyon served at the Corner Place is a Koreatown cult item, sugary and mysteriously refreshing — and rumored to include 7-Up as one of its ingredients. As generations of K-town denizens have discovered, it may be easier to steal gold from Fort Knox than it is to smuggle naengmyon out of the Corner Place: Nobody is going to reverse-engineer the broth on Corner’s watch.

Chil Bo Myun Ok, the other famous Koreatown naengmyon specialist, also forbids takeout orders of the noodles — the last time a friend tried, I was sure that we would all be permanently barred from the restaurant, although we got away with a warning instead.

Yet it is at Yu Chun, which has all the aesthetics of an army mess hall, where the flavors are most compelling; at Yu Chun where you see men raise the massive bowls and drain them as if they were flagons of ale; Yu Chun, where the only other permissible thing to order is mandoo, dumplings the size of a fat man’s fist filled with minced beef and a surprisingly modest slug of chopped cabbage kimchi. (You would not be entirely out of line if you tried the restaurant’s take on pork-kimchi bibimbap, served on a superheated stone platter.)

Yu Chun’s mool naengmyon is cold enough to give you an ice cream headache. Yu Chun’s naengmyon is so cold that the waiters customarily bring mugs of peppery hot soup as you eat it, which may be the restaurant equivalent of St. Bernards bringing hot toddies to travelers stranded in the frozen Alps. Yu Chun’s naengmyon is cold enough to eat for lunch today.

YU CHUN CHIC NAENG MYUN: 3185 W. Olympic Blvd., Koreatown. (323) 382-3815. Open Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.-8 p.m. MC, V. No Alcohol. Valet parking. Lunch or dinner for two, food only, $20-$26. Recommended dishes: chic naeng myun, kimchi mandu.

An Australian Experience (– and not the Outback Steakhouse)

7 Sep

Though it would d be unfair to say that I have much experience in the realm of culinary art, I am proud to say I once took part in the preparation of a most exquisite meal. This August my family and I traveled to Australia. We started our trip on the Great Barrier Reef, at a resort where all our food was prepared by a number of reputable chefs. I was surprised to see that the cuisine lacked a notable Australian flare, and if anything the dishes seemed to have an oriental influence. Next we traveled to Darwin, to see and experience life on a pearl farm. We were no longer living in luxurious accommodations with restaurants and chefs to prepare our food. We were living on an extremely remote campsite that was entirely sustained by food and materials that were brought over by seaplane then boat every week. Since we were guests at the campsite my family did not dine with the other residents on the pearl farm (the workers). Here I learned the true meaning of Australian cuisine.

My sister and I had the opportunity to help prepare dinner our last night on the campsite. We cooked some local fish we caught earlier that day (Coral Trout and Barramundi—an Australian seafood favorite), as well as beer battered fries (essentially an Australian twist on the “French fry”), and kangaroo for main course. We prepared the kangaroo just as we would prepare a flank steak, and seasoned it similarly. We saved the best for last: oyster meat. Like kangaroo, oyster meat is not commonly consumed or found in America so the cook on the campsite helped us prepare it. The oyster meat came from oyster shells that we brought back from the pearl farms out at sea, and it is not to be confused with the oyster that is typically eaten from these types of shells, it is actually the muscle around it that aids the shell in functioning. This meat has a completely different consistency and is much denser, and not slimy. The cook at the pearl farm deep-fried the oyster meat for us, just like American chicken nuggets or fish and chips she said. The table was set and the meal was finally ready, and it was surely the most memorable and delicious meal I have ever prepared and enjoyed. That night I ate kangaroo, an animal I have watched from afar in a zoo, but in that region of Australia kangaroos are nearly as common as cattle in the United States, so they are consumed.  This meal demonstrated several components of organic, local, and traditional Australian food and was unlike any previous dining experience I’ve had.

Reading ?s for Thursday, August 26

24 Aug

1.  MAFF video: I recommend watching the video first. When you watch it, it is much clearer why issues of the everyday person’s food and diet are  connected to  huge, national issues. Yoshikawa’s article assumes that people and large policy issues are connected, but her explicit connection is more about farmland (which may be for food, but may be for something else).

Here are the “viewing questions” posted with the YouTube link.

What signs of “crisis” does the video point to? What does it identify as problems? Do you find the (soothing) nationalism it expresses at all problematic? How does it connect food to topical issues? Does it work through cuteness (the aesthetic), fear (scary prophecies and statistics), or something else?

2.  YOSHIKAWA: A question to think about when reading Yoshikawa’s article: why is it a problem, in the writer’s mind, to have a “low food self-sufficiency rate”? Also, how does this compare to what you eat everyday?

3.  FOUCAULT: If you have not read much social theory, this one might be a bit dense. Foucault is a well-known (now deceased) French historian. He starts out by talking about periodization–the past was time, the present is space. He next introduces the idea of a utopia. And then he coins–invents–a new word, the “heterotopia.” The big question is what do his examples have in common, in terms of the special relation they have with the rest of the world? For a concrete example, you might think of the cemetery or the garden…

4.  POTTS: I picked this because it’s fun, and because it deals with how people might transform an overlooked urban space–a garden, not unlike our garden–into something more personal and satisfying. Potts makes a distinction between 2 kinds of creativity, one she calls “cool,” and one less cowed by taste, a heterotopic kind. When all is said and done, would you enjoy having the gnomes in your garden?

5.  BROMBERG (optional): Bromberg tells the story of a case study–a “space of possibility” (a more everyday way of saying heterotopia, with a few differences) from Chicago, Mess Hall. She starts with a basic observation about cities–that it’s hard to find spaces to just BE, without spending money–what she calls “existing spaces for non-market interactions” (215). Her piece describes how the bunch of people who run MH construct an “economy of generosity.” What kinds of benefits does she say this stance has for its participants?

Momotarō jazz opera

20 Aug

This video goes with the class for Tuesday, October 12, on Momotarō, the child-hero of a famous folktale, otherwise known as the peach boy.

It’s a performance from a March 1986 TV program called What a Great Night, hosted by the comedian Tamori.

@font-face { font-family: “Cambria”; }p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal { margin: 0in 0in 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: “Times New Roman”; }a:link, span.MsoHyperlink { color: blue; text-decoration: underline; }a:visited, span.MsoHyperlinkFollowed { color: purple; text-decoration: underline; }div.Section1 { page: Section1; }

Momotarō jazz opera song list


opening credit

:00      ojīsan goes out walking: Charlie Parker, “Now’s the Time”

:24      obasan washes clothes in river: Kenny Dorham, “Lotus Blossom”


:48      look, a peach approaches: Miles Davis, “Milestones”

1:40    ojī and obā break open peach: Thelonius Monk, “Misterioso”

1:48    Momotarō bursts out: Monk, “Blue Monk”


2:02    ojī marvels: Horace Silver, “Sister Sadie”


…some years later

2:20    Momotarō makes his plea to voyage: Bill Evans, “Waltz for Debby”       (

3:38    Art Blakey, from the soundtack to Dangerous Liaisons (1958)

4:27    Momotarō sets out: Art Blakey, “Blues March”

4:57    sendoff for Momotarō: Sonny Rollins, “Doxy”

5:11    on the road, 3 animals: “Five Spots After Dark,” feat. Benny Golson (

5:50    animal alliance: Bud Powell Trio, “Cleopatra’s Dream” (

6:27    Momotarō subdues the animals: Herbie Mann, “Comin’ Home Baby” (

7:00    ahoy, M hits the high seas: Herbie Hancock, “Maiden Voyage” (

7:32    devils on Onigashima: Charlie Parker, “Donna Lee”–Saitō Haruhiko sings here

8:15 more devils assemble: Clifford Brown, “Cherokee” (

8:43    pacification: Charles Mingus, “Fables of Faubus”


9:02    victory!: Miles Davis,  “Round Midnight”


9:13    celebration!: John Coltrane, “Moment’s Notice”


9:47    ensemble: Sonny Rollins, “St Thomas” (






Source: troutfactorynotebook

Japan government video: “Ensuring the Future of Food”

19 Aug

“Food security” is a weird phrase. It may sound like someone is holding a gun to a head of broccoli. But it actually means something like “having sufficient resources to insure that you eat enough healthy food.” The J-government is interested in this issue because despite its super-organic image abroad, Japan imports a huge proportion of its foodstuffs from a very small number of countries, and its diet is changing rapidly to become very processed and less local. Panic!

What signs of “crisis” does the video point to? What does it identify as problems? Do you find the (soothing) nationalism it expresses at all problematic? How does it connect food to topical issues? Does it work through cuteness (the aesthetic), fear (scary prophecies and statistics), or something else?