What is Flavor and Fortune?
How do I subscribe?
How do I get past issues?
How do I advertise?
How do I contact the editor?

Read 5929191 times

Connect me to:
Book reviews
Letters to the Editor
Newmans News and Notes
Restaurant reviews

Article Index (all years, slow)
List of Article Years
Article Index (2023)
Article Index (last 2 years)
Things others say
Related Links

Log In...

Categories & Topics

Dubious Gastronomy by Robert Ji-Song Ku

by: Robert Ji-Song Ku

Honolulu HI: Universiy of Hawaii Press 2014, $42.00, Hardbound
ISBN: 978-0-8248-3921-5

Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Fall Volume: 2014 Issue: 21(3) page(s): 19

Six chapters come after the introduction in this book which is without any recipes. They are in three parts titled: Inauthentic Gastronomy, Disreputable Gastronomy, and Artificial Gastronomy. The book is subtitled: The Cultural Politics of Eating Asian in the USA. It has a few b/w photographs, chapter notes, a half dozen-page glossary of food terms, twice that many pages in its bibliography, and an eleven-page two-column index. We found these last items most valuable.

The chapters are titled: California Roll, Chinese Take Out, Kimchi, Dogmeat, Monosodium Glutamate, and SPAM (capitalization, the author's). The middle two chapters are in Part II, the others before and after it. The author prides himself on being a once-upon-a-time Ph.D student in English, and he does delight in correcting things used by others be they about food or language. Some of his ideas we found preposterous, others stuffy, some standard, and some problematic in syntax.

In the chapter about Chinese take-out, as in others, he enjoys challenging what he calls authenticity using phrases such as 'Chinese food is an alien presence in America.' He says 'Asians are perpetual foreigners in America,' and one does get clues that he feels one among them. His chapter about kimchi, his native food, fares no better. His mother-in-law's purchase of this common Korean food has no chili peppers in it and was not red; he implies that is a sin.

As a lover of Asian foods, I found the text loaded with bashing Asian foods and Asians who love it differently from those in his home country. His need to separate chili from pepper is a simplistic need of understanding that is missing. Why he deems foods dubious, their culinary presence watered down or debased, is not clearly explained. Many, including this editor, wish they were.

Flavor and Fortune is a magazine of:

Copyright © 1994-2023 by ISACC, all rights reserved
3 Jefferson Ferry Drive
S. Setauket NY 11720