Free Custom «Consuming Asian America: Food, Fusion and Multiculturalism» Essay Sample
America has been known as a multiethnic and multicultural country. As it is open to different cultures, it welcomes different cuisines and various cultural experiences. “Multiculturalism” as an ideology has impacted society’s consumption of “Asian America” leading to the appearance of the fusion cuisine. Fusion implies the peaceful coexistence of both cultures, Asian and American. However, this peaceful coexistence is possible only when Asians assimilate into the dominant culture.
Fusion cooks Ming Tsai and Padma Lakshmi as representatives of model minority are good examples of it. Ming Tsai became a popular chief in the United States due to the image of a cosmopolitan Asian American who feels comfortable in both cultures. He seems to be socially and economically equal with high-income customers. Still, he is not completely equal as he serves to his customers, implying he is in a somewhat lower position. According to Mannur, “selling Ming Tsai as a model minority is a crucial ingredient in making tsai successful” (77).
Meanwhile, Padma Lakshmi became popular in the US because of her gender and sexuality. She learned how to fit the stereotype of model minority and exotic femininity. On the one hand, Padma adjusts to any environment in speech, dishes and clothes. On the other hand, she exploits her sexual appeal to attract white Americans to her show. At the same time, she is not bound by classed notions of cultural citizenship. Lakshmi breaks the national boundaries, which makes her fusion cuisine attractive to many.
Representations of Tsai and Lakshmi show that Asian Americans can assimilate well to the dominant American culture. They want to be included in it and ready to adjust to norms and expectations of the white. Still, it shows that the Asians still constitute cultural minority and do not have equal access to the things white Americans have.
In terms of multiculturalism, the phenomenon of food trucks is worth attention, as well. Anita Mannur explains how American culture deals with other ones in the following words, “Multiculturalism asserts that American culture is a democratic terrain to which every constituency has equal access and in which all are represented, while simultaneously masking the existence of exclusion by … the promise of inclusion” (74). It means that Asian Americans are welcome to serve their food as long as they act as a model minority.
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The food truck phenomenon also relates to the promise of inclusion. One may find the culinary urbanity and cultural capital at the core of the food trucks. The presence of Asian Americans in the industry does confirm the democratic possibility of food. Modern food trucks take advantage of the latest food trends and culinary experiments, and “they exude an urban hipness that draws the young, cosmopolitan, self-proclaimed “foodies” (Siu 235). Wang puts it in simple words, “inexpensive, ethnic fusion street food with a hip, technorati twist” (80). To sum up, food trucks became central to the representation of multiculturalism upon which the image of progressive modern cities rests.
However, the class disparity suggests that food is not yet a democratic terrain. There is still the social and cultural difference between those who produce food and those who consume it. While the owners of the food truck are usually representatives of the Asian minority, they serve mostly white Americans. The target audience of food trucks consists of young professionals, college students and middle class. These are mostly white Americans who follow the trend of exotic cuisine. The opposite situation when white Americans cook and serve Asian Americans is hard to imagine. That is why food is not yet a democratic terrain in the United States.
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