Eating Cultures: Snow Crab Leg
19th century book cover, Brooklyn Chinese Takeout menu
4.25" x 0.13" x 6.75"
This series was on exhibit at SOMArts Cultural Center in EATING CULTURES curated by Asian American Women Artists Association's
Michelle A. Lee, Linda Inson Choy and Cynthia Tom. Margo L. Machida, Professor of Art History and American Studies at the University of Connecticut, selected the works in the show.
Having grown-up in predominantly white towns and being the only Asian student in my class, and the only student of color, I have developed a hypersensitivity to my otherness; both physical and cultural. As a hapa haole who does not speak her mother tongue and has not set foot on Japanese soil since 1983, I have a deep longing to connect to my roots. A steaming plate of Okonomiyaki, Mabo Don, or an Onigiri shaped by my mothers salted hands are all objects of a strong cathexis. The sensory resonance of familiar flavor on my tongue makes me feel at once home with my culture and connected to my mother.
I am fascinated by Americans desire for Asian food, and how they commodify their interpretation of what Asian food is, hence the long-line of "Chinese" takeout restaurants littered throughout Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan in New York City. Items on the menu are not Chinese but an American invention. My collages speak of the Americanized Chinese takeout restaurants and Chinese Taco joints which are examples of cultural assimilation, one of many facets of the Asian Diaspora. Chinese fast-food take-out restaurants popular in NYC and other cities worldwide, speak to a commodification and alteration: mixing the perceived other with the familiar. Dishes like Shrimp Lo Mein taste and look very different than the original dish. In a way, I feel these meals debase the nostalgic taste of our mothers food. When I place these Americanized dishes on top of historical antique objects as if they were trophies, I exalt them, but also question the loaded experience of cultural assimilation in America.