Initially, our group for AAS 187B Pop Culture, set out to analyze “Asian Fusion Food” in Los Angeles. Our goal was to explore the history of food pathways and how Asian food transformed into Asian American food or “Fusion Food”.
After eating at Roy Choi’s Kogi Truck, Chego, and A-Frame we were able to order and try a variety of different fusion dishes, witness the cliental of these eateries, and enjoy the unique yet similar experience offered by all three locations.
We ordered food that would highlight the differences of flavors and tastes that might reflect contrasting ethnic/cultural backgrounds and we strategically captured parts of our experience that would draw on the theme “Fusion Food”.
On our journey to these restaurants, our hopes of deconstructing fusion food had instead become a process of construction. We actively created our own perception of fusion food through the deliberate photographic images we chose to take, and the food choices that we made to quench our desire of discovering the roots of fusion food.
According to Sturkin we had fallen into a common pitfall:
“By looking at and engaging with images in the world, we influence the meanings and uses assigned to the images that fill our day-to-day lives.”
When we brought our project’s focus up to Roy Choi, he was taken back and mentioned how he did not know that “fusion food” existed. He instead brought up the term “refrigerator food,” meaning food that is commonly cooked and used everyday at your house. He told us that the food he grew up eating was not form any particular ethnic background but was a compilation of the food his mom made and food he found around him in his community.
After taking Choi’s perspective into consideration, I realized that we had been categorizing his restaurants into ethnic or cultural boxes. I found it admirable that Roy Choi shared this insight with us, because it really allowed our group to take a step back and put our research into perspective. We had been searching for Asian Fusion Food, when all a long, it was something we had pieced together.
Through our exploration as a group, we had constructed a particular meaning for what we imagined fusion food was. We wanted to go to places that clearly combined different types of ethnic food. We thought fusion food was something that we were studying, but in actuality was something that we had constructed by categorizing the food we tried into what culture or ethnicity that reflected the flavors we tasted.
After studying Sturken’s take on ideologies from the famous “Practices of Looking” article, it became clear that our group’s construction of fusion food was simply a process of naturalizing a system of belief that any given culture produces. In simpler terms, we created the belief and meaning behind fusion food and believed it to be a natural theme that we could study when in reality it was merely another social construction dependent upon the customer, cliental, or the participant who was observing the social phenomena-in this case our group.
Overall, our group has taken away a few valuable lessons as we now realize how easy it is to fall into the act of categorization, or into the belief that representation is truth. Now with a more critical eye, our group can deconstruct the way we see the world before we set out to discover how the world constructs itself.