Authentic Japanese Food

Probably everyone says this at some point- I love that restaurant, it’s so authentic.  And I get it, eating food from another culture is an experience and no one wants to feel scammed.  But I’m tired of it.  It’s a rancid, moldy, shitty concept.

Part of it is from experience.  I’ve been served food in Japan, by Japanese people, that, if it had appeared in a restaurant in America, would be instantly discounted as fake.  Not every restaurant in Japan puts a ton of effort into presentation, and not every restaurant prepares the freshest and best tasting food.  That’s life.  Imagine trying to explain to someone in that Denny’s actually is Real American Food.  Yes, some of the food Japanese people eat does suck that badly.

But my main problem is just the idea that someone else gets to decide for me what’s real and what’s not.  For a while there was talk of sushi police, some sort of industry group that would travel the world giving demerits to places serving California Rolls.  I haven’t heard how this dumbass idea  turned out and I don’t care to.  I hope it failed miserably.

My wife is Japanese.  She likes California Rolls.  They’re a clever local innovation.  And it goes both ways.  As far as I was concerned, Mos Burger had some great takes on fast food burgers, that managed to be distinctly Japanese.  I wish they had one in California.  Should the hamburger be frozen in time, with the only acceptable variations being cheese and bacon?  Was adding the avocado to hamburgers a grave sin against all that is holy?  I know a restaurant in San Diego where the big baby Japanese owner took his sign down because too many people came in asking for California Rolls.

And finally, where do we get the idea that someone’s ability to cook is genetic?  I know it’s a running joke in southern California that most of our Japanese restaurants are run by Koreans, but uh, there are some “Koreans” who will live and die in Japan without ever being considered fully Japanese.  I’ll bet that if some Zainichi cooked you a Japanese meal, you’d be fooled.

I get it.  I do.  I like that my favorite ramen place in southern California has badly upholstered seats and old posters with backward letters (in the early 20th century the Japanese were trying to westernize and hadn’t figured that part out yet) but I recognize this for what it is- kitsch.  Sure, there are places that still look like that, just like in America there are old greasy spoons that have jackalopes hung on the walls.   It may be real, but the shits you get from eating there will be real too.  Feel the authenticity.

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