Dubious Gastronomy: The Cultural Politics of Eating Asian in the USA

Ku-Dubious GastronomyThe inaugural title in the Food in Asia and the Pacific series—

California roll, Chinese take-out, American-made kimchi, dogmeat, monosodium glutamate, SPAM—all are examples of what Robert Ji-Song Ku calls “dubious” foods. Strongly associated with Asian and Asian American gastronomy, they are commonly understood as ersatz, depraved, or simply bad. In Dubious Gastronomy, Ku contends that these foods are viewed similarly to Asians in the United States, in that the Asian presence, be it culinary or corporeal, is often considered watered-down, counterfeit, or debased manifestations of the “real thing.” The American expression of Asianness is defined as doubly inauthentic—as insufficiently Asian and unreliably American when measured against a largely ideological if not entirely political standard of authentic Asia and America.

In critically considering the impure and hybridized with serious and often whimsical intent, he argues that while the notion of cultural authenticity is troubled, troubling, and troublesome, the apocryphal is not necessarily a bad thing: The dubious can be and is often quite delicious.