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New Yorkan Cuisine


Elissa
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The bread bar at Tabla and the sushi bar at Nobu: aren't they both American?

Drinking when we are not thirsty and making love at all seasons: That is all there is to distinguish us from the other Animals.

-Beaumarchais

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The bread bar at Tabla and the sushi bar at Nobu: aren't they both American?

Yup. Just as much as Katz's and DiFara's and Babbo and Prune and Gascogne and . . . (you get the idea)

Eff the "melting pot." That way lies blandness. What I think of as "New Yorkan cuisine" is not authentic from-somewhere-else, nor homogenized a-little-from-here-and-a-little-from-there. It's just plain tasty food, all different kinds and distinct nationalities side by side (sort of) and adapting while maintaining their basic character.

Is that what you mean, lissome?

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How about jazz? African and creole rhythms and chord changes from French Impresionistic music. Is it not American? Everything that is American is pretty much reconstituted from other places. So why should Tabla and Nobu be Japanese, why should they not be American? If you want to eat Japanese food, go to Sugiyama or Sushi Yasuda. If you want to eat American food that is derived from Japanese cuisine, go to Nobu or to a place like Bond Street where many Japanes-American people are eating. Same with Diwan and Tabla. Amazing how many Americans who come from Indian ancestry are eating there.

Edited by Steve Plotnicki (log)
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Amazing how many Americans who come from Indian abcestry are eating there.

Ditto for McDonald's.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Well yes. That's because they are Americans and not Indians. I don't understand why people want to keep identifying them as Indians? Which is what is really happening when people insist on drawing this bright line between places like Diwan and Tabla. Or places like Nobu and an authentic sushi place with Japanese people. In fact I ate at Kuramasushi last night. There is nothing they have there that I couldn't get at Nobu aside from that list of fish they fly in fresh fom Japan which to me is non-determinative. The real difference is that Kuramaushi is an ethnic restaurant and Nobu isn't.

The purpose of people moving to America is so they can leave their old country behind. And while nobody tells them they have to shed their old customs and traditions, nobody should tell them not to either, or imply it indirectly by taking a shot at the food that the process of assimilation creates. I know people like authentic ethnic cuisine, I do too. But being critical of how cuisines change because of the influence an American lifestyle has on them is a passive type of prejudice in my book, which I know is unintentional. But I can never figure out why so many people, including an amazing number of people who would describe themselves as liberal, have such a vested interest in promoting non-change. I mean let's make sure the Arepa Lady never leaves her spot on the street because she is the authentic thing. What that really comes down to is our saying that a Columbian woman should be a street peddler forever, and that she shouldn't try and figure out a way to Americanize her product so she can live a better life. It's one thing to support authenticity, but it's another thing to be a cultural imperialist thorugh food.

Edited by Steve Plotnicki (log)
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You seem to think, yet again, that every thread on this site is about you, and about you getting to make another attempt to argue your failed and defeated positions from other threads. Nobody is interested. And given how hysterical you become whenever anybody suggests that your credentials as a non-racist are anything less than perfect, you should be extremely careful of accusing anybody of prejudice -- passive, unintentional, or otherwise. Someone might accuse you of prejudice -- racism, race baiting, or playing the race card -- and you wouldn't be able to handle that. It's time for you to give this a rest, or at least to confine it to one thread. And that thread is not this one. Pick one that has already been poisoned. This one can still be saved.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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But anytime you have a thread that criticizes people for trying to advance themselves, for your own (and I don't mean you personally) gastronomic pleasure, what else could the conversation really be about? And I'm not trying to make this about me either. But there isn't that big a difference between Nobu and an authentic sushi joint that they should take criticism for that aspect of what they have set out to achieve. Nor Tabla. What else is the purpose of saying that one isn't really Japanese with the inference that people typically give that statement? And I'm not against pointing out the distinction between authentic cuisine, and a more progressive cuisine. save for that negative inference that seems to creep into the tone of responses when people bring up "fusion cuisine," or any other attempt at a progressive version of an ethnic cuisine. And okay you might have a point when you say that I might read that inference in when it isn't there. But that can easily be corrected by whomever if that isn't what they meant.

Just look at Suzanne's post. She said;

Eff the "melting pot." That way lies blandness.

Well people come here to be part of the melting part. What are we to do, say to them they should stay within their own communities for our own culinary pleasure? And I know she doesn't mean it that way. But I think it's important to draw the distinction between criticizing Nobu because the cuisine is not a success (and it's an amazingly successful cuisine so why would anyone do that?) and criticizing them for not being authentic Japanese. I don't see why they have to be authentic Japanese, as long as their cuisine is successful.

P.S. I have thousands of private emails that believe I have won this argument over and over. In fact the word got out and I have been approached by publishers about a book on the topic.

Edited by Steve Plotnicki (log)
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And anyway, once you transpose a cuisine into another location, it just becomes different. In Nancy Harmon Jenkins' new book, The Essential Mediterranean, she writes about witnessing an encounter "between that great cooking teacher...Marcella Hazan and an Italian chef who was cooking in America for the first time. "Everything is different," mourned the chef, wringing his hands, "even the salt tastes different here." Given that, creative cooks adapt, reach out, change.

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The purpose of people moving to America is so they can leave their old country behind. And while nobody tells them they have to shed their old customs and traditions, nobody should tell them not to either, or imply it indirectly by taking a shot at the food that the process of assimilation creates. I know people like authentic ethnic cuisine, I do too. But being critical of how cuisines change because of the influence an American lifestyle has on them is a passive type of prejudice in my book, which I know is unintentional. But I can never figure out why so many people, including an amazing number of people who would describe themselves as liberal, have such a vested interest in promoting non-change. .... It's one thing to support authenticity, but it's another thing to be a cultural imperialist thorugh food.

Why such ceaseless contention? No one criticized either restaurant for sheding or heeding traditions or promoted non-change. I have had one remarkable meal at Nobu and some spectacular hits and misses at Tabla, but I don't think of either establishment as Japanese or Indian so much as places whose new approaches were wrought here in New York :raz: so there.

I was rather wondering if when foreign cuisines, or musics remake themselves on these shores they become something new. The strange case of Edmund Burke comes to mind. Not impressed by the French and their violent Revolution, Burke rather said that without prejudice all would be become, as SF put it, bland: "Those who quit their proper character to assume what does not belong to them are, for the greater part, ignorant both of the character they leave and of the character they assume."

Edited by lissome (log)

Drinking when we are not thirsty and making love at all seasons: That is all there is to distinguish us from the other Animals.

-Beaumarchais

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Elsewhere Burke goes on: "Prejudice renders a man`s virtue his habit; and not a series of unconnected acts. Through just prejudice, his duty becomes a part of his nature. Your literary men, and your politicians, and so do the whole clan of the enlightened among us, essentially differ in these points. They have no respect for the wisdom of others; but they pay it off by a very full measure of confidence in their own. With them it is a sufficient motive to destroy an old scheme of things, because it is an old one. As to the new, they are in no sort of fear with regard to the duration of a building run up in haste; because duration is no object to those who think little or nothing has been done before their time, and who place all their hopes in discovery. "

Drinking when we are not thirsty and making love at all seasons: That is all there is to distinguish us from the other Animals.

-Beaumarchais

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Actually I was reacting more to Suzanne's post then yours. So there. And I'll raise you one :raz::raz:.

The strange case of Edmund Burke comes to mind. Not at all impressed by the French and their violent Revolution, Burke rather put forth the idea that prejudices are what make us who we are, and without these, alas all would be lost and life become, as SF put it, bland: "Those who quit their proper character to assume what does not belong to them are, for the greater part, ignorant both of the character they leave and of the character they assume."

I'm not going to touch this one with a 100 foot pole.

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And anyway, once you transpose a cuisine into another location, it just becomes different.  In Nancy Harmon Jenkins' new book, The Essential Mediterranean, she writes about witnessing an encounter "between that great cooking teacher...Marcella Hazan and an Italian chef who was cooking in America for the first time.  "Everything is different," mourned the chef, wringing his hands, "even the salt tastes different here."  Given that, creative cooks adapt, reach out, change.

Toby, thank you, that's it exactly. A master chef of [fill-in-the-blank] cuisine, when cooking in NYC, will no longer be making that culture's food exactly; it's simply not physically possible unless every single ingredient has come from the source. But neither is he or she necessarily trying to assimilate the food into the melting-pot, making a version meant to appeal to everyone. That's not pssible, either.

Steve, I don't believe people come here IN ORDER TO assimilate; some never do. I for one am grateful that even those who do assimilate still miss the foods of the "old country" enough to make it profitable enough for someone to make as close an approximation as possible. And that is what makes for "New Yorkan" or "Chicagoan" or "Podunkan" cuisine.

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Very few people never do. And the ones who don't get marginalized. Little Italy is now mostly Chinese. And the Jewish part of the lower east side has shrunk to a couple of blocks. When I grew up in Queens, every neighborhood had a kosher deli and a Southern Italian restaurant featuring red sauce. Now they are both quite difficult to find. In fact on the upper west side of Manhattan, the greatest Jewish stronghold outside of the Warsaw ghetto, they had to invent Artie's Deli so the neighborhood can have a deli.

If we were to be honest about what ethnic cuisine is (in this country,) it is the food that immigrants and their children eat. That they can't cook it exactly like they did in the old country is an important point, but I'm not sure it's the determinative one. I think the important point is that by the time you get to grandchildren and great grandchildren, much of the cuisine doesn't exist anymore because the market for it has shrunk so drastically.

The thing is, depending on how good the cuisine was, it gets incorporated into what we eat everyday, whether they like it or not. Go to any Greek diner in Queens and they have an entire range of Jewish style delicatessen sandwiches. And they also will have spaghetti and meatballs or ravioli on the menu. That is how the cuisine was assimilated. But better cuisines, and I don't use that phrase casually, assimilate at a higher level. I would argue, there is something more sophisticated about Indian and Japanese cuisine that is allowing them to enter the market at a higher level then Jewish cuisine or Southern Italian cuisine could ever attain.

So I believe, that the people who come here get swallowed up in the process of assimilation. We assimilate them whether they want to or not. Unless they go shut themselves off in their own community like the Hassidic Jews, it isn't a matter of what they want to give, it's a matter of what we all decide to take from them and make our own. And they are well paid for it in return (monetarily I mean.) Something that isn't usually possible in their own country. That's exactly why they come here.

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That's exactly why they come here.

Which they? The Jews whose grandfolks never left NY? The german Texans? The Chinese who built the roads in Carmel? The actors who come to be waiters and stars; Boat People; Koreans; Blacks from the South?

Edited by lissome (log)

Drinking when we are not thirsty and making love at all seasons: That is all there is to distinguish us from the other Animals.

-Beaumarchais

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I once had the awful task of finding a restaurant for a visiting friend's family. My friend was from Mass, and his family was from Germany. These were the restrictions: the restaurant had to be

American cuisine

quiet

cheap

high quality

smoke free (around '91)

really nice atmosphere

nice neighborhood

I was stumped. Everything I suggested was another nation's cuisine. I could think of no place quiet. Cheap, high quality food and a nice atmosphere in a nice neighborhood made no sense to me at the time. He finally agreed to Santa Fe on 69th (?) and we ate dinner happily. Except me. They all spoke German all fucking night and ignored me.

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In thinking about it, I disagree theat Arties Deli is a deli at all. It's just a Jewish theme restaurant like Hard Rock and Brooklyn Diner. And we've had Zabar's for an eternity longer than Artie's.

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In thinking about it, I disagree theat Arties Deli is a deli at all.  It's just a Jewish theme restaurant like Hard Rock and Brooklyn Diner.  And we've had Zabar's for an eternity longer than Artie's.

Why isn't it a deli? What constitutes a deli? Aha! a new question.

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Missed the radio show, but the new yorekan koreans: how they has their cuisine changed in the last 15 years? Or the caribbeans, a miraculous lot. The lower east side still entrenched with pickles, dried fruit and smoked fish: have you eaten at tenement? eli zabar's markets incredible too.

But in a sense our bites of Japan and India, as well as of mario's Italy: these are one?

Edited by lissome (log)

Drinking when we are not thirsty and making love at all seasons: That is all there is to distinguish us from the other Animals.

-Beaumarchais

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Case in point Steve: Savoy :biggrin:

Edited by lissome (log)

Drinking when we are not thirsty and making love at all seasons: That is all there is to distinguish us from the other Animals.

-Beaumarchais

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I agree that it's a theme restaurant, but it also happens to be a deli. The Chicken in the Pot tasted pretty authentic to me.

There used to be three pickle places on the lower east side. How many are there now? There used to be Teitelbaum's Bakery and the chese place next door. Where are they? How about the dairy restaurants? There were at least four, none left.

I can't speak for Koreans. They seem to be largely merchants which means they will probably assimilate at the same rate that Jews and Italians did. Japanese and Indians have a large white collar segment to their populations, and as such, a more involved cuisine. They will assimilate more quickly then people from a merchant class. And people from the Caribbean are subject to more prejudice then other immigrants so it's an even slower process for them.

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I can't speak for Koreans. They seem to be largely merchants which means they will probably assimilate at the same rate that Jews and Italians did. Japanese and Indians have a large white collar segment to their populations, and as such, a more involved cuisine.

Steve, clearly you havent eaten enough Korean food or have lived among them enough to allow you to make such an unqualified ignorant statement like that. Why don't you just call it a day?

Koreans have TONS of white collar people in their populations. Every single Korean restaurant in Northern New Jersey, as well as every high end Korean supermarket in the area caters to them.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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they will probably assimilate at the same rate that Jews and Italians did. Japanese and Indians have a large white collar segment to their populations, and as such, a more involved cuisine. They will assimilate more quickly then people from a merchant class. And people from the Caribbean are subject to more prejudice then other immigrants so it's an even slower process for them.

I could be wrong but haven't Koreans have ripped the top off all the glass elevators across the land? But Stever there seems to be a sense in which you see these theys all on a hierarchy: of we's?

:wacko:

Edited by lissome (log)

Drinking when we are not thirsty and making love at all seasons: That is all there is to distinguish us from the other Animals.

-Beaumarchais

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