Each time I’m in Nijiya Market, I can’t resist tantalizing myself by hovering in front of the sushi and mini bento boxes in the deli case. They have a microwave, so you can pay and zap for a hot katsu-don to go. Last time I was there, another woman was contemplating the same.
“Curry rice? That’s not Japanese food!” She looked at me, as if I were Japanese (I’m not) and could explain it to her (but I could.)
I looked at her. Caucasian, speaks English with a foreign accent that I can’t place.
“Well, curry rice has a pretty common dish in Japan, maybe even half the Japanese restaurants here would serve it. So it’s ‘Japanese’ in the same way pizza is now an ‘American’ food.”
“Bah, American food. Americans only know how to eat chicken and potatoes! There’s no cusine in American food.”
I shrugged. “You probably haven’t looked hard enough for good American food.”
“Curry isn’t Japanese food!” she insisted.
I pity the fool. Chai, the ubiquitous tea-based Indian drink, arrived via the British starting tea plantations several hundred years ago, a blip in their thousands-of-years old history. First it was tea from China, now they got Gobi Manchurian!
Egg custard tarts at dim sum, and Thai ’thong’ deserts came with the Portuguese. I’d argue that doner kebab has become as German as bratwurst, or even currywurst in Germany. What’s more Hawaiian, macaroni salad or poi?
It’s funny how we get fixated with how certain food or ethnicities belong to certain cultures This woman thought curry was strictly Indian, and was thrown off by seeing it presented as Japanese food.
Just like I kept thinking Minnesota was mostly Scandinavians, and then seeing all the Hmong and Somalians. Or my usual example: I throw people off sometimes because I’m an American who looks Chinese. My cousin’s wife is Brazilian of Japanese descent. Many an Englishman today is named Patel or Khan.
Marketing and stereotyping! On TV, the average fast-food worker is shown as being a white or black teenager; in reality they are mostly Latino.
It’s inevitable that we guess someone’s origins based on their ethnic appearance. Now I pay attention to the way they talk and their body language too, because that gives me more clues.