Monday October 15, 2018
Home U.S.A. New Documenta...

New Documentary “Off the Menu: Asian America” by filmmaker Grace Lee explores how food how food reflects stories of varied communities

Lee has seen a change in Americans' awareness of Asian cuisine over the past few decades since she grew up in Columbia, Missouri, one of a very few Asian families

0
//
194
"Off the Menu" explores how Asian cuisine spices up America's melting pot. Image source: VOA
Republish
Reprint

For much of the 20th century, for many Americans, Asian food meant chop suey or chow mein or other Chinese-style dishes. No longer – Americans may now choose from restaurants featuring Japanese, Thai, Korean, Indian, Burmese and other Asian cuisines.

In her documentary Off the Menu: Asian America, Korean-American filmmaker Grace Lee traveled off the beaten path to explore how food reflects an evolving Asian Pacific America. “How food tells the story of our communities and that’s what we were going for with the film,” she explains.

Lee has seen a change in Americans’ awareness of Asian cuisine over the past few decades since she grew up in Columbia, Missouri, one of a very few Asian families. “We sort of kept our kimchi to ourselves in our basement refrigerator. And we never exposed it to anybody. But now kimchi is so popular. As we say in the film, (chefs are) putting it on quesadillas, on burgers, it’s like a condiment like sriracha.”

For "Off the Menu," filmmaker Grace Lee explored Asian-American cuisine in 4 U.S. cities. Image source: VOA
For “Off the Menu,” filmmaker Grace Lee explored Asian-American cuisine in 4 U.S. cities. Image source: VOA

Tofu in Texas, curry in Wisconsin

Tofu is another recent popular addition to the American menu, showing up in unexpected places – like Texas, where Gary Chiu, the son of Taiwanese immigrants, runs Banyan Foods, the oldest tofu factory in the state. “In 2000 we started doing tofu eggrolls,” he told Lee, “In 2005, we started doing tofu tamales, which is an Asian Tex-Mex fusion.”

Follow NewsGram on Twitter

Lee says Chiu’s family business is an example of how Asian Americans have adapted to other cultures. “It may not be authentically Chinese or authentically Mexican, because of the ingredient of tofu, but it does reflect their existence as Asian Americans in Texas where there is a Tex-Mex culture, Tex-Mex food, and actually in the factory most of the employees are Latino. So they’re also sort of fusing together their cultures.”

At the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, Lee visited the scene of the 2012 shooting, where a gunman killed six people during a racially motivated rampage. When the tragedy occurred, the Sikh community was preparing for langer, a communal meal open to everyone.

Members of the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, prepare a communal meal for the community. Image source: VOA
Members of the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, prepare a communal meal for the community. Image source: VOA

Today, temple members continue to make and share the free communal meal. They say it’s helped to heal the community and also feed it spiritually. “We believe that the reason why food is important is because you can’t pray, you can’t be in tune in with God, unless your belly is full,” one temple member says in the film. Another explains, “We are not scared of anybody coming to gurdwara (temple). So still our doors are open, our hearts are open, our langer is open for them. And we feel honored when they come to us and join with us in our langer.”

Off the Menu ends its journey in Hawaii, where most of the state’s food is now imported. But it wasn’t always like that. These days, some Native Hawaiians continue to gather food just like their ancestors. Hi’ilei Kawelo learned how to do it from her father, Gabby Kawelo. She says being able to carry on their cultural traditions is an important part of her identity, and preserving their island way of life means a lot to her family.

Follow NewsGram on Facebook

“When we do family luau, we still gather everything ourselves,” she said. “The whole point of a luau is that a family comes together and you’re pulling the resources that’s either grown or harvested. And so when you eat it, you’re eating the essence of all the skills passed down from generation to generation. And you take that bite of that food and you’re eating that. Food has mana (spiritual power). … You can taste the love and the history behind that food.”

Food as a connection

Off the Menu: Asian America captures the role food plays in peoples’ lives, connecting family, culture and community. Broadcast nationally on PBS, the film is now available on DVD. It is also being shown internationally, as part of theAmerican Film Showcase. Co-produced by the Center for Asian American Media(CAAM) and the San Francisco public TV station KQED, with funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, filmmaker Grace Lee hopes Off the Menugives people a better understanding of the evolving experience of Asian Pacific Americans. (VOA)

ALSO READ:

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2016 NewsGram

Next Story

Stop Mindless Snacking With These 2 Essential Steps

Don't think of snacks as extras, instead consciously work healthy bites into your diet, and make some smart snacks a part of your food plan for the day.

0
Snacks
Eat Peanuts, Chickpeas, to Lower Cholesterol and Improve Blood Pressure. Pixabay

Snacking is not a mindless pursuit. And unlike universally thought, snacks are not devoid of benefits. In fact, if done right, it can be a perfect way of incorporating important, often missed out nutrients to our daily diet. But for that to happen you need to become a smart snacker. Its a skill easily learned, as long as you master and follow the two essential smart snacking rules.

Kavita Devgan, a renowned nutritionist, weight management consultant and health writer based in Delhi, lays down the rules of healthy snacking:

*Ensure that you choose to eat only those snacks that are made from right ingredients. This in fact is an accurate way of ensuring that the nutrients we need are added to our diet. A few of my favourite ingredients include Kaala Channa, nuts like almond, cashews and seeds, olive oil and whole grains.

* Kala Channa, a nutrition powerhouse, delivers a lot of fibre that helps regulate our blood sugar and is also loaded with nutrients that help save us from seasonal disorders by boosting our immunity.

Snacks
The best snacking to boost and maintain heart health is one low in refined carbohydrates, sugars and processed foods. Pixabay

The easiest way to get a stockpile of multiple vitamins and minerals, even difficult to find trace minerals, is to eat snacks that have nuts and seeds added liberally to them. Besides they also deliver high levels of essential fatty acids (EFA’s), wholesome fibre, and much needed good quality protein (with all essential amino acids). My personal favourites are almonds, walnuts, flaxseeds and sesame seeds.

* It is always better to opt for truly baked, healthy and wholesome snacks as they are actually good for you. In fact, one of the best ways to lower fat consumption is to switch from deep fried snacks to baked snacks as they will help you keep both the calories and fat consumption down easily.

* Pick up snacks made in olive oil, as this is the smartest way to ensure omega 3 and to correct the good vs bad fat imbalance in our diet. It is the best way to keep our digestion humming along, keep constipation away and to keep cravings away. A snack made with whole grains (ragi, wheat, oats, jowar, amaranth, bajra etc.) is the best way to add nutrition to our diet and stay full for longer too.

* Make snacking a conscious activity. Snack mindfully, not mindlessly. It is essential that we not only snack smart but we also pick and select our snack smartly. So, wizen up to the misleading marketing messages and avoid snack packs that don’t deliver what is promised on the face of their pack.

Snacks
Eat good food. Pixabay

* Look out for promises and phrases like Fat-Free, Low in Calories and Lite snacks. Don’t take them on face value. All it takes is flipping the pack to the back and reading all ingredients, their proportions, style of making etc. to understand the health and calorie quotient of the snack you are picking up.

* Don’t think of snacks as extras, instead consciously work healthy bites into your diet, and make some smart snacks a part of your food plan for the day. This way they will work for you constructively. Finally, always focus on eating snacks that deliver something extra (yes more than just satisfaction and calories). That way you add value to your daily diet via the snacks that you eat and score some health too along the way.

Shikha Sharma, a dietician based out of Delhi, expresses her opinion on snacking carefully:

Also Read: A Diet Rich in Nutrients Helps in Living Longer: Study

* Focus on Clean Label. Consumers and regulators continue to put new pressures on food manufacturers, asking for even more information on the label. Consumers want to know the origin of their food. Food transparency strategies are now critical elements of the industry – no longer optional.

* Many varieties of snacks and breads sold in supermarkets have taken a huge hit in recent years as consumers are shifting to more health and wellness foods. More gluten-free and clean-label baked formulations are cropping up in stores, thanks to consumer demand for more transparent options that are convenient and more nutritious. (IANS)