Satisfying Our Curiosity About Food and Culture in the Asia Pacific and More

We are pleased to announce the publication of the latest issue of Asia Pacific Perspectives. In vol. 16, no. 2 (2020), we present the multifaceted ways in which scholars in the humanities and social sciences are looking at food and culture in the Asia Pacific.

The idea for this special issue first started with the USF Center for Asia Pacific Studies’ fall 2019 symposium, “Have You Eaten Yet? The History and Culture of Food in East Asia” (October 17-18, 2019). The topics discussed at the symposium were wide-ranging, for example, the globalization of Asian cuisines, the impact of transportation on food writing, and the growing importance of restaurant guidebooks in China. The research shared encouraged us to consider what food in East Asia can reveal about the region’s past and present.

Beyond satisfying our curiosity about food trends and consumption patterns both past and present, our latest issue also considers themes important for our understanding of the Asia Pacific during the 20th and 21st centuries including global modernity, imperialism, the history of food in East Asia, the history of animal health, cultural appropriation, indigenization, and more.

In the feature article for this issue, Tatsuya Mitsuda (Keio University) provides a fascinating account of how Chinese animals were made fit for consumption by German and Japanese imperialist bodies in the early 20th century. His research on the production of milk and beef in Shandong Province reveals the different processes the imperialists adopted to meet the dietary needs of the German colonizers and the growing appetite for beef in modernizing Japan. His work will have a broad appeal ranging from readers seeking a more nuanced understanding of the activities of imperialists powers in China to those interested in Japanese food history or the history of animal health.

We are pleased to present two think pieces focused on the field of Japanese food studies. In our first think piece, Eric C. Rath (University of Kansas) contemplates the “known unknowns” in Japanese food history and shares the challenges scholars face when researching the history of food, especially in premodern Japan. Rath’s commentary on the study of Japanese foods such as sake, beef, and sushi, presented through stories about drinking contests, the origins of our favorite sushi, and “the Japanese meat question,” provides important insights into Japanese food culture and leaves readers hungry for more.

In our second think piece, Christopher Laurent (University of San Francisco), examines the cuisine of the Korean minority in contemporary Japan. Laurent takes us on a journey to Osaka’s Koreatown where we can virtually smell the grilled meat and kimchi. While celebrating the cuisine of Zainichi Koreans, Laurent argues that the story of Korean food in Japan is really one of cultural appropriation and exploitation. His think piece encourages us to think about where our favorite foods come from and the impact of “culinary poaching” on marginalized communities.

We are delighted to include a graduate student paper in this issue from Xiaoyu (Jennifer) Zhang (University of San Francisco). Researching what role Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) plays in the lives of Chinese international students and their eating habits, Zhang sheds light on the continuing relevance of this traditional school of medicine among young Chinese today.

In “Contemporary Filipino Foodways,” Ty Matejowsky (University of Central Florida) provides a feast for the eyes with his vivid photos of views from the street, household, and local dining. His photos of Filipino food spaces and fast food reveal the presence of the global food industry in the Philippines but more importantly how Filipinos have indigenized outside food influences such as SPAM and ketchup to make them reflect Philippine culture.

In this issue’s book review, Serena Calcagno (University of San Francisco) reads The Other Milk: Reinventing Soy in Republican China by Jia-Chen Fu. While much of this issue of the journal has focused on cows and beef, this review reveals how soybean milk was promoted as the means “to elevate Chinese nationhood via nutrition” in the early 20th century.

As always, we hope that these articles will stimulate further discussion and research on the topic and promote positive change. We appreciate the help and guidance of the journal’s editorial board in bringing this special issue on food and culture in the Asia Pacific to publication.

Melissa S. Dale, Editor