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The desire to remember home through food

June 8, 2013

The desire to remember home by fondly recreating culinary memories cannot be understood merely as reflectively nostalgic gestures; rather such nostalgically-framed narratives must also be read as meta-critiques of what it means to route memory and nostalgic longing for a homeland through one’s relationship to seemingly intractable culinary practices which yoke national identity with culinary taste and practices. Discursive and affective aspects of food are valued over their symbolic or semiotic meaning in nostalgic narratives that negotiate the param-eters of “culinary citizenship,” a form of affective citizenship which grants subjects the ability to claim and inhabit certain subject positions via their relationship to food. Within such narratives official and tra-ditional models of national definition become reinterpreted so as to hint towards the multiplicity of definitional possibilities. Divergent but related models of “culinary citizenship” cast food into a complex web of affiliations mediated by class and sexuality. Food therefore becomes a potent symbol for signifying the eth-nic integrity of Asian Americans, serving both as a placeholder for marking cultural distinctiveness and as a palliative for dislocation. Yet literary studies has maintained a deep seated suspicion of considering the place of the culinary. Furthermore, Asian American and Asian diaspora literary studies, somewhat counterintuitively, currently offer few paradigms to navigate the relevance of food in Asian American and Asian migrant psychic and material lives, despite the fact that food often functions as a multivalent symbol within Asian American literature. To work through these gaps in Asian American literary studies, we must bring to the table narratives which mine the potential of establish-ing food as an idiom for expressing nostalgic desire….”[1]

[1] 13 (emphases in blue bold mine) Anita Mannur (2007) Culinary Nostalgia: Authenticity, Nationalism, and Diaspora MELUS, 32(4) Winter: 11-31

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