Archives for category: Art
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Look at those hard lines and rice filler – the Spam musubi was made to be turned into a flag. Challenge accepted.

As one component of the final project for my AMST 202 class at Honolulu Community College this semester, students were asked to create a food flag.

And as I’ve mentioned in this past blog post, I love food flags! A flag is a symbol of national identity – we salute flags, we sing to flags, we preserve flags, we as nations plant them in conquered territories and raise then when we’re wounded. They become a symbol that imagines us as a shared community. And yet we accept them as an arbitrary arrangement of symbols. Flags are bestowed upon us by nations and we accept them into our families.

But what if we created our own? What would it look like?

After demonstrating a family recipe and mapping where they eat, buy, and produce food on the island, students were asked to construct a flag out of ingredients familiar to them:

I want you to create a Food Flag using foods that you argue reflect Hawaiian/ American/hapa food culture. This needs to be based off of a particular flag: the Kanaka Maoli flag, the American flag, Hawaii’s state flag, or a fusion. A food flag is when you reproduce the colors and patterns of a flag using actual food as the building blocks. For this, put some thought into why you’ve chosen the ingredients you’ve chosen. How are you using these foods to support an argument about Hawaiian/American/hapa food culture? How have you visualized some sort of critical analysis? Get some insight into what the heck a food flag is here and here.

Their results were fantastic. Here’s a sampling of their creativity which reveal how they similarly and different position their ethnic and national identities:

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Ed made the Hawaii state flag out of a fusion of Japanese and Portuguese ingredients to represent the different ethnic heritages of he and his wife. Here you see rice, Okinawan purple sweet potato, and sliced Portuguese sausage.

 

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Jacques spent his youth in the Philippines where he mostly ate meat and rice. For his US food flag he chose turkey bacon and rice because she said that when he was losing weight as a young adult in Hawaii, that was just about all he ate. The blue jello and Cheeries reflect his American processed food fusion.

 

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James had a killer idea to take photos of foods he eats and make them into a Hawaiian state flag. Here you’ll see an assortment of big mainland brands popular here, like Budlight, along with rice, ramen, cookies, eggs, and more.

 

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Because Tisha’s family is largely Japanese, this Japanese flag is made out of rice and ahi tuna which are staples in Japanese/Hawaiian fusion cuisine here on the island.

 

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Elisse made the Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian) flag out of egg, Spam, and ti leaves (pronounced like the drink “tea”) which are used in Native Hawaiian recipes like lau lau.

 

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Last but not least Alan uses the Hawaiian state flag to showcase an assortment of staple food items here that are essential to every local Hawaiian dinner serving plate lunch. From the bottom you’ll see red Redondo wieners (it seems like the more dye, the better here), macaroni salad (mainlanders watch out – it. is. the. best.), some pastele stew, rice, poi made from ground taro, poke (pronounced “pokay”), and the top stripe is haupia. For the green on the seal you have lau lau. These foods are not cheap! Alan said he spent about $40 to orders of all of these dishes that he shared with his family.

My food flag was one I usually make every July 4th – I call it my July 4th cake. We inhaled it collectively before I could take a photo, but here’s the gist: 1) Take a box of white Duncan Hines cake mix, 2) Make some whipped cream from scratch for icing, 3) Decorate with red and blue fruits to make the stars and stripes. This could be its twin:

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I shared how the cake represented America to me:

  • a box of white completely processed, super sweet, completely unhealthy, and taking no time to cook. There is something that has always intrigued me about its supernatural bleachy whiteness that seems to claim perfection in the most inauthentic way.
  • the fruits are from Mexico and Chile – foreign countries that the US colonizes through trade agreements to get us our berries for cheap all year around
  • the dairy in the whipped cream is the only ingredient from the US, yet represents something that’s completely unhealthy, the dairy industry being toxic to the environment and animal welfare, and yet framed as a staple of the American diet in advertisements
  • and finally sugar – one of the culinary roots of slavery and the colonization of Hawaii that is now killing poor Americans and poor Pacific islanders who are addicted to its immediate high and low cost. Sugar is in every processed food. Sugar is America. Sugar is death.

Layer them together and you have a deliciously unhealthy dessert that you eat chilled on a hot Independence Day (hypocrisy intended). It is about as far away from local food and a melting pot as you can possibly get.

What would your food flag look like? What do the foods you eat say about your ethnic and national identity?

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I love coffee.  I drink it everyday – all day.  I like to dip my doughnuts in it.  I like to sip it in small glasses from hipster coffee shops.  I like it from Italian highway rest areas.  I like coffee.

It is sometimes difficult to communicate to other people what type of coffee you would like.  For example, I like to order a doppio with a splash of hot milk.  This is not a latte.  This is not a macchiato (in America).  This is a cortado in a to-go cup.  But if espresso isn’t an option, how much milk do I ask for?  Well how strong is your coffee?

Wired has suggested that I “taste coffee like a pro” by using this detailed flavor wheel produced by Specialty Coffee Association of America.

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However, I can honestly say I’ve never tasted the sour tobacco cereal undertones of my morning cup of joe.  I’m not sure if my taste buds are ready for that jump.

While I’ll definitely look to the flavor wheel when deciding my dinner options, my idea of a good cup of coffee is much simpler and almost never strays from country to country.  My perfect cup is Muhammad Ali holding a mug of hot lava.  It is the perfect complement to a doughnut, jammed biscuit, morning writing assignment, or a good book on the front porch.  (Clearly my Keurig is dysfunctional.)

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Where’s your perfect cup on my “Coffee Simplified” map?

I’m in the process of creating a syllabus for a 200-level undergraduate course on unpacking the transnational roots of core American food ingredients, and in looking for a good image for the syllabus have discovered a beautiful array of US flags made of food.

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Now, for the Fourth of July, I’ve always loved to make a patriotically-themed white sheet cake, taking my precious time to carefully slice the strawberries and arrange them with raspberries and blueberries in different constellations nestled in the homemade whipped cream.  I do not own an American flag, nor wear patriotic clothing, nor say the Pledge of Allegiance, yet I revel in consuming an edible American icon one day of the year.  And interestingly, I’ve never strayed from this recipe until now, having just found a smorgasbord of different flag-themed foods, from delicious sweets to savory main dishes, all arranged in crimson and ivory stripes.  As silly as these images might seem, they scratch at the surface of America’s diverse food culture and plethora of eater identities (the health nut, the fast food junkie, the sweet-tooth, and so on).  Yet a trip to the local big-brand grocery store might make you think how few red, white, and blue ingredients you have on your palette.  How quick we forget about  blanched northern beans, an eggplant’s thin indigo shell, and the glistening skeleton of a buttered lobster that add color to America’s dinner table.

Check out these cool dishes below and suggest any unique variations that your family shares (or other ridiculous ones that you might find!).

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Ketchup-covered hot dogs with a mustard-starred napkin

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Taco Salad Flag!  With hidden layers of lettuce, sour cream, and meat, covered in cheddar cheese and lined with cherry tomatoes and chips.

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Blueberries make another appearance nestled on top of three layers of jello waving proudly in the wind

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For the health-conscious Americans, you have cherry tomatoes, mozzarella balls, and dark-leafed basil for a nice start to a Caprese salad.

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A gooey, straight from the can/bag flag cheesecake, with whole marshmallows forming billowing, puffy, stark white stripes (although, in my opinion, this would taste better if those marshmallows had been torched just a tiny bit).

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A classic strawberry and blueberry pie

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A flag pizza!  With sliced roasted tomatoes and blue potatoes underneath mozzarella dots and herbs

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For the healthy snacker we have flag kebabs: blueberries, strawberries, and bananas

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Last, but not least, a red, white, and blue layered cake – with enough food coloring to set your kidneys back a week.  Betty Crocker loves Americuh!