Thursday, December 08, 2011

Ave, Elisson!

Elisson's got a brief but thoughtful Pearl Harbor Day tribute up.

UPDATE: There's a minor uproar going on about Sidwell Friends School, the school that President Obama's two daughters attend. It seems the school has chosen to serve Japanese food on Pearl Harbor Day. Menu planners claim the culinary choice was a random assignment made months ago. I just checked out the menu... and see almost nothing recognizably Japanese about it, except perhaps for the edamame. If anything, the selections skew heavily Chinese-American (because they certainly aren't truly Chinese, either!).

Sidwell Friends doesn't deserve to be tarred and feathered for its menu. And even if an American school cafeteria did somehow manage to pull off the miracle of serving authentically and unrepentantly Japanese food on Pearl Harbor Day, are we really so symbol-minded* that we can't separate cuisine from a historical event? Why should food suffer from guilt by association? Should I be wary of vegetarians because Hitler happened to be one?

And are we, today, the enemy of Japan? Certainly there are reasons to be bitter about the history of Japan's actions before 1945, but life also relentlessly moves forward. Relationships evolve. Even South Korea, for all its justified historical anger, has close ties to Japan: business relationships, student cultural exchanges, tourism, academic dialogue, etc. Pearl Harbor Day isn't Beat Up a Japanese Day.

None of this means we should cast Pearl Harbor Day aside. Remembrance, an awareness of our past, is crucial if our goal is to move forward, as a global community, without repeating the mistakes of previous generations. And if we're going to address our lingering bitterness about events from a lifetime ago, shouldn't we be concentrating on something more profound than cafeteria menu items?

*"I leave symbols to the symbol-minded," said George Carlin in his Madison Square Garden performance.



Anonymous said...

I'm not sure most of America and most especially the press core is capable of anything more profound than menu items. It is the consequence of over fifty years of dumbing down our education institutions.

Charles said...

Well, teriyaki is certainly recognizably Japanese, but that is neither here nor there. It seems to be a mish-mash of Asian choices.

When I was in grade school, we had crap food. I would have loved to have selections like that. Heck, we got excited about "French Bread Pizza," which was tomato sauce and mozzarella slapped onto a stale loaf of "French bread" (i.e., not real French bread) and toasted.

People will raise a ruckus about anything, though. They're just looking for an excuse to be pissed off at someone.

Kevin Kim said...


Alas for the deterioration of public discourse.


I wasn't so sure about teriyaki, which I tend to think of as more Japanese-American than Japanese these days, especially in light of all the Korean-run teriyaki-jip I saw while out west. Of course, that doesn't change the fact that teriyaki is still prevalent in Japan. But who knows what sort of teriyaki the school food prep staff had in mind?

I have a terrible confession to make: I occasionally find myself missing those old mystery-meat burgers-- the wimpy-sized, foil-wrapped ones that you had to stuff with French fries and inundate in ketchup if you wanted to have a substantial meal.

John McCrarey said...

I had forgotten that we had menu mandates on dates of significant historical events.

Other than Thanksgiving of course. Although I suppose even that might be offensive to some Native Americans seeing as how things turned out the way they did. I mean, they don't even invite the Redskins to play in the big TG game anymore.

Well, just to be on the safe side I'm scratching hamburgers off the menu for the 11th. That's the day that bastard Hitler declared war on the good ol' USA....