Okay, guys, here’s where I’m at, I love Thai Cuisine on Drake Road. Yes, that is the restaurant with the huge red neon letters. I couldn’t really figure out why they didn’t come up with a little more creative of a name, but I guess if they’re going for accessibility this is it. As the article points out, for people like me who have never been to Thailand, and never been told how authentic the food actually is, I really have no idea what I’m eating. Would we call it the Americanized cousin of Thai? However, it is actually probably a part of the middle ground that is discussed in the article, Culinary Tourism. There are the gold decorations adorning the walls, the elephants, the bamboo everything to make it appear “authentic.”
Now, let’s be real, when I go to Thai Cuisine I am mostly looking to get a plate of veggie, curry, pad Thai that I can eat for the next two days to feed myself. It’s slightly spicy, there’s egg, and I love noodles. I am probably not complaining. However, this is me that we’re talking about. I guess it kind of concerns me if people are attributing this to what a “Thai Experience” actually is. I’m trying to get my head all around this as I write it out, but maybe it’s not coming out very clearly.
I also love Indian food. There’s this great restaurant in Ann Arbor called Shalimar that probably actually is pretty authentic. My dad is friends with the owner and that’s what he’s been told, something about various regions of India and the way that food differs, I’m not sure. I don’t really have time to go stay in Ann Arbor with my dad any more (I haven’t since I was much younger) so I’ve forgotten some of these things. I was however taught, that when you go to a foreign restaurant not to tempt the chef by ordering things spicier than what they appear on the menu, especially as a white girl in their restaurant.
I once went to a Thai restaurant in Battle Creek with my ex-boyfriend’s family and watched in horror as they ordered the “spicy” option on the menu. By the end of the meal they literally couldn’t talk their lips were so numb. Also, they didn’t believe me when I told them the water wasn’t going to do anything and that they should order a milk based drink…Anyways, I digress.
I guess what I’m saying is that the whole experiencing food from different cultures is this double-edged sword (is that the phrase?). I hope when I’m enjoying chicken korma, or naan bread I’m not actually “eating the other as a colonist,” or “taking over another group by appropriating its cultural traditions.” Instead, I hope that this is me learning to experience other flavors and tastes even if they are not completely accurate. Being a Midwestern girl, I can only eat so many potatoes.
Also, speaking to authentic on a completely random topic, I got to thinking about my mom’s dinner parties as our own kind of foreign cuisine. I was wondering how authentic of a representation those dinner parties actually are of our “culture.” I mean, we’ve had to clean the house, she cooks a meal she normally wouldn’t take the time to do, and she dresses up for the occasion. Yes, this is my mom, but at the same time she’s been altered for the purpose of other people. How authentic can anything actually be if you’re sharing it? I don’t know, just some food for thought. Punny, right?