Sorry, folks. I hit the publish on this before I meant to. In any case an interesting story in Slate. I’d actually put the beginnings of the Japanese move to wheat at the beginning of the twentieth century. That established the idea that wheat was good and strengthening, laying the foundations for the big increase in wheat eating following World War II.
How did Japan come to be a wheat-obsessed nation that needs gimmicks like the Gopan to eat rice disguised as wheat flour? The story of Japan’s conversion from rice to wheat involves a long, relentless campaign by the best propagandists in the business—the U.S. government, of course.
via Wheat in Japan: How the nation learned to love the American grain instead of rice. – Slate Magazine.
Linguists use the term loan words for terms borrowed from another language. Would this help clarify the discussion of what are popularly called “fusion cuisines?” The more I think about this term, the more it seems to me to obscure more than it clarifies. Cuisines are complex structures with culinary/social/political/aesthetic/economic/religious/health/even environmental goals, rules for achieving those goals, techniques (overlapping with rules), ingredients, raw materials, etc etc. Very rarely do two cuisines fuse, if by fuse we mean meld all those elements to make a new whole.
Much more often there is borrowing of bits and pieces. Could it not be argued that much of contemporary “fusion” cuisine actually involves only the borrowing of ingredients. Cooks use, say, Asian spices or condiments in dishes that remain Western in their basic structure.
And going back in history, would it not clarify discussions of events such as the Columbian exchange to distinguish exchange of cuisine (of which there was very little at least in the west-east direction), of technique (ditto), and of ingredients, that is stored or preserved or processed raw materials (ditto) and raw materials, that is plants and animals (of which there was a fair bit)? I’ve blogged about this before here and here.
Just returned with a new jar of tahini from Café Jekemir, a delightful chain of Lebanese-Mexican coffee shops that have been in business since the 1930s here in Mexico City.
Since most of the canned and bottled foodstuffs they carry come from the Middle East, I turned this over to check out exactly where. Hmm. The address was Cortazar, a small town in the south of the state of Guanajuato in central Mexico where I lived until recently.
The web is a wonderful thing and it took about one minute to google Dipasa. Here’s their own blurb.
With over 30 years of experience Dipasa is considered the world’s most reliable processor and supplier of Sesame Seed and it’s derivates like Hulled sesame seed, sesame oil, sesame flour, tahini and sesame candy.
The company is Mexican, started about thirty years ago. I imagine they originally supplied the local market which uses sesame seeds in a variety of ways, not least to sprinkle on top of Mexico’s signature dish, mole. Now it exports all the products above to 54 countries including Lebanon, Syria and Jordan.
And darn, why didn’t I learn about this when I was still close enough to go visit? Leaving aside tahini, I want to know how much sesame oil in China and Japan, how many of those seeds on the hamburger buns world wide come from Dipasa.