I went to the Fabulous Thunderbird today for a story. It's a motel on the strip, beloved (or scorned) for decades for its Indian-themed interior. I went there in 2000 and took some pictures; they ended up on the website, because everything ends up here eventually. I'd link, but the site will have a big update next week - with video and Haunting Pictures.
I went into Expensive Suites, explored the kitchens, and got enough then-and-now pictures to make the Definitive Site on its architectural significance. Even though it's been renovated almost beyond recognition, they didn't change the nomenclature; it was embedded too deep in the signage. So you had this modern-ish rehabbed hotel with inexplicable Indian designs here and there, and tribal names for all the banquet halls. Only stood for 44 years.
Okay, two things. One: this hasn't changed in 44 years.
The hallway from the kitchen to the banquet rooms. The worker's space. That opaque glass, the railings - it's so early 60s. As is this, beneath the new horribleness:
The floating slabs, the thin poles. The original modern bones were obscured by its Indian bric-a-brac, then smothered in the rehab. There was so much of this stuff that no one hesitated to tear it down, and now that there's little its champions can't make the case for saving an old motel. Because it can't be made. This is a huge lot by the Mall of America, and something new will rise on the spot and throw off lots of tax money. It is interesting to consider what was here before the motel, though. Nothing. Fields. Pasture. Then a modern motel! From primitive to futurism in the course of a year.
||Out of nowhere, Daughter decided to start animating again. This is a po star, Aurora. Sort of a Enya for a new generation.
There is a lie we like to tell ourselves, a bending of the truth that permeates most of the food world in the West. We like burgers and fries, and other quintessentially American dishes, but we also love foreign cuisines, the vast and varied bucket of foods we rush to dub "ethnic."
That's the first paragraph. Do you see a lie? No. Let's try the second one.
Surely you have told someone that you adore curry, or that you like nothing better than a bowl of pad Thai. Admit it, you have thought, at one point or another, that an unfamiliar dish, whatever it was, was so spicy it must be authentic.
I do adore curry. Don't eat a lot of pad Thai. I do not equate spiciness with authenticity.
But behind our public enthusiasm for Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, Ethiopian, Korean, and the many other foreign cuisines that can be enjoyed in cities like New York, there is also private, and yet pronounced, form of bias, a subtle hypocrisy that suggests we think these foods are inferior.
I love that: many other foreign cuisines that can be enjoyed in cities like New York. We've had Vietnamese in Mpls for years. An Ethiopian restaurant opened in the 80s. (I did not like it.) As for the bias, it is both subtle yet pronounced, and privately - because we're all racists - we believe these "ethnic" foods to be inferior.
To what? Hamburgers? I think Korean BBQ, as I've had it, is inferior to American variations. I think a hamburger is a thing apart. I think there's nothing like good Indian for the range and depth of flavor.
Our palate has undergone something of a renaissance over the past century, evolving to incorporate the cuisines of the immigrants who have made the United States their home. But
Our palates have been changed and renewed, informed by different cultures; we have changed for the better by the influence of newcomers. BUT. BUT BUT BUT BUT BUT, there always has to be a damned but.
. . . we have incorporated these foods on our terms — not on theirs. We want "ethnic food" to be authentic, but we are almost never willing to pay for it.
This is nonsense. What are our terms? What are their terms? Do we determine that if a food is indeed authentic, we are entitled to skip out on the bill?
There is ample evidence that we treat these foods as inferior, as Krishnendu Ray, the chair of nutrition and food studies at New York University, writes in his new book
Of course he does.
Despite complex ingredients and labor-intensive cooking methods that rival or even eclipse those associated with some of the most celebrated cuisines — think French, Spanish and Italian — we want our Indian food fast, and we want it cheap.
I paid $51 for an Indian meal for three people last week.
The people who make the "ethnic food" we eat are not always what they seem.
They are shapeshifters from Alpha Centauri, who look like Indians but are really blobs of goo arranged in a simulacrum of human form. Don't look too closely. Likewise all the kitchens on Eat Street in Minneapolis, where the Korean restaurants have nothing but insectisoid creatures rattling pots and dishes with their chitinous mandibles.
Nor is the food, which, because of our refusal to treat it with the same prestige we treat others, is not nearly as authentic as we imagine it to be.
I refuse. I REFUSE TO TREAT INDIAN FOOD LIKE ITALIAN FOOD, and hence authenticity is leached away as if a great psychic strip of blotter paper had been lowered into the restaurant's psychic field.
On to the interview, which quotes the author as saying we used to say "Foreign food" and now we say "ethnic food."
Now, I think what's happening is some people are beginning to get the sense that the word ethnic is this weird catch-all category that isn't useful anymore, that we should be talking more about Indian food or Thai food or Pakistani food, or maybe even further specifying.
I don't know anyone who says "let's eat some ethnic food," and I live in Minnesota.
Maybe saying Indian food doesn't even make sense. Maybe what makes most sense is talking about regional cuisines.
Agreed. It's like saying "Italian" for red-sauce pasta. But we don't know enough about the variations in Indian cuisine. We will; at present we do not. India, I suspect, is not generally acquainted with the regional variations of American BBQ. Because they are all racists with a self-centered view of the world that otherizes the differences in other cultures. Right?
The interviewer says that we may eat "ethnic" cuisine, but we're not as open-minded as we think.
When we call a food ethnic, we are signifying a difference but also a certain kind of inferiority. French cuisine has never been defined as ethnic. Japanese cuisine is not considered ethnic today. Those are examples of cuisines that are both foreign and prestigious. There is no inferiority associated with them.
That's because people didn't think of Frenchness as an "ethnicity," inasmuch as Ethnic Studies classes at the University didn't call them that. The Japanese were considered foreign, but aren't regarded as "ethnic" today because no one says they want Japanese anymore. That used to mean "tempura" but now it means "sushi," and people say "sushi."
There are what I call internal hierarchies of tastes, and there is nothing that shows this better than when you look at price, when you look at what we are willing to pay for different types of food. We are really not willing to pay for "ethnic food."
Every hole-in-the-wall take-out joint is twice as expensive as a trip to McDonald's.
The Civil Rights movement
Oh for God's sake. Must we?
The Civil Rights movement delegitimized the comfortable assignment of inferiority to different people and cultures. And that's a good thing. It's a powerful thing that's a very important part of American culture. But
BUT. BUT BUT BUT BUT BUT, there always has to be a damned but.
that doesn't mean it cured us of more implicit forms of assigning inferiority, and these hierarchies I think do a good job of showing that.
So unless we start paying more for "ethnic" food, we're racists.
It has become impolite to say that certain foods are inferior. But we are still certainly indicating that we feel that way.
In my neighborhood there is a Chinese joint next to a BBQ joint. Beef with Broccoli: $6.35. You get about 15 pieces of some beef-like substance, thin shingles in a box of vegetables. It's delicious. Next door at the BBQ joint, you get a brisket sandwich for $7.75, and you get a quarter cow. And slaw! To the West, at Lotza Mozza, a spendy (I hate that word) Italian place, you can get an order of Pappardelle Bolognese for $12. Across the street at the Japanese place, the rolls go for $14 - $16.
And so the piece goes on at great length. This exchange stood out:
Q. Not to be cynical, but I'm about to be cynical. Is there a racial component to our food tastes? Are some cuisines kind of stuck in place because of underlying prejudices?
q That's a good question. I mean, does it matter that the Chinese look and appear as being racially different from white folks? The Japanese example tells me that at the end of it class can triumph against color or race. The African American example, however, tells me that color or race can triumph against class. I don't know exactly where the Chinese are going to fall, but my guess is that it's going to look a bit more like the case of the Japanese, partly because we have revised our opinion of East Asians. That's because of the relative strength of national economies over there. It's also because of school performance of these minorities.
Asian kids do well in school, and China's economy looks good, so we're willing to pay more for Chinese food. Did they raise their prices? They did, but subconsciously I find myself unwilling to complain, as their impressive aggregate test scores indicate cultural parity with the West.
. . . there are almost 50,000 Chinese restaurants in the United States, and yet most of us are unwilling to pay more than $10 for Chinese food.
It's absurd. I mean, in my mind it's one of the most subtle and sophisticated cuisines there are
But not as practiced in the take-out joints. It's indistinguishable mush. There's nothing subtle or sophisticated about it, but they shovel it out because people like it, and it comes with vanilla-flavored cookies made from shellac.
I love this comment - and they're almost universally contemptuous:
French food is an over priced bore and most Italian restaurants are an insult to the homeland. Japanese food is probably the only cuisine that justifies it's sticker price. Thai, Indian, and Ethiopian are probably underpriced but nothing an interior designer can't fix.
In case you were thinking he got a pass at the time:
A dramatic and comic story? "By which we hope to do something to establish the principles of American Freedom." Norm, that's been done. But good work on the whole "Protocols" nonsense, which was debunked even by '22.
Trouble was, Henry could get away with Jew Mania back then. He could get away with it today if he'd called it BDS.
The lovely cover is a counterpoint to Henry's Head:
This week in the adventure of the Scientist with an Undefined Speciality vs. the Guy in an Ugly Mask:
At the end of the last ep we were pretty sure her head was blown off. Well:
Well, that's not what happened. He freaked out as he looked down at the severed neck and exploded skull, remember?
He realizes the doctor isn't a doctor, and knocks him out with one punch. So they have Crimsy's main hench in their possession. Back to the lair:
. . . where they're making heavy water to complete the larger cyclotrode. Informed that Ashe has been taken prisoner, CG says they'll have to arrange for his escape. Since he's handcuffed to a chair, that doesn't seem like that much of a problem. A turncoat guard lets him out, but Duncan shows up and there's a brief fistfight, just to check that box. Hope it's not the only one.
Hey, turns out it was a ruse! The guard was in on the deal. They're going to follow Ashe. There's a television unit concealed in the back of his car, you see.
Duncan tells the League of Scientists that he won't be coming to the meeting, because he's following the henchman to the Ghost's HQ. Of course, with all the leaks and compromised scientists in this institution, that's the first bunch you'd tell about your plans. Duncan runs off to follow Ashe, and you wonder . . . what was the title again? Blazing Fury? So someone's going to go on fire.
Diana tells him where to go while the soundtrack tries to make it more exciting than it actually is. Really helpful stuff here:
Duncan finds the tunnel in the canyon, and of course doesn't bother to call the police - perhaps because it would be odd at this point to tell them about a criminal mastermind who walks around in a skull mask. (Which has to smell something awful.) Meanwhile, back in the lab, they realize they didn't write a script for today's ep, and decide just to throw in boilerplate:
Of course, as is the case when anyone gets the drop on anyone in a serial, it turns into a fistfight. Whoa! Watch out for that heavy water:
Quite balletic, isn't it? Alas, a big drum of this stuff got punctured.
At this point I think the Crimson Ghost is starting to feel a little stupid. This hasn't been going well for him at all. Henchmen picked off one by one; plans foiled; lab destroyed. It takes a certain kind of megalomaniac to believe in himself after all that, but that's our Crimsy.
As if all that wasn't enough, there are ten more illustrations from the 1933 World's Fair - in color! See you around.