January 13, 2019

Food for Thought

It’s somewhat miraculous that I can still speak and understand Japanese after more than 3 decades of not using it. Likewise, it’s fascinating that, when I walk into a Japanese restaurant, I can tell, from all the subtle details, whether the owner is Japanese or not. Like language, I believe culture too must be acquired before 12 in order to be fluent.

The owner of Lady M is a half Japanese businessman who grew up spending summers in Japan. In my mind, this fact explains almost every detail of this pastry shop, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. It’s a hybrid of Japanese craftsmanship and American entrepreneurism.

Normally, a culture grows like a tree, but American culture grows like grass, that is, sideways. People come here from different parts of the world with snipped branches and plant them, like you can do with goji berry branches. What Americans see of foreign cultures are these fresh branches snipped off of much larger trees.

When we talk about cultural “authenticity,” in America, we are talking about the missing tree trunk. Most Americans cannot see the authenticity of a foreign culture; they must ask the natives. But they are free to pursue a different kind of authenticity; being authentic to themselves.

On a large tree, your branch might not be growing at the best location for being true to yourself, but you cannot just walk across to the other side of the tree and start your branch. You would have to walk down to the ground. That’s essentially what coming to America is, and as a second generation American, you have many trees to choose from.

#japanesefood #japanesepastry #individualism #americanfreedom #nycfood #nycfoodie #montblanc #chestnut #entrepreneurism