Group Project

The Humble Dumpling

Our group project started pretty innocently, we decided to study dumplings for the sole purpose of eating as an assignment and promptly booked ourselves a table at Ziggy’s House of Noms to start researching. All it took was a simple menu item that would change the course of our project forever… the Cheeseburger McDumpling.

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Most people probably haven’t thought much about the origin and traditions of the humble dumpling, we certainly hadn’t. A lot of different cuisines boast a version of the dumpling, filling packaged within pastry. From Spanish empanadas, Italian tortellini, Polish pierogies and Swedish kroppkakor, they all resemble the same idea as Asian dumplings.

Whilst there are a few theories on the creation of Jiaozi (traditional Chinese dumplings)  the most popular one puts the first dumplings way back in AD 25-220 during the Han dynasty, where they were first made by Zhang Zhongjing, a practitioner of medicine. His dumplings were referred to as ‘tender ears’, because of the shape and the warm soup and herbs in the dumplings were thought to help treat frostbitten ears of the poor during winter.

Dumplings are now associated with prosperity, traditionally eaten around Chinese New Year, sometimes a coin will be put in a dumpling for a lucky individual to find. They are a dish dumplings served year round, for breakfast, lunch and dinner with many people adapting the recipe to create a modern version.

ziggy

We initially went to the Wollongong dumpling and tea house, Ziggy’s House of Nomms. We chose a variety of things off the menu, including the Cheeseburger McDumpling. As soon as we saw it we were curious, laughing at the bizarre concept of a cheeseburger dumpling. We weren’t sure what to expect. The cheeseburger dumplings were a pleasant surprise, they tasted great, just like a cheeseburger. The flavours definitely didn’t resemble what we thought of as Asian dumplings though, especially considering the side of tomato sauce and mustard in place of the traditional soy sauce. We’d never experienced fusion dumplings before and as a result began thinking about how something as traditional as a dumpling had been completely westernized and turned into something that we are completely familiar with: the cheeseburger. Was this Western-tasting dumpling still Asian? Thus began our quest of creating very inauthentic dumplings.

Our next step was to make our own dumplings. One recipe ran more true to the traditional dumplings, made with pork and cabbage. For our fusion dumplings we walked down the supermarket aisles and picked out the first things we wanted to turn into a dumpling.

Watch our shopping, cooking and eating experience below:

Dumpling wrappers are quite versatile, they have a flavour however they accommodate not only sweet and savoury but also flavours from different cuisines. We were pleasantly surprised by how all flavours were enabled by the dumpling wrapper, it worked as a medium to accommodate the consumption of small amounts of a specific dish. We found that they are a very practical food medium as it is easy to manage portion size (in theory) and store for later consumption. Dumpling wrappers are essentially made of flour and water rolled flat into a disc that can be manipulated to hold small portions of another food. This makes it extremely versatile to work with and can be altered to suit the tastes of an individual. Dumplings are so dispersed across Asia but vary quite significantly from one town to the next, expressing the local culture of each community. In this way the dumpling can be seen as a communication technology for expressing a local culture. “Food tells us something about a culture’s approach to life. In the end, we can say that food functions symbolically as a communicative practice by which we create, manage and share meanings with others. Understanding culture, habits, rituals and tradition can be explored through food and the way others perceive it.” (Stajcic, 2013)

“Understanding a culture through food is an interesting process because once a person starts asking these questions, such as how something is made, what ingredients are in it, or why it is called a certain way, the answers obtained go beyond culinary learning. (Stajcic, 2013) We aimed to better explore a culture through it’s food; specifically the dumpling. The further we explored dumplings, something we’d only ever considered a delicious stuffed pastry, the more we learnt about the culture and tradition behind the dish. The process of buying, making, cooking and eating dumplings caused us to question how culture is shared through food. Subsequently, we were interested in the history of the dumpling, why they’re eaten and the way in which the fusion of traditional Chinese dumplings with Western food is evolving. In this sense, dumplings become a medium representative of aspects of local Chinese culture.

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via GIPHY

Our process of creating dumplings was inauthentic in the sense that we had little previous knowledge of how to make dumplings. The way we folded, cooked and experimented with fillings were no doubt different from the traditional sense. But it is hard to determine where to draw the line with traditional cooking, is it food, the recipe, the methods used to prepare the meal or even the cultural background of the individual. We picked a traditional recipe to cook however our cooking utensils were very much from our own culture, which could lessen the authenticity of the traditional meal. It has been suggested that digital culture, pop culture and tourism have a major effect on the social construction of cultural authenticity since the erosion of of traditional values (Kwon, 2012). Public awareness of culture is constantly reconstructed through interaction between popular culture and tourism, and it can be considered to be the substance of cultural authenticity in postmodern era (Kwon, 2012). The erosion of traditional values suggests that tradition or in this case traditional cuisine can no longer be invented, with the world so interconnected it is impossible to build on tradition and as a result fusion food is created. “Globalization has not necessarily homogenized all cultural differences nor erased the salience of cultural labels. Quite the contrary; it grows the franchise. In the global economy of consumption, the brand equity of sushi as Japanese cultural property adds to the prestige of both the country and the cuisine. Certainly, the presentation and ingredients or forms of sushi vary from country to country, but it is still seen as something very distinctive.” (Stajcic, 2013)

With the Cheeseburger McDumpling from Ziggy’s House of Nomms and the hybrids we created (Mac’n’Cheese’, Mi Goreng, Kit Kat, Wagon Wheel) there is the question of authenticity and appropriation of a dish that is heavily embedded in tradition. However, just because a dish evolves and is found in one form or another in restaurants across the globe does not mean it has lost its status as authentic Chinese cultural property. The cultural meaning of dumplings remain the same even if the medium is slightly different.

Through our study we have found that dumplings are a food platform, accommodating local expression whether traditional or otherwise. They are distinctively Asian, regardless of how the filling is changed, people will still associate the dish with Asia. The concept of cultural authenticity is constantly being re-defined by pop culture and through the tourism industry, with globalization it has become impossible to invent traditional cuisine leading to a fusion of different cultural dishes. 

By Jarrah Bowley and Meg Ensor

Prezi

 

References

How Chinese Food Got Hip in America. (2016). [Blog] The Atlantic. Available at: https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2016/03/chinese-food-hip-america/472983/ [Accessed 7 Oct. 2017].

Hsu, E. (2016). Chef, Author Eddie Huang Tackles Cultural Appropriation of Food at Athenaeum. [Blog] The Student Life. Available at: http://tsl.news/news/5952/ [Accessed 7 Oct. 2017].

Kwon, H. (2012). A Study of the Interaction between Tourism and Popular Culture in the Construction of Cultural Authenticity. The Tourism Studies, 24(1).

Sims, R. (2009). Food, place and authenticity: local food and the sustainable tourism experience. Journal of Sustainable Tourism, [online] 17(3), pp.321-336. Available at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09669580802359293?src=recsys [Accessed 8 Oct. 2017].

Stajcic, N. (2013). Understanding Culture: Food as a Means of Communication. Hemispheres, 28.

Zhang, J. (2014). Food as a Medium. [Blog] The Palate. Available at: https://uchicagopalate.wordpress.com/2014/05/07/food-as-a-medium/ [Accessed 7 Oct. 2017].

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Bebop Box

In first approaching this autoethnographic task, the four of us had grouped together in order to determine what would be our field site. Travelling to Asia, was out of the question, and we had all experienced Asian food to a similar extent as well. What we did however determine was that we had all held differing experiences in regards to Japanese anime, ranging from the extensive, to almost nothing at all. Although this determined our media format, the plethora of anime in existence made the selection of a single series extremely difficult. However, the one that continuously entered the conversation was Cowboy Bebop.

As influenced by Ellis’ definition of autoethnography as “an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyse personal experience in order to understand cultural experience” (Ellis et al, 2011), we decided to present our project in a gogglebox-esque format, combing clips of the show and our recorded reactions. This provided real time responses to each of the four viewers as they happened, allowing direct comparison of responses and both a visual and verbal account of individual epiphanies.

The selection of Cowboy Bebop was quite interesting in itself as we had never seen the series screened in Australia. The show is not available on Netflix, and due to its creation in the late 1990s, no advertisements are currently being used. Access then became somewhat of an issue, resulting in us borrowing a physical DVD set of the series. However, the quality of the DVD itself became very questionable after cutting on halfway through the first session. A quick search on YouTube provided us with the first three episodes in full, with English dubs and high definition. This forced us to question how these episodes were getting past the stringent copyright laws on YouTube, questioning whether the age of the series was a factor, or did the series just slip through the cracks. YouTube’s community guidelines rules specifically state that you cannot “use content in your videos that someone else owns the copyright to, such as music tracks, snippets of copyrighted programs, or videos made by other users, without necessary authorizations” (YouTube, 2016). Each of these three episodes was taken from a different channel, each demonstrating blatant copy write infringement. YouTube even flagged our video when attempting to upload! Further research into Anime message boards and forums provided no conclusive answer the problem, with some users stating that their posting of videos were taken down almost immediately, while others list channels hosting over 500 clips of Anime, to which they don’t own the rights.

The word-of-mouth recommendations of Cowboy Bebop by numerous individuals (both our age and older) and thus, representative of its cult following. Furthermore, research into this cult found over 46,000 subscribers to the Cowboy Bebop sub-reddit, a rating of 9/10 on IMBD, and two differing ratings on Rotten Tomatoes for the movie, 64% critics from critics and 90% from the audience. It was this cult following that led us to the conclusion that the series must be quite long such as other cult anime series like One Piece. However, we soon determined that this was wrong with the series holding only one season, and one movie. This furthermore made us question, why Cowboy Bebop had such a popular following in both Western Countries and Japan.

A particular element of the episodes that puzzled us was the music soundtrack that accompanied fight scenes as well as the theme song that played at the introduction of each episode.  Jazz has its origins in New Orleans, so it was surprising to see it use in a Japanese film.  Despite this, the music in Cowboy Bebop was composed by Yoko Kanno with The Seatbelts, a blues and jazz band.  These composers wrote the iconic Cowboy Bebop opening song titled Tank which has been embedded below if you wish to listen to it.

Interesting, the Cowboy Bebop sub -reddit has many positive comments about the inclusion of original music, supporting the ideal that the original sound track in the series is a key factor for its popularity.  Maybe the utilisation of jazz music was a way to attract audiences from more Westernised backgrounds.

Importantly, director of Cowboy Bebop, Shinichiro Watanabe was so impressed with Kanno’s score that he was inspired to go back and re-write scenes.  Each scene essentially had its own unique score and song.

Charlotte found the use of the jazz music quite odd, as having grown up playing Jazz music herself, her interpretation of where jazz music fits in in terms of interpretation, art and self expression was not in line with the use of jazz in Cowboy Bebop.  However all four of us noted that the theme music was similar to what we had heard in more Westernised films such as Mission Impossible and James Bond which also have orchestral music in some of there scenes.

All in all, the experience of anime was different for all four of us.  Perhaps this was due to the contextual knowledge we already had about elements of the series, including how much anime we had previously consumed.  Because of this, not all of us enjoyed the episodes as much as we thought, because we had pre-conceived ideas as to what it was about.  Cowboys fighting people.  I guess we were all wrong!

References:

Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1

Group Project: JRPG, Manga, Anime

Group members

Alex Belle

James Ayre

Pakkapon Potranandana

So our idea is to look at manga, anime, jrpg and compare it to Western comics and rpg. We think that JRPG tend to have a anime or manga look to them and with a focus on main story and character development, it make us think of JRPG as a game version of anime or manga. As manga shows value of Japanese in focus on a story and character development than action in RPG games or Western comics. Manga is usually paced a lot slower than Western comic, with less emphasis on action. Western comics will usually dedicate full-page spreads to action while manga tend to dedicate full-page spreads to emotional reactions. We found that these different are very similar to the different between JRPG and RPG. So we thinking of looking at these different, also looking at fandom and different between manga and anime of the same series (Naruto manga vs Naruto anime) 

Oz Comic Con, Just Cos.

For the DIGC330 group assignment our group consists of myself (Gabi Lester), Kristy O’Donnell, and Anthony Rewak. We have decided to create a short autoethnographic documentary about our experience at Oz Comic Con in Sydney on the 13th of September.

Andrew Michael Phillips-Momocon 2012-82

Sailor Moon is an incredibly popular anime, especially for cosplay.

We will be investigating the relationship between conventions and cosplay. We’re hoping that we can focus our research on the cosplay of anime characters. We will interview people who are cosplaying and ask them questions about who they are dressed as, why they chose that character, if they have cosplayed before, how important they think conventions are to fandoms and the fandom experience, and how the convention environment has influenced them and their interests.

We will be presenting our findings through a Prezi with parts of our documentary dispersed throughout our research.

Let us know what you think of our idea, and if you have any questions you’d like us to ask the cosplayers at Oz Comic Con! (also if any of you are going too let us know!)

Thanks,

Gabi and co.