UEA American Studies student Cat Clark went looking for American Food in Norwich, actually her instructor offer to pay her to do it. So she stopped first at Route 66. (This site was the subject of an earlier post here.) Turns out, Route 66 has closed down. (Any theories as to why?) No worries, Cat found an alternative, ‘Captain America’s Hamburger Heaven.’ (By the way, check out the web-site for the place — check out the icons and the information on the food, including “the ‘Diet Special’ for those watching their waistline.”
Here Cat’s smart, funny, and interesting commentary.
When asked to write about an American restaurant in Norwich, to compare and contrast how or if culture can be seen through food, I at first thought as only a student can, great FREE FOOD!!! The more I have thought about it the more excited and interested in the experience of eating I have become. Let’s face it, everyone has to eat, it is one of the few things we all have in common. However, it is the very commonality of the act of eating, preparing and sharing of food that also offers us the clearest vantage point to observe our contrasting cultural or religious beliefs. Food has gone beyond just a means of sustenance it has moved into layers of meaning and significance. It is through food along with the act of eating that as children we learn about customs and family life. This linking of food and memory continues throughout our lives, with significant occasions, people and often places associated with the very act of consuming a meal. In fact many, if not all of us will have these food memories, that not only recall memories to mind but evoke emotions and thoughts. The memory of a first date or a last date, your grandfather’s 80th birthday, a wedding or a funeral. These ‘food memories’ not only evoke past memories or experiences but can also signify to our mind and body the mood in which a present meal is to be experienced. A perfect example of this would be a romantic meal for two!
So how does this relate to my burger you ask? Well I have been thinking about the representation of food, more specifically how a countries culture such as America is perceived and subsequently represented in the UK through food. The response I have come up with is this that the burger is somewhat of a cultural parody. As I sat in the restaurant surrounded by kitsch Americana, and ate a burger that, although ordered rare, would only achieve this classification had I got it yesterday, I began to wonder when this parody of American food became, to the UK at least, an acceptable representation of authenticity. Is it too consumer driven so that the idea that travels and lasts is the one with the all singing Disney America? That is I think what this burger represents, to me at least, Disney on a plate it looks real from the outside but has no depth or meaning. I was left with questions like do English people know what rare is? Do fish and chips translate in the same way to Americans? Is it possible to get a decent slice of cheesecake anywhere other than New York? I was also left remembering the last great, I mean truly keep you there for day’s kind of great burger I’d had. Technically I was in Canada for this burger, a tiny little town with 463 residents called Teslin, 2hrs from Whitehorse. If you’ll forgive the fact that the story is Canadian I think it is still relevant. Anyway, here we were lunchtime had arrived and my friend said “I know this great place for lunch.” We pulled up to the one and only hotel/food store/gas station come diner in town. I’m not expecting much at this point but what I got was a true marvel. A buffalo burger with poutine, I am salivating as I write this, and it struck me that this food memory was the real deal truly authentic. I thought to myself why doesn’t that kind of authenticity travel? Why are we left with this unrealistic less than representative version of American food? The answer came to me – it is the whole world’s obsession with two words: ‘fast’ and ‘consumerism’! I for one think it is a shame we miss out on the massively diverse food culture that America has because the mythical representation is what sells!
Cat Clark, American Studies, UEA
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