Random Reads: #MyBananaStory + Off the Menu

Monday, March 09, 2015


"After moving to the US, I tried to fit in for sure, but it wasn’t my appearance that I tried so desperately to change. I was proud of being different. I was proud of the fact that I ate hotdogs for breakfast and packed rice for lunch. What I wasn’t proud of was my accent. I don’t know why, but I tried really hard to ‘normalize’ it. Maybe it’s because that was the only way I could think of for them to listen to me without immediately branding me as a foreigner…so I could make them understand that just because I have a Filipino lifestyle, that doesn’t mean I’m a foreigner. I’m just really glad I found the few, open-minded people in my earlier years in the US who invested time in getting to know me while appreciating my culture, and not just judging it from afar,” said Charmaine Balisalisa, director of creative enterprises of Paradox.

"Off the Menu: Asian America,” filmmaker Grace Lee’s newest food documentary is, in her words, “a food show, but not that kind of food show.” Meaning: you won’t find any Ken Burnsian pans across close-up shots of glistening bowls of noodles in this film, which which will premiere CAAMFest in San Francisco. Instead Lee, whose previous films include “Janeane from Des Moines” and “American Revolutionary,” about the activist Grace Lee Boggs, embarked on a four-state tour across the U.S. to talk with folks about their Asian-American culture, identities and communities, and the role food plays in all of it. She met a multi-generational family of octopus hunters in Hawaii, the Japanese-American man who introduced sushi to the Texas masses, and a young Chinese-American chef mining the flavors of his childhood for a new, upscale audience. There are plenty of mouth-watering shots of food and cooking in action, but that’s not what Lee’s here for.