There is something to be said for “fusion” cooking, and much more than something to be said about the other implications of this concept, be it cultural appropriation or a reflection on colonialism. One of the stranger ones I experienced the other day was “Japadog”: American hot dogs but with a “Japanese twist”. Apparently this bizarre concoction started in Vancouver, BC and now like a Hokusai octopus has spread its tentacles across the rest of the North American West Coast. It has recently arrived in Santa Monica.
What’s the twist, you ask? How about teriyaki sauce. OK, innocuous enough. How about fish flakes and seaweed? A bit fishy you say? That’s part of the point but we’ve already touched on the yin-yang of femininity and masculinity in the mind of the land of the rising sun.
Here’s where it gets interesting. I have already mentioned that Japan can be called “penis-obsessed”. Look no further than the fertility ritual known as Kanamari Matsuri.
The hot dog is a penis, plain and simple. By enveloping it in the feminine seaweed which brings to mind images of not just vaginas but mermaids, the process is a type of mating ritual. Yes you can say the same thing about “surf and turf” but the seaweed with its hair-like structure also brings to mind not only the vagina but also the Medusa, as well as the “Rusalka” in Slavic folklore. The slimy vaginal texture of the seaweed literally grips the penis sausage in her dubious embrace. This is a case of role-reversal but the sub-dom dynamic which is part of every mating ritual takes a slight detour in the case of sausage vs seaweed.
Sausage, while universal, is associated with certain cultures more than others, notably Germanic and Slavic. By using feminine seaweed to engulf the engorged member of Europe is a better and more efficient way to rape the colonial powers, as per this illustration from the Russian-Japanese War of 1905.
If you can’t do it in war, you can do it through food. This is where Japandog uses an insidious technique. Instead of full blown rape, like sticking the hot dog into a big plate of raw fish, it uses seaweed to beguile and then destroy.
Fortunately, Japadog is actually a success. It is better than your average dog but, as much as I like seaweed, the flavor of the seagrass did not really guide the sausage one way or the other. The only impression I was left with a lingering sense of something “oriental”, some type of miasmic reminder that that “they” are plotting to take over even our cherished wurst, and that the yellow peril is real.
However, according to Zizek, “For the West, Japan is the ambiguous Other: at the same time it fascinates you and repels you.” – a type of “uncanny valley” one can say.
Furthermore, Zizek states: “But there is another Japan, the psycho-analytic. Whenever you have the multi-culturalist approach, the almost standard example is Japan and its way of ‘Verneinung’, saying no. There are thirty ways to say no. You say no to your wife in one way, no to a child in another way. There is not one negation. There exists a small Lacanian volume, ‘La chose japonaise.’ They elaborate the borrowing of other languages, all these ambiguities. Didn’t Lacan say that Japanese do not have an unconscious?”
Try the hot dog and ponder these thoughts while you try to find an “umami” between Oscar Mayer and Hideki Tojo.
Overall rating: B+