Created By: AgProv on July 16, 2011 Last Edited By: lebrel on January 21, 2013

Not So Foreign Food

So-called foreign cuisine redesigned to fit the tastes of locals.

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Trope
[revamped & updated]

Needs Fiction Examples. We have piles of Real Life ones already.

"Foreign" cuisine redesigned to fit the tastes of locals. Typically this means non-Western foods simplified and blandified for Westerners, but also may apply to Western cuisines that are exotic by American / British standards.

A person familiar with the bastardized version may consider the authentic version of the dish Foreign Queasine.

Examples

Film
  • Big Night: Two Italian immigrants in New Jersey the 1950's see that Italian restaurants are popular but serve inauthentic Americanized food, so they try to open an authentic Italian restaurant. The customers are bewildered by dishes like risotto, demand meatballs with their spaghetti, and generally don't get it. The restaurant fails.

Literature
  • Anansi Boys: The protagonist's mother (who is British) goes on a tour of the world; when she gets to China, she writes back to him that the food there is terrible, and she can't wait to get back to England where she can eat proper Chinese food.
  • Discworld has several examples:
    • Interesting Times: The wizzard Rincewind, who is ignorant of "Agatean" (pseudo-Chinese/Japanese) realities and cultural norms, goes into a tavern and blithely orders Number five, Number nine, and Number sixty-three as if he were ordering from a takeaway menu at home in Ankh-Morpork. He meets puzzlement from his server, and tries to elaborate:
      You know, your famous Dish of Soft White Lumps. The Dish of Glistening Crunchy Orange Stuff? The dish of Glistening Brown Stuff?
      Never heard of any of them, friend. We've got pig's trotter soup. That's all.
    Later, Rincewind is educated by a realist, who tells him that the only reason the peasants eat the pigs' trotters is that somebody else is porking the rest of the pig.
    • Jingo: Pratchett's cynical policeman, Sam Vimes, reflects that the meaning of the "Klatchian" (pseudo-Indian/Middle-Eastern) word vindaloo is mouth-searing inedible gristle for macho foreign idiots.
  • The Joy Luck Club: The protagonist's Chinese immigrant mother sniffs that only "Americans" (i.e., non-Asians) eat at restaurants that label themselves as "Chinese food" rather than a specific region or cuisine.

Real Life
  • Go to a restaurant in Islamabad or Bombay or Delhi and ask for a balti or a chicken tikka massala an you will be met by incomprehension and blank stares. These curry dishes originated in Britain and evolved there to fit the needs and desires of British people.
  • Chop suey takes its name from a real Chinese dish, but the current recipe is completely unrelated and was developed in America around the turn of the century. Similarly, General Gao's Chicken is a heavily modified version of a Chinese chicken dish (the original is stir-fried, not batter fried, salty rather than sweet-and-sour, and does not involve broccoli).
  • Fortune cookies are actually Japanese, modified into their current form in California around World War 2.
Community Feedback Replies: 35
  • July 16, 2011
    AmyJade
    There are several common Chinese dishes that originated in America. For example, crab rangoon (deep-fried wontons filled with crab and cream cheese, the latter of which isn't used in China).

    I can't think of any more examples of it being a trope in fiction, though.
  • July 16, 2011
    Bisected8
  • July 16, 2011
    Xtifr
    • Chop Suey is widely believed to be the American ur-example of this, but according to the the other wiki, it actually is Chinese.
  • July 16, 2011
    Micah
    • In Anansi Boys, the protagonist's mother goes on a tour of the world; when she gets to China, she writes back to him that the food there is terrible, and she can't wait to get back to England where she can eat proper Chinese food.
  • July 17, 2011
    randomsurfer
    The Other Wiki's article on American Chinese cuisine may be helpful. They might have an equivalent page on "British Indian cuisine" or similar but I haven't found it.

    I'm reminded of this article/essay:
    New Yorker Jim Lee, author of the 1968 Jim Lee's Chinese Cookbook, illustrated the situation with an anecdote. When some frustrated non-Chinese friends of his found they could not on their own order the same lobster Cantonese at the restaurant he had taken them to, he went back and listened to what the waiters hollered to the kitchen. Eventually he deciphered three phrases. Plain "lobster Cantonese" produced a bland concoction topped by a lot of pasty sauce; for those who asked for "real" Chinese food, "lobster Cantonese, Chinese style" had a little more garlic and less sauce. And "lobster Cantonese, Chinese style, eaten by Chinese" was the real McCoy, boldly seasoned and served with the natural juices from the stir-fry.
  • July 17, 2011
    terrafox
  • July 17, 2011
    katiek
    Chinese fortune cookies were invented in California, by a Chinese-American or Japanese-American businessman. The documentary The Killing Of A Chinese Cookie explores this.
  • July 17, 2011
    GuesssWho
  • July 17, 2011
    katiek
    I like Not So Foreign Food, because there shouldn't be a seperate trope for the fact of spagetti with meat sauce, as made with hamburger, is not at all Italian.
  • July 18, 2011
    deuxhero
    ^The same goes for Corn Beef and Ireland.
  • July 18, 2011
    kentdyson88
    California rolls and other American made sushi
  • July 18, 2011
    elwoz
  • July 18, 2011
    dangerwaffle
    We should probably mention that contrary to popular belief, Egg Foo Young isn't an example of this, being based on a traditional Shanghai dish. (Otherwise it's going to get added to the article again and again. Maybe we should just include a section for foods that are commonly believed to be examples but are actually aversions.)

    Fourthing Not So Foreign Food.
  • July 18, 2011
    UntunedStrings
    Fifthing Not So Foreign Food. The trope's not limited to Asian dishes, after all.
  • July 20, 2011
    bluepenguin
    Is this really a trope at all? We have, what, two examples of this being mentioned in fiction, and a lot of discussion of real life. It's all very interesting, but it doesn't seem relevant to the wiki.
  • February 21, 2012
    lebrel
    Rescuing this from the scrap heap, because I'm sure I've seen more of this:

    • Big Night: Two Italian immigrants in New Jersey the 1950's see that Italian restaurants are popular but serve inauthentic Americanized food, so they try to open an authentic Italian restaurant. The customers are bewildered by dishes like risotto, demand meatballs with their spaghetti, and generally don't get it. The restaurant fails.

    I also seem to remember the book version of The Joy Luck Club containing some ragging on Americanized "Chinese" food; anyone have a clearer memory?
  • February 21, 2012
    TBTabby
    Taco Bell is so non-Mexican that it's marketed as American cuisine in Mexico.
  • February 21, 2012
    elwoz
    ^^^ It gets used in fiction enough to warrant the trope, I think, but we should do all the discussion of Real Life in the description, and limit fictional examples to cases where it is explicit in-universe. No calling out specific RL restaurant chains.
  • February 23, 2012
    TBTabby
    (Double post)
  • February 23, 2012
    pawsplay
    Japanese "pizza" is a thing unlike American pizza, itself a transformation of Neopolitan pie.
  • March 8, 2012
    lebrel
    Any other fiction examples that people can think of, or is this Too Rare To Trope as fiction?
  • March 8, 2012
    chico
    ^^^ You could include more fiction if you were to revise the description/scope to include situations where a character has food they are familiar with prepared by somebody foreign who is not familiar with their cuisine. This happens in a number of science fiction themed works I can think of.

    The film The Accidental Tourist may qualify as a subversion or inversion depending on how you look at it. The William Hurt character writes travel guides for American business travelers who dislike travelling. One thing he covers are places to eat in other countries where you can find basic meat and potato meals that are similar to those one would find in their home town.
  • March 8, 2012
    pawsplay
    Anansi Boys, Big Night, and Real Life is three examples, more or less. That's enough to trope in my book.
  • March 9, 2012
    Arivne
    ^ There are two problems with the Three Rules Of Three rule of at least three examples before launching:
    • As lebrel mentioned, there's a real chance that having so few examples means it's Too Rare To Trope.
    • If a trope is launched with only three examples then it would (or should) be added to the Tropes Needing Examples page, which is embarrassing.
  • March 9, 2012
    pawsplay
    Too Rare To Trope says one example, or two or three related examples. We already have three unrelated examples.
  • March 9, 2012
    ParadiscaCorbasi
    • It's regional in the same country too. New York Chinese food and Atlanta Chinese Food are two different things, and people from each region do not care so much for the other region's way of cooking it.
  • March 9, 2012
    lebrel
    Incidentally, does anybody know what kind of formatting will get the last line of the Interesting Times example to be properly indented? It should be at the two-bullet-point level, but not part of the quote.
  • March 10, 2012
    randomsurfer
    ^Colons are used, much like the dashes to make quotes: one more than the bullet point in question will indent properly. In this case, put three colons before the new paragraph.

    ** This is the bullet point. [line break]
    --->This is the quote. [line break]
    :::This is the second paragraph of the bullet point.

    becomes

    • This is the bullet point.
      This is the quote.
    This is the second paragraph of the bullet point.
  • March 12, 2012
    lebrel
    ^ Thanks!
  • April 10, 2012
    lebrel
    Bump. Can anyone think of any other fictional examples?
  • April 10, 2012
    ZombieAladdin
    A bit of context here: Panda Express was founded by a husband-and-wife team of Chinese immigrants. They arrived in America in the 1960s, when fast food chains were sweeping the nation, and felt that they all served much the same food: Hamburgers, fries, and sometimes hot dogs. They gathered some authentic Chinese chefs to make the menu, and even now, all of their head chefs come from Chinese-speaking countries, as in this couple travels to east Asia to look for promising restaurateurs to fly them to America. It is still Americanized (this couple specifically wanted to open up an Americanized Chinese fast food chain), but its origins are genuine.

    As for a fictional example, I don't know if this would count or not:

    Anime And Manga: The premise of Yakitake Japan is that some bakery chefs realized that there are no breads associated with Japan, so they proceed to make easternized versions of European breads and put them in cooking competitions against western chefs.
  • April 22, 2012
    aurora369
    Another Real Life example: "anti-sushi" is a food sold in Russian restaurants which is basically sushi with Russian and Western ingredients.
  • January 18, 2013
    elwoz
    Still needs more fictional examples lest it turn into Complaining About Restaurant Chains You Don't Like.
  • January 19, 2013
    AgProv
    Wow, I'd forgotten I started this one... I'll have a think about the points raised and come back and revise it. Thank you all kindly, guys.
  • January 21, 2013
    randomsurfer
    Zig Zagged on The Simpsons when the family goes to Japan and dine at a restaurant called "Americatown," where they present The Theme Park Version of the US.
    Lisa: Dad, we didn't come halfway around the world to eat at "Americatown."
    Marge: I'd like to see the Japanese take on the club sandwich! I bet it's smaller and more efficient.
    snip
    Japanese Waiter: Howdy gangstas! I'm average American Joe Salaryman waiter.
    Bart: These prices suck! 10,000 yen for coleslaw?
    Lisa: Don't you serve anything that's even remotely Japanese?
    Waiter: Don't ask me; I don't know anything! I'm product of American education system. I also build poor-quality cars and inferior-style electronics.
    Homer: [cackles] Oh, they got our number!

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