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schooled again

My UCLA students this semester are doing great work in my food in/as modern Japanese culture class. We did Tanizaki Jun’ichirō’s perverse quest story, The Gourmet Club (Bishoku kurabu 美食倶楽部), today. It’s about a jaded aristocrat gourmet who travels the country seeking the grail of food, and disenchantedly goes slumming in labyrinthine parts of Tokyo. He discovers a hidden Chinese restaurant after smelling rice wine on the breath of two passing foreign students. He accosts them, and sweet-talks his way into deeper and deeper, more sublime layers, of spaces where newer and more extreme foods are served. The setpiece of the novella is a long scene where bok choy is modelled as a sort of food fatale. The main character, a certain Count G., features in a seduction scene in which all sorts of boundaries (male female, human vegetable, seducer/seductee, eater/eaten, transgressor/penetrated, etc, etc) are traversed. It’s pretty far out, as a critique of Orientalism and explorer fantasies, and giddy as a food romp (with lists of preposterous and also delicious delicacies)…but none of this prepared me for…Salad Fingers.

From episode 2, "Friends"


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