“Why is it that people are willing to spend $20 on a bowl of pasta with sauce that they might actually be able to replicate pretty faithfully at home, yet they balk at the notion of a white-table cloth Thai restaurant, or a tacos that cost more than $3 each? Even in a city as “cosmopolitan” as New York, restaurant openings like Tamarind Tribeca (Indian) and Lotus of Siam (Thai) always seem to elicit this knee-jerk reaction from some diners who have decided that certain countries produce food that belongs in the “cheap eats” category—and it’s not allowed out. (Side note: How often do magazine lists of “cheap eats” double as rundowns of outer-borough ethnic foods?) Yelp, Chowhound, and other restaurant sites are littered with comments like, “$5 for dumplings?? I’ll go to Flushing, thanks!” or “When I was backpacking in India this dish cost like five cents, only an idiot would pay that much!” Yet you never see complaints about the prices at Western restaurants framed in these terms, because it’s ingrained in people’s heads that these foods are somehow “worth” more. If we’re talking foie gras or chateaubriand, fair enough. But be real: You know damn well that rigatoni sorrentino is no more expensive to produce than a plate of duck laab, so to decry a pricey version as a ripoff is disingenuous. This question of perceived value is becoming increasingly troublesome as more non-native (read: white) chefs take on “ethnic” cuisines, and suddenly it’s okay to charge $14 for shu mai because hey, the chef is ELEVATING the cuisine.”
It has been exactly 70 years since the sinking of 対馬丸 (Tsushima Maru), a boat carrying 1,484 civilians (826 of which were school children). It was to take them from Okinawa to safety on the Mainland Japan. However, the boat was attacked by the USS Bowfin, nicknamed the “Pearl Harbor Avenger”, and it sank within 11 minutes. Only 59 survived.
Today, there is a memorial museum in Okinawa dedicated to the tragedy, and I have visited it many times with my grandmother, who had had a friend who died on the ship. At the museum, there is a large wall filled with over a thousand names and the ages of the people who died on Tsushima Maru. Walking past, I could see people aged in their 70s, most likely accompanying a young grandchild, I saw children ranging from 1 to 16 years old. There were even a few with the number 0, yet to be born, next to their mother’s name. Every time I see that wall, my heart wrenches at the injustice of it. Whether or not the USA knew is still unclear, although English sources written by Americans often say it was a mistake. However I do not think it matters if it was on purpose or not any longer, I just want the lives of those who died to be remembered. On this day, I remember.