You and Me, Global Brother

Boycott French wines or Asian restaurants? Let's get real, people!

Philosophically, it's easy to take a moral stance as high as the temperature in a microwave oven (or fire pit, for the purists). I don't think many in our community would disagree with Myles Chefetz, proprietor of Nemo, Shoji Sushi, and Big Pink, who tosses off, "Don't let our tongues be ruled by CNN." Or Kevin Aoki, vice president of marketing for Benihana Inc. A first-generation American, he "grew up with a culture and a family heritage that was not accustomed to so much influence from the media. We were inspired to adhere to our own thoughts and values and not to be swayed by public opinion. The media should not rule our lives and certainly not our palates. My father's (Rocky Aoki) credo has always been 'One planet, one people' and I agree. Our family and our corporate goal is to enrich the lives of our patrons and friends by exposing them to all the beauty of the Japanese cuisine and culture and we hope to continue doing so without having to pay heed to what is politically correct at this moment, as it will surely change in the next moment."

But in practical terms, what can we do to encourage others who may not be so inclined to ease up on the gastronomic ethnocentrism? An answer doesn't come readily to mind. "I haven't a clue of what to do," admits food writer Viviana Carballo, "except to do what I do. Eat everything, and damn the torpedoes!"

Aside from keeping politics out of the kitchen completely, which in realistic terms may not even be an option, we can build up instead of tearing down. Rather than forgoing the escargots as a way of showing patriotism, head to Doraku on May 17 for "Armed Forces Day," when any diner with a military ID receives 25 percent off the check. And while I'm not much of a flag-waver, even I think I might be able to swallow the Titanic Brewery's "Brewmaster Dinner" on May 22, the theme of which is, owner Kevin Rusk notes, "a salute to our European allies with a five-course food-and-beer-pairing dinner. We've selected unique dishes from five different European countries that we felt would pleasantly match with select Titanic beers." For instance, a first course of gazpacho is being matched with the Triple Screw Light Ale, and a mid-dish of pan-roasted filet mignon, cooked with Scotch whisky, mushrooms, cream, and grainy mustard, will be complemented by the crisp Britannic Best Bitter Ale.

Meanwhile, on a regular basis, we can be proactive in our dining choices. Go ahead and order the Burgundy -- the already-at-poverty-level workers who pick the grapes for that bottle of French wine aren't the targets at which anyone should be aiming. But they're the ones who will be hit. Quietly continue to buy caviar (if you can afford it), even though Iran might be the next Operation-Freedom domino and Russia, well, that country's got its own problems to worry about. Be like Mike -- Michael Jackson, that is -- and wear a mask if you have to. But absolutely go to as many immigrant-run Asian restaurants as possible and hope that they send their money back to relatives in the home countries for healthcare. Then, even if we can't teach the whole world to sing via a single can of Coke, at least we can all be on the same plate.

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