Hot Stuff: L.A.'s Cross-Cultural Condiments

March 19, 2014

There is no more intimate or more pleasurable way to uncover the complexities of a culture than by ingesting its food. We have only to follow the trail of countless mouthwatering Instagrams, rapturous Yelp reviews, and sold-out food tours by star chefs to prove it.

As repast turns into reflection, a lifetime of meals becomes inextricably intertwined with fleeting moments in time we thought lost in the whirl of everyday life. It only takes a whiff or a taste to transport us.

In Los Angeles, there are two of these potions in existence -- mainstays in many eateries: Sriracha and Tapatio, rivals for Heinz's ketchup and French's mustard. Though wrapped in an Asian or Latino packaging, both tell an undeniably American tale.

"A study of these two sauces is really telling. There's an otherness that's attached to them both, yet they're very much a product of Los Angeles," said Steven Y. Wong, interim Executive Director of the Chinese American Museum and curator of its latest exhibition, "L.A. Heat," in honor of these two spicy condiments.

The exhibition features a collection of thirty works from thirty artists that all revolve around the two condiments. The result? An engaging mix of styles and perspectives that together says a lot about the people of Los Angeles.

 

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