Final Project: Dual self-Identities through Consumption of food


Throughout the semester, our class has done total five projects and secondary/ primary readings to inspect the significance of food either in literatures or in people’s lives. One of the readings we have read, “As Mother Made it” by Tulasi Srinivas, inspired me the topic of my final project: self-identification through consumption. Therefore, my argument for this final project is that the self-identification through food can be divided into two sub categories: 1) identification with our awareness and 2) without awareness, which both explain how does food shapes people’s perception towards themselves and the their relationships with the environment. To support this argument, I will first write about the inspirations from the article “As Mother Made it” and then analyze the four projects I have done: Food Stuffs – Chinese Herbs in Chinatown, Cooking assignment—Lomo Saltado and Chifa tradition, Primary Source Analysis—Food and Confusions of identities in In the Mood for Love, and Creative Project—Naming of food brands in the market.

“As Mother Made it” 

First of all, Tulasi Srinivas’s article “As Mother Made it” gives me thoughts for the correlations between people’s identities and food. Sirnivas proposes a question in the beginning of the article: How are relations among people shaped by relations between people and things, which I think is the theme of our class—how does relations between food and us shape the relations between others and us? (Srinivas 2006). Food or our consumptions can be used as a “tool” to reflect our perceptions about ourselves and the environment that we living in. Moreover, she points out that “identity is no longer a taken for granted, but becomes an all absorbing project that is often enacted through consumption.” (Srinivas 2006) Through the process of consumption, people may develop their own identities which can be the same as or different from the “identities” they are given. Besides that, other identities those actually have also developed but people are not aware of can be discovered from the process of consumption as well.

Although Tulasi Srinivas’s argument is not consistent with the thesis of my final project, the two examples, which she provides in the article, can support for my project argument. Srinivas argues that “food provisioning is fuelled by ‘meta-narrative of loss’ engaging several narratives within it.” (Srinivas 2006) And she mentions that Indian immigrants in Boston emphasize the “nostalgia” towards the cultures in their origins and therefore try to eat “Indian food” every day. However, most of their Indian foods are packaged food, which is not “traditional” at all. On the one hand, pointing out their cultural origins through consumption can be an example of self-identification with awareness: they identified themselves with others share the same food which symbolizes the same culture. On the other hand, the packaged instant food also revealed another identity of them which they are not aware of: citizens living in this market economy-based society emphasizing on speed and globalization. Thus, people can usually find double-identities (aware of and not aware of) through food consumption. To better support my argument, I will provide the examples of my projects in the following post.

Primary Source Analysis: Confusions of Identities in In the Mood for Love 


To begin with, my Primary Source Analysis Project suggest that food not only shows the social identities that two main characters are aware of, but also the characters’ identities of being each other’s companions which they are not aware of. There is a scene in the film that Mr. Zhou and Mrs. Chen having steak at a western restaurant. Both of them enact as each other’s spouses and try to eat the food of their spouses’ favorite. Mrs. Chen could not eat spicy food but she forces her to eat steak with spicy curry since Zhou’s wife (her rival) likes it. The scene definitely reveals the both of their social identities. Although Zhou and Mrs. Chen pretend to be another person, they are aware of who they are and who they want to pretend to be. They clearly understand that their social roles and they have to change something in order to become “others”. Through the action of pretending, they think that they express their sadness and angers of losing their spouses’ love. Also, the behavior of pretending proves that they are aware their marital status and the “identities” in front of neighbors. However, they do not perceive that they actually regard themselves as each other’s companions or spouses in that scene. As Mrs. Chen pretend to be Zhou’s wife, she in fact “becomes” Zhou’s “wife”. Vise versa. Since both of Zhou and Mrs. Chen eat the food which they do not like and share the sorrows of broken marriage, they naturally identify themselves as each other’s companions, or lovers later in the film. But neither of them notices the “sub-identity” of them which finally cause the separations. Therefore, this project through the food scene in the film reveals the double identities of the two characters: one is obvious and another is hidden. This is the only literature example of my final project, while others are all in real life.

Primary Source Project link:

Creative Project: Naming of food brands in the Markets

phili Philadelphia Cheese

Furthermore, the Creative project shows the dual self-identities of customer while choosing food products in the market. I did the research for naming and brand history for four food products in the market: Philadelphia Cheese (American), Lao Beijing Yogurt (American), Nestle drinks (Swiss) and Mei Wei Xian soy sauce (Chinese). After research, I found out three principles for those businesses to naming their food brands: showing authority/ credibility (Philadelphia; Lao Beijing), Leading customers’ imaginations (Lao Beijing, Nestel, Sunmaid), and sending direct messages (Mei Wei Xian –literarily means delicious in English). When customers are choosing food products in the market, they regard themselves as “free buyers” since they believe they have total freedom to choose what ever food brands they want. This is the first kind of identity of customers, which is the one they are aware of. Yet, they are not aware of another identity of them: the “followers” of the three business principles mentioned above. Since all the name of food brands are especially designed for attracting customers and the sellers know the thoughts of customers, customers automatically loose their “freedoms” and become “followers”. For example, customers like Lao Beijing products produced in California may due to the “credibility” of “Lao Beijing” which reminds them of the traditional bottle yogurt in Beijing Hutongs. But they are not aware of their “submissions” to sellers’ “secret methods”. Thus, the identities as both “free buyers” and “followers” of customers are shown through this creative project.

Link of creative project:<iframe id=”iframe_container” frameborder=”0″ webkitallowfullscreen=”” mozallowfullscreen=”” allowfullscreen=”” width=”550″ height=”400″ src=”;lock_to_path=0&amp;autoplay=0&amp;autohide_ctrls=0#”></iframe

Cooking Project:Lomo Saltado and Chifa Traditions & Food Stuffs Project: Long Life Chinese Herbs

DSC_0120-300x199     Lomo Saltado

download (3)    Chinese Herbal Decoction

Additionally, both of the Cooking Project Lomo Saltado and the Food Stuffs Project Chinese herbs show that our group members own two identities, either with consciousness or sub-consciousness. For the Food Stuffs project, Chutong and I visited two main Chinese herbal stores in Philadelphia China town: one was more popular among Chinese people (or Chinese Amricans) and another one got more favors of Americans (most white customers). We defined the former store as more “authentic” and the latter as “westernized”. For the Cooking project, we recreated a Peruvian Chifa dish—Lomo Saltado, which was a stir-fried beef dish with French fries on the top. Our “chifa group” did not intend to eat the dish first not only due to the sanitary conditions of the kitchen but also because of the reluctance to try “non-authentic Chinese dish”. We assumed that if the dish would not be tasted good if it was “not authentic”. However, we finished all the dish at the end since it actually was DELICIOUS. During the process of doing these two projects, our groups regard us as “examiners of authenticity” since we all either grew up in China or have visited China for many times. Although we have discussed in class that it was hard to determine “who can be the judge ” and “what are the standards” in terms of the authenticity of food, we all automatically identified us the “judges” based on our past personal experiences. This was the identity that we were aware of. Yet, we did not realize that we actually identified ourselves with the people in our imagined community—a group seems to “know Chinese culture well”. In the Chinese Herbs project, Chutong and I identified ourselves with the Chinese customers in the former store when we claimed that store was more “authentic”. Similarly, our “chifa group” distinguished ourselves from the Peruvian customers who order Lomo Saltado in chifa restaurants when we were not excited to taste the “exotic dish with French Fries”. Thus, we were not aware of that we were people “seeking for communities in our imaginations”.

Chinese Herbs Link:

Lomo Saltado Link:

Reflections of Each Project:

I did not make changes of the four projects mentioned above, but I understood the significances of each project in a new way when I put them together in this final portfolio. Therefore, this section is to explain the differences between my understanding towards the original projects and the new interpretations of the projects in this portfolio.

Primary Source Analysis: Confusions of Identities in In the Mood For Love

My original argument of this paper were that food in the film helps to display Zhou and Mrs. Chen’s confusion towards their own identities. There were three main supports for this argument: the confusion between social role and true selves, the person whom their spouses were interested in and their own identities and the ideal self they desired to become and themselves in real life. In this paper, I tried to make connections of the relationships between the characters and every scene with food. In fact, figuring out the “significances” of every food scene in the film was not necessary, and this was the reason that I only focused on the enacting scene in the restaurant in this portfolio. Also, my original three supports for the argument were repetitive. I later realized that the confusions of characters’ identities were not between “who they really are” and “who they want to be”; instead, the confusions are about “the identities which they realizes” and “identities they are not aware of”. Therefore, although I did not change the original argument of this paper, the new “supports” in this final portfolio present the argument in a clearer way.

Creative Project: Naming of Food Brands in the Market

This was the only project that I did not give new interpretations in this final portfolio. The argument of the project is that customers did not realize that they actually were “passive” while choosing foods in the market.

Food Stuffs Project: Long Life Chinese Herbal Medicine

In the original project, Chutong and I focused on the differences between “medicine” and “food” while writing the blog. However, I found out that we were more into the differences between the two medicine stores while presenting the field trip. Therefore, I think that out attentions during the field trip might be the “authenticity” of the medicine instead of the confusions between “food” and “medicine”. However, judging “authenticity” of Chinese Herbs was not the theme of this project. After the reflection, I realize that another unconscious thing: we actually identify ourselves with a specific group through food/ medicine consumption. In this project, we identified ourselves with the customer group in the more “traditional” Chinese medicine shop. This was the process how I came up with our dual identities through this project.

Cooking Project: Lomo Saltado and Chifa tradition

In this project, our group tried to find connections or disconnections between traditional Peruvian dish and Chinese dish. We concluded that Lomo Saltado has unquestionable authenticity on both sides of “ethnic cuisine”, not only as a Peruvian favorite but also as a dish with distinctly Chinese origins. Also, we thought that Lomo Saltado was a piece of evidence that how Chinese immigrants integrated in the Peruvian society throughout the time. However, another thing we did not realize was that we identified ourselves with a certain group—people with Chinese origins during the project. This new conclusion was similar to that of the Chinese Herbal Medicine Project and this was why I put the two projects together to support my final project argument.

All in all, these reflections were important to this final project since I could not come up the final argument only based on the original understanding of those projects. When I looked back and tried to find out “new interpretations” from those projects, I certainly gained more when I was doing the projects. Therefore, I put this section of reflection in this final portfolio. Without reflections, there would be no this final project.


In summary, people usually think the identities reflected from food may be obevious and direct, such as nationality. However, below the surface of “conciseness”, people may dig out some thing new “about themselves” brought by food consumption. These four projects described above all present that people develop dual-self identities through food consumption, either with or without their awareness. As Srinivas points out, identities are developed through the process of food consumption, rather than receiving it for granted. (Srinivas 2006). Discovering our new identities through food consumption will be useful for us to explore either “the self” inside us or our relations with the environment.

 Works Cited:

Tulasi, Srinivas. “”As Mother Made It”: The Cosmopolitan Indian Family, “Authentic” Food, and the Construction of Cultural Utopia.” Food and Culture: A Reader. S.l.: Routledge, 2012. 356-73. Print.

Creative Project: Naming of Food Products in the Market<iframe id=”iframe_container” frameborder=”0″ webkitallowfullscreen=”” mozallowfullscreen=”” allowfullscreen=”” width=”550″ height=”400″ src=”;lock_to_path=0&amp;autoplay=0&amp;autohide_ctrls=0#”></iframe>



This creative project focuses the naming of the food brands and food advertisements. In this project, I choose four examples (Philadelphia cream cheese, Beijing Yogurt, Nestle, and Mei Wei Xian soy sauce) represent three main categories of food brand naming strategies used by food companies. I argued that customers think that they have initiatives while they are choosing food products but actually they just passively followed business owner’s standards ( categories designed for customers) without noticing that. In other words, customers are “identified by food business owners” instead of  “identifying themselves” on the choices of consumption. This project is inspired by the “mother brand” indian food mentioned in the article As Mother Made it. In my final project ( food and identity), this creative project will serve an example of “unawareness” (pretending) as well. Also, it can be example of “identity” not relating with “nationalities” or “ethnic groups”. The more important point of his project is that people can identify themselves while others are putting”identities” on them.

Food and Confusion of Identities in In the Mood For Love

“The age of bloom, the spirit of the moon, the cleverness like ice and snow. A beautiful life, a passionate couple, a successful family.” This song named One’s Young Life like Flower (Huayang de Nianhua) was the theme music of the film In the Mood for love (Huayang Nianhua) which was directed by Wong- Karwai in year of 2000. This film is about the love story between Mr. Zhou (Tony Leung) and Mrs. Chen (Maggie Cheung) who are both married. In the beginning of the film, Mr. Zhou and Mrs. Chen discover the affair between their spouses. They wonder how their spouses’ affair might have begun. Therefore, they re-enact what they imagine what might happened. Later, Mr. Zhou invites Mrs. Chen to help him write martial arts serial for the papers and their relationship gradually develops. As time passes, they find out that they have feelings towards each other, but they could not be together since they refuse to become “cheaters” as their spouses. Then Mr. Zhou moves to Singapore and they are separated. Even Mrs. Chen tries to contact with Mr. Zhou, they have missed the chances of being a couple.

This paper focuses on food and confusion of identities in the film, In the mood for love. Food in this film helps to display Mr. Zhou and Mrs. Chen’s confusion towards their own identities. There will be three main evidences to support this argument. The confusions between their social roles and “true selves”, the person whom their spouses interested in and their own identities, the “ideal self” they desire to become and them in real life. All three evidences will be explained through examples of food in the film such as the food they supposed to eat and actually eat, the food showing their wills to “become another person” and the food suggesting their relationships. Food as a necessary element in the film, not only help to present how the relationships between Zhou and Mrs. Chen develops, but also reveals both of their perplexing attitudes towards their various identities under different circumstances.

To begin with, Zhou and Mrs. Chen tried hard to play the social role in front of all the neighbors and colleagues, but still could not conceal their own emotional needs as “themselves”. Throughout the whole film, the personal names of Mr. Zhou and Mrs. Chen were rarely called. Instead, they were more recognized by others as Mr. Zhou and Mrs. Chen, which refer to their marriage status. In other words, they appeared in the society as someone’s spouse, but not their own identities —- they must introduce themselves as a part of their “family” rather than individual identities. The fact that their social roles were over their personal identities was not only showed through the repetitive appearances of marriage rings on their hands, but also displayed by the food they are “supposed to eat” and the food they actually ate. For instance, there was a scene of Mrs. Chen showing rice cooker bought by her husband from Japan to the neighbors. All the people admired that she was so fortunate to have such a great husband who cared about her a lot. Even Mr. Zhou also asked her if her husband could buy another rice cooker for her wife. This scene of rice cooker is supposed to present how Mrs. Chen was a Mr. Chen’s beloved “happy wife” and how Zhou cared about his own wife. Ironically, neither of them had dinner with their “caring” spouses by using that rice cooker later in the film. In fact, Zhou and Mrs. Chen usually met at an outdoor Dim Sum stand downstairs of their apartments because their spouses were not at home with them. Their fancy clothes stood out in the Dim Sum stand since everyone else just wore casual clothes such as shorts and sleeves shirts. Obviously, the fine appearances of both Mr. Zhou and Mrs. Chen were not consistent with their real situations. Even though they have met in café once and it seemed that their fancy clothing finally matched with the environment of the café, the smoke of the cigarettes and steam of the coffee reminds the audiences of the steam of the food in Dim Sum stand. The foggy image of the smoke or steam on the one hand revealed the depressing feelings of the two characters; On the other hand it suggested their uncertain attitudes towards their roles inside and outside of their family as well.

Moreover, Zhou and Mrs. Chen are being confused about being themselves and being the person whom their spouses interested in. The most obvious example in the film was a scene in a restaurant. Zhou and Mrs. Chen ordered the favorite dishes of each other’s spouse and tried to pretend that they could eat the same thing as their rivals did. Significantly, Mrs. Chen usually did not eat spicy food but she forced herself to eat steak with curry since that was Zhou’s wife’s appetite. It was interesting to note that the two characters used the way of eating others’ favorite food to protest to their spouses, or to prove they can do exactly what their rivals did. The appetite of every person might be different which was nothing inappropriate. However, Zhou and Mrs. Chen forced themselves to play another person’s role by “having” that person’s appetite. Although they might eat the same food as their rivals did that day, they were not able to cheat their tongues and stomach. Each person has his/ her different preferences for food and therefore every person was a distinctive individuality. Zhou and Mrs. Chen definitely knew this but still want to “become” another person to retrieve their spouses’ love. After this dinner, they re-enact what they imagined how their spouses’ affair had begun. Mrs. Chen played the role of Zhou’s wife and Zhou played as Chen. At this moment, they almost lost their awareness of being “themselves” but eager to become the person of their spouses “new love” to find a sense of comfort. Their attitudes towards “being another person” did not remain constant though. Later in a hotel room while they were eating lunch, Zhou played as Chen again and Mrs. Chen rehearsed the scene of questioning “her husband” of his affair. This time, at least Mrs. Chen became herself and felt the sorrows she supposed to feel, even food could not conceal her emotions. Mrs. Chen has been gradually pulled back to her own role and accepted the reality she must face. The third time Zhou and Mrs. Chen rehearse their own moment of parting. They finally did not pretend to be “others” and have courage to “feel their own emotions”. Although they were not together at the end of the film due to some reasons, they have found back part of their own identities as their relationship has developed.

In addition, Mrs. Chen and Zhou’s confusion between another self they desired to be and the self in reality are expressed through food in the film. They imagined or eager to become a person who owns their lover’s love and start a family with their soul mate. In their case, they wanted to show their natural, clean, spontaneous affection towards each other in public, just like any other couple. When Zhou was sick and his friend unintentionally told Mrs. Chen that Zhou wanted to eat sesame paste, Mrs. Chen made a large pot of sesame paste right away and shared it with all the neighbors including Zhou. Moreover, they often eat together while writing martial arts serials in hotel room as normal couple. Also, they once were trapped in Zhou’s bedroom while other neighbors were playing Mahjong in the living room. They did nothing but shared the noodles and sticky rice with chicken (糯米鸡). No matter they were happy or depressing, they shared their emotions through sharing these daily foods. As the food, their company to each other has became a necessary part of their lives. Yet, they struggled of being a person who had freedom to own love and a person who still wanted undertake the responsibility towards his/her “dead marriage”. They refused to become “cheaters” as their spouses and still wanted to commit to their marriages. Thus, they both agreed on that the sesame paste was a “coincidence” and their common happiness/ depressions could be only contained in space where others did not know. Another crucial scene represented their relationship in the film was that both of them sat against the different side of the wall while Mrs. Chen was boiling the water and Zhou was holding a rice cooker. The confusion of their ideal identities and their identities in real life was metaphorically like that wall between them. If they choose to break the wall regardless of any concerns, they would be able to cook the meal together, representing the start of a new family (一顿饭一个家).

However, they chose to eat by themselves— a life without each other’s company and their relationship finally became a secret in the hole of an old temple wall.

In conclusion, the element of food in In the Mood For Love displays the questioning towards different identities of the two main characters: Mr. Zhou and Mrs. Chen. Through food, the audiences are able to see Zhou and Mrs. Chen’s confusion of social roles in public and their true individual identities, of the roles in marriage and the true selves, and of the ideal identity they dream to reach and their identities in real life. The characters have struggled or made decisions among these identities under various circumstances, but the confusions of these identities still remained in character’s mind and even could not be clarified by time.