Four Dances of the Sea:
Cooking “Asian” as Embedded Cosmopolitanism

Jean Duruz



This paper recalls (imperfectly, I suspect) a comment from the British television cooking series, Two Fat Ladies. “Add some chilli to the fish,” says one Fat Lady to the other, “That’s very Australian.” This begs the question: how did the taste of chilli become “very Australian”? Changes to Australian cuisine have provoked much lively debate regarding its “Asianisation,” hybridisation and current “stars” (Symons, Santich, Ripe). Rather than following these relatively well-trodden routes, however, the paper approaches issues of “new” Australian food cultures and social identities from an oblique direction. Its concern is to reflect on meanings of belonging through unraveling, in part, established conceptual/media/industry dichotomies of cook and chef (Gunders)—those hard distinctions between celebrity professional practice and the everyday place-making associated with migration. Drawing on Chef Cheong Liew’s signature dish, Four Dances of the Sea, and its biographical resonances, the paper examines the complex web of affective relationships that might “embed” a chef (even a celebrity whose international reputation is prized by the Adelaide Hilton) within his/her gastronomic community: childhood memories of Malaysia; extended family and friendship networks; local professional networks; food streets and markets; local producers and providores; transnational networks and global travel. Such mapping, in turn, allows a challenge to Naussbaum’s universalised liberal cosmopolitan “self” from a more nuanced take on the significance of “place” for cultural exchange, reciprocity and belonging through food. It also figures (tentatively) “new” hybrid forms of Asian-Australian culinary citizenship.


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Jean DuruzJean Duruz is a Senior Lecturer in cultural studies in the School of Communication, International Studies and Languages at the University of South Australia. She has an MA in Cultural Studies from the University of Birmingham and her PhD is from the Flinders University of South Australia. Her research reflects a continuing interest in connections of food, place, identity and cosmopolitanism, and her articles appear in international journals such as Space and Culture, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space and Gastronomica. Currently, she is developing a number of projects on street food, markets and ethnic neighbourhoods within contexts of global cities, such as Singapore, New York City and Mexico City.