Mochi and The Power of Story

In our exploration of foodways across an array of cultures and identities historic preservation has been a common theme amongst the folks we’ve spoken with. As with our own experience, food is a powerful way to share history and traditions. Not only are the recipes and foodways of a generation an important relic that can transcend time, but the act of cooking and eating together is how many cultures build a space to talk story and share history.

Mochi: It’s Not Just Rice Cakes, which we first caught at the Seattle Asian American Film Festival, does a lovely job capturing the sentiment of historic preservation through food. Narrated by the filmmaker’s granddaughter, this short story speaks to the values of tradition, culture, and building community between generations.

Watch the short:

The filmmaker George Takaki produced the story as part of a senior citizen documentary film class and humbly admitted he never thought his film would make it into a festival circuit. We love the story and sentiment of George’s film and really honor his ability to capture a piece of his history.

George’s story and others’ that we share on The Foodways Project speak to a powerful art form that seems to be undervalued in many mainstream spaces. As a graduate student in a clinical science program we find the devaluing of story in our realm of academia is all too present.

“The Plural of Anecdote is not data”

A professor recently shared this quote with us in response to an anecdote I shared to challenge a statement made in lecture. While we certainly see the power and value in data, we challenge the devaluing of anecdotes and stories in that quote with a counter-quote: “every way of knowing has its limits.” The world is a complex system of art, science, language, dance, music, culture, power, pain, privilege, and beyond, that can’t be explained in one form. Yes, data captures so much, but where data fails, story thrives, and vice versa.

We believe George’s story of mochi holds just as much power and significance as data that can quantify the loss of culture in the Japanese community. Each form speaks to a different audience and plays different roles in historic preservation, but neither should be discounted or eclipsed by the other.

In times when the values of story are questioned we feel more empowered to dig deeper and further into the community to hear and share stories of the oppressed and/or marginalized. We draw power from the dissenters who question anecdote as a tool for change.

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