Category Archives: My Year of Meats

The Narrative Structure of My Year of Meats

Deconstructing the binary oppositions of fiction and documentary, Ruth Ozeki’s metanarrative My Year of Meats attempts to alter reality through storytelling. The documentary-with-in-a-story of My Year of Meats alters power structures and relationships, as the metanarrative My Year of Meats attempts to raise awareness of the reader about the bloody truths of the beef industry. In order to understand the narrative structure of My Year of Meats, the power structure of beef consumption and how the narratives of My Year of Meats contribute to alter both material and ideal aspects of the power structure must be analyzed. Analysis on the narrative structure will deepen the understanding of how metanarratives such as My Year of Meats and their narrative structures influence reality.

In My Year of Meats, power structure of beef consumption consists of two different aspects: the material power structure and the ideal power structure. At first, the two power structures seem to generate from two different entities, the material from the feedlot farmers, and the ideal from BEEF-EX. It is revealed later in the novel that BEEF-EX actually consists of “cowboys pretending to be international traders” (194). After Europe banned the import of U.S. meat because of the use of the hormone in production such as DES, BEEF-EX targeted Japan as their next market. BEEF-EX is shown as an entity consisting of cowboys that promotes the profit of feedlot farmers. Both power structures material and ideal finally leads to the Japanese family which contributes to flow capital back to BEEF-EX and feedlot farmers.

power structure in beef consumption

power structure in beef consumption

The left-half of the power structure chart shows how the feedlot framers influence the Japanese families materially. The feedlot farmers abuses illegal drugs such as DES to enhance the growth of the cattle. The DES contaminated cattle is processed and its beef is consumed by Japanese families. By consuming beef from feedlot cattle, the Japanese households contribute to the benefit of the feedlot farmers.

The right-half of the power structure chart shows how BEEF-EX influences the Japanese families ideally. Beef-Ex sponsors the production of My American Wife!, which teaches the Japanese housewives traditional American “wholesome” family values and exemplary meat cookery. The Japanese housewives learn family values and meat recipes and influence her households by materially and metaphorically serving American beef. By introducing American values and diet, BEEF-EX benefits from selling more American beef in Japan.

By showing the shadow of beef industry and alternative family styles, the narratives of My Year of Meats respectively contribute to change the material and ideal power structure of beef consumption.

The alteration of the material power structure can be recognized in the relationship between Gale Dunn and his cattle. When Jane and her TV crew visit the Dunn family’s feedlot, Gale Dunn is using DES to his cattle. After Jane’s documentary becomes public, Gale’s abuse of DES comes to light and stops his illegal usage of DES.

The alteration of ideal power structure can be recognized in the relationships between Akiko and John Wayno, and BEEF-EX and the Japanese families. In the beginning of the novel, Akiko suffers from an abusive relationship with her husband John Wayno. She is completely dependent on him and submits to John’s unreasonable attitude. Jane’s narrative of My American Wife! which features alternative family styles changes Akiko’s ideas towards meat eating and family, and inspires her to liberate herself from John’s oppression. Meanwhile, the documentary-within-a-story My Year of Meats informs the Japanese families the reality of feedlot farming which makes the Japanese household question BEEF-EX and the American “wholesome” values and recipes it sponsors.

Through Jane’s documentary narrative, the metanarrative My Years of Meats informs the reader about the reality of feedlot farming and the beef industry. Just like Jane influenced her audience with her documentary, Ruth Ozeki’s My Year of Meats attempts to influence the reader. The narrative structure of the novel contributes to provide a sense of reality to the novel, attempting to alter reality through storytelling.

Red Meat: The Bond of the Typical American Family

Ruth Ozeki’s My Year of Meats follows unemployed documentarian Jane Takagi-Little on her experience working as a producer for a Japanese TV show called My American Wife, which is sponsored by a Texas-based meat industry lobby organization called Beef-Ex. To continue the pattern of westernization in Japan, My American Wife features American wives demonstrating the steps to simple American recipes that contain red meat and can be performed at home for a family dinner. At the typical American family dinner table, red meat represents the main dish that unites each family member to bond with each other by sharing the dish. In order to establish a bond for the Japanese family during dinnertime, Jane Takagi-Little emphasizes the modern American tradition of serving red meat at the dinner table.

As the main purpose of the TV Show, red meat, instead of the American housewife, is the star of My American Wife. Sponsored by Beef-Ex, My American Wife wants Japanese housewives to “feel the hearty sense of warmth, of comfort, of hearth and home – the traditional family values symbolized by red meat in rural America” (Ozeki 8). Normally, the typical Japanese family indulges in light-tasting dishes, such as seafood, rice, soup, and vegetables. Although these dishes are light in flavor, the Japanese consider this cuisine as a commonplace in their culture. However, red meat, an “attractive, appealing, all-American dish,” gives the Japanese a sense of both westernization and modernization with the appeal of the American culture. As Japan becomes more of a Western-cultured civilization with the increase of American fast food places and red meat at the markets, it is reasonable for home-cooked meals to include the use of red meat as a main dish.

In order for the audience to gain interest in American red meat cuisine, Ruth Ozeki’s word choice to describe the purpose of the show creates a warm and persuasive tone. For example, the passage emphasizes how red meat brings the “hearty” sense of “warmth,” “comfort,” “hearth,” and “home.” (Ozeki 8) Instead of having the normal Japanese dinner, the Japanese should try something that would provides tons of flavor while producing the pleasant feeling of comfort while consuming the dish made of red meat. Ozeki wants to appeal to the Japanese housewives so their family members can intensify the feeling of comfort at home while enjoying their meal as a family. By intensifying this comfortable feeling, this allows family members to endure in bonding with sharing the amiability of their main dish of hearty red meat.

By emphasizing the value of bonding as a family as well as the use of red meat at the dinner table, the American tradition of the culinary concoction of red meat allows the Japanese housewife and her family to experience the ways at the dinner table of the modern American family.  As a rising country in the westernization of cuisine, utilizing red meat in home-cooked meals allows the typical Japanese family to meet the modern expectations of the modern westernized Japanese culture.

Japan: A Nation of Lost Identity (My Year of Meats Extra Credit)

In order to survive in this planet of ever-growing changes, shifts and changes are often made, leading to the discarding of past values and tradition. In Ruth Ozeki’s novel, My Year of Meats, Ozeki indicates a shift in Japan as a country, as a result of influences in capitalism, consumerism, and overall American Culture. Ozeki makes it increasingly evident that Japan is losing its identity amongst nations as Japan seeks to conform with societies which have been deemed successful and prosperous. Japan is shown to seek adaptations of cultural lifestyles with a change to a diet richer in meats and shift towards desires of the “American Dream.”

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Modernization of Japan into a Meat Culture

Clear resentment is presented towards past Japan through Akiko’s husband, John, who displays a growing loss of interest in his wife due to her small figure and infertility, which he views to be due to a meat-deficient diet. The remedy in such situation is concluded to be a change to a more American lifestyle, one that incorporates large consumption of meat. In such way, Ozeki utilizes meat as a linkage to American consumerism and culture, displaying shifting tides in Japan, as Japan becomes further accustomed to meat consumption through the cooking show, My American Wife, that Jane (the Protagonist) helps to produce. Ozeki essentially hints to the failure of infrastructure in Japan as a whole, as Japanese culture has caused its people to pale in comparison to American people.

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Large Portions of Meat (Symbolizing American Culture & Consumerism)

The Protagonist Jane can be seen as the bridge between Japan and the America, as she is of Japanese and Caucasian decent. In presenting this duality, Ozeki is able to further the idea of American health and stature through both the successes of Jane with her TV show and Jane’s figure itself. John who comes into contact with Jane, in one passage, commends Jane on her height and intelligence, which he attributes to her Caucasian side. This sort of American favoritism that Ozeki incorporates into her novel, creates a sense of a dying Japanese culture that people seek to abandon for something of greater nourishment and prosperity. In My Year of Meats, this nourishment comes in the form of the meat that is cooked on the show and the meat that is sold to the Japanese people through BEEF-EX. The early Meiji Era values of 19th century Japan, values that include buddhist ideals of being frugal, low meat consumption, and overall moderation, are discarded and replaced with American values of excessiveness and high consumerism (in particular with that of meat). This new 20th century Japan, illustrates Japanese high regard toward a state of modernity, which is thought to be only possible through the mimicry of “American culture.”

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Cover of My Year of Meats Novel (displays Japanese Chopsticks which pick up Beef Cow)

My Year of Meats is a novel in which Japanese progression towards modernity in the 19th and 20th century is displayed through Japanese adaptations toward the American lifestyle. Ozeki displays such shift through the symbol of meat which becomes an increasingly common part of the Japanese peoples’ lives. American consumerism is placed at the utmost highest pedestal, as it emanates and produces prosperity and health which is shown through the juxtaposition of American and Japanese women.

My year of meat (Extra Credit)

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Soyoung Son
Japanese 70

         Jane Takagi-Little is a Japanese American journalist and she works for a Japanese production company. She produces the program of called “My American Wife.”, this is about meat (beef), they show how to cook beef, what the best meat is, and show her life as American wife, how she cook meat every week. There are story of Jane, Suzie and Akiko. Jane’s story is the life of Akiko Ueno, she is manga artist and married with a man who work for BEEF-EX.

         This book’s story is about meat, actually culture of meat is not for Asian food, it came from Western and now it is popular and had been settled as our meal. Almost every one love meat and always find it at table and also rate of sold a meat has been growing rapidly. In My American Wife program show how to cook meat in the best way, and where we can find the best meat. They try to find the place where they can find the best meat, but they found the company which made a meat in stranger way rather than the best meat. There are actually lots of menu that they will cook but end up, they decided to cook a beef, because this American broadcast company have supporter Japanese company as well and this American company make a program for showing Japanese wife the best way to cook beef and that is actual purpose to sell a meat. The company which sold a meat have a huge farm, they want to raise a cow with very easy way, they shot inject of Hormone and other variety prevent inject to cow when cows are born, and also during they are growing, the company give them food mixed some drugs and give some shot as injection. It probably looks that cows are very healthy and they are growing up in very well circumstance, but it is not like that, it is very mess. The company even haven’t cleaned cow’s excreta, the farm is too small cow to grow, People who work there looks very bored to work as machine.  And if kids eat this meat, then they have problem of growing well. I think, most people have ambition and it brings these terrible result, they just need to sell it and earn money with any reason and ways. Ruth Ozeki wants to tell veil of food story, and we have to know there is lots of problem in food. Asian food culture is actually not meat long time ago but now it is popular and every Asian know it as healthy food, but there are lots of junk food also made with meat, such as Hamburger, sausage  and spam, we might know it is very unhealthy food, but we can’t stop eating those food. That means meat has already settled in our life. So we probably want to find a way to eat healthy and great meat as well and even if we eat junk food, we should try to eat less.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contemporary Travails

Parallel through character development but different through personal struggles, Jane Takagi-Little and Akiko Ueno both experience a learning journey that alters the shape of their futures. Jane produces a Japanese cooking show—with hopes to locate America’s most winning wives—and Akiko watches the reality performance—with hopes to cook and consume delicious, beef dishes. Ruth Ozeki, author of My Year of Meats, presents a wide variety of serious, somber issues that delve into cultural relations. Plaguing modern society’s viewpoints and beliefs, she begins to question these particular conflicts: the relationships between women and men; the gender stereotypes surrounding women; and the undisclosed affairs conducted by the meat industry. Through a characterization comparison between Jane and Akiko, Ruth Ozeki tackles issues that contemporary individuals and couples face on a daily basis in My Year of Meats.

Jane and Akiko not only embody dazzling counterpoints, but they also symbolize astounding resemblances. Jane’s first-person account provides the novel with its comical/frank tone, and Akiko’s ultimate conquest offers the novel its didactic/wise tone. Ozeki first attacks the sometimes troubling, complex relationships that women have with men. Jane’s intimate affair with the mysterious saxophonist, Sloane, supplies readers with an interesting scope: how modern-day relationships can epitomize ambiguity and confusion. This allows Jane to realize that her emotions cannot stop her from permitting fear of intimacy to dismember her relationship. Comparably, Akiko continues to pursue her puzzling relationship with Joichi Ueno—executive producer of the show. At this point, Ozeki begins to explore the distressing issue of spousal abuse: “he gave Akiko one last violent shake… gouged Akiko right above the eye” (100). Ozeki then starts to analyze the intricacies of gender stereotypes that constantly hamper women. Due to mainstream media and a bashing husband, Akiko is led to believe that the ideal, American wife characterizes an “ample, robust, yet never tough or hard to digest” (1) woman. Ruth Ozeki plays with this idea of stereotypes to test the preconceptions and misconceptions that contemporary individuals have with gender and culture.

Nevertheless, My Year of Meats fully discusses the concern of food safety and the practice of hormones in the meat industry. Ruth Ozeki conducts a rough examination about the trace residues of such growth-enhancing drugs; blended in the industrial beef, Americans unknowingly eat harmful remains on a consistent basis. This information integrates itself into the story and begins to affect Jane’s well-being. Learning that she once was exposed to a DES hormone—which promotes growth in cows and prevents miscarriages in women—she heartbreakingly realizes that she now has reproductive problems. Such a large, social issue regarding the meat industry begins to resonate with the small, intimate portion of this woman’s life. Ozeki investigates one of the true evils of the world while reveling about the defective, flawed qualities of human nature.

In their own respects, each character traverses through differing obstacles and opposing conflicts. However, even though they both rise above any complications, Jane comprehends that happy endings only satisfy the emotions of a reader: “I don’t think I can change my future simply by writing a happy ending” (350). After all of the proposed issues in the novel, readers not only wonder about modern society’s belief system, but they also ponder about the efficacy of a desired outcome.

Meat and Power

Ruth Ozeki’s “My Years of Meat” is set in a historical context before the rapid westernization, which is the time period when rice, fish and vegetables are still the main dining ingredients of a typical Japanese household. Through the portrayal of the public’s and individual’s reaction to the introduction of Western lifestyle, Ruth Ozeki explores the power relation between nation and genders, in which consumption of meat serves as the vehicle of dramatizing such power difference.

First, the consumption of meat becomes the emblem of Japanese people’s ideal of the West, which is satirized through the comical depiction of BEEF-EX’s corrupt advertising method that manipulates the public’s perception towards their beef products, “or selling off the vast illusion of America to a cramped population on that small string of Pacific islands”. The company attempts to attribute the “contemporary wholesome values” to meat by creating a warm image of an American family in order to demonstrate how the nourishment of meat contributes to the health and happiness of a family. The author criticizes the company’s unethical manipulation of such cultural perception and their inauthentic presentation of American family by satirizing the director’s fastidious manner and the artificiality of “American wife”. For example, during the cooking scene, in order to make the process more “interesting” the director decided to take different shots of the same step repeatedly. Consequently, the process becomes rather comical as “they had to go out to the grocery store and buy a dozen economy-size bottles of Pepsi” and “Suzie had to wash off the raw meat in the sink and pat it dry with paper towels and make it look new again”. Also, even Suzie becomes aware of her role as a “social actor” and starts responding to the needs of media by arranging the furniture and telling her kids to “act like they were enjoying their meat”. Because of her “acting”, the relationship between Fred and Suzie deteriorates as the show proceeds. Thus, the author makes fun of the Japanese media’s idealization and stereotyping of a Western lifestyle that symbolizes Japan’s appropriation of Western power, while commenting on the negative influence of such stereotypical perception of Western culture on an American household.

Furthermore, the habit of meat consumption is deployed as male’s enforcement of power in a Japanese household. Akiko’s value and position in her family are determined by her fertility and Jouichi’s affection for her. She is always bothered by her physical weakness and infertility, which contributes to her sense of insecurity as she always worries about Jouichi’s feeling. As Jouichi becomes obsessed with Western culture and starts to introduce the consumption of meat to Akiko, her position and power decline even more because the gap between her traditional trait and her husband’s ideal of white female sexuality broadens. Jouichi admires the “hybrid vigor” in Jane and loves “big-breasted American woman”, which stands for the quality of health and fertility in Western beauty that opposes the physical characteristics of Akiko. Jouichi’s enforcement of his power even elevates to the level of mental and sexual abuse as Akiko suffers from eating beef and having sex with him with a more “abrasive” condom. As Jouichi adopts the habit of meat consumption and becomes more sexually active, Akiko loses her power and dignity due to her failure to adapt to the Western lifestyle and the image of white female sexuality.

In conclusion, “My Years of Meat” portrays Japan’s idealistic and stereotypical conception of Western culture as a product of the corrupt marketing device of meat industry, which reflects the negative influence of Japan’s appropriation of Western power. Moreover, the introduction of meat consumption increases the sexual desire of man and causes them to idealize woman in a stereotypical image of a white female, further increasing the power difference between male and female in both Western and Japanese households.

No Longer an Object of Consumption

Traditionally, diaries have been known to document and record a person’s daily activities and experiences. But over time, this literary genre has evolved and diverged from its original purpose to being utilized to portray and communicate varying emotions, ideas, and relationships. For example American novelist Ruth Ozeki utilizes the genre of the diary in My Year of Meats to define and explore the powerful, complex relationships that people have fostered with food.

            Through the use of the genre of the diary, My Year of Meats narrates a story of two contrasting female protagonists struggling in a world heavily impacted by food. By presenting the respective stories of the protagonists Jane and Akiko through a firsthand account, readers are able to step into the shoes of both characters and clearly observe each respective woman’s perspective and relationship with food. By allowing readers to explore the minds of both protagonists, Ozeki effectively emphasizes the complex relationship humans have developed with food. As time has progressed, food is not only a literal substance required to maintain life and growth or a simple object of consumption, but also as an element that has defined cultural traditions in addition to shaping social hierarchies and relationships.

The novel begins with the story of Jane Takagi-Little, a Japanese American journalist working for a Japanese television show known as My American Wife. The basic narrative of the show portrays the daily life in the kitchen of an American housewife to a Japanese audience. Through Jane’s story, her perspective portrays the dynamic relationship between food and society. In the television show, food serves to symbolize and demonstrate the prosperity of American culture to the program’s audience. But outside of the show, in Jane’s personal life, her decision to become a vegetarian because she lacks the funds to consume meat emphasizes food’s role in establishing a social hierarchy.

On the other side of the globe, the diary of Japanese housewife Akiko Ueno reveals a contrasting relationship with the food industry. As the wife of the producer of My American Wife, Akiko is immersed in the program’s fabricated perspective of American food and culture. But internally, Akiko has defined her own relationship with food. Suffering from bulimia, food impacts several aspects of Akiko’s life, harming her physically and psychologically as well as externally with her deteriorating marriage with her husband and My American Wife.

            By providing a firsthand account of the personal relationships established between people and food, the diary genre in My Year of Meats effectively serves to expose the impact food has had on several different levels outside of the traditional food sphere. While food is normally seen as a biologically necessary substance required for nutritional support, over time, it has evolved a complex and dynamic relationship with humans, affecting not only physical health, but also other varying and integral aspects including psychological health, cultural tradition, and social status. By allowing readers to catch a glimpse of this unexplored world of food and varying connected networks and relationships it cultivates, the diary allows the audience to view contrasting perspectives of food and how food ultimately permeates all aspects of life.

What is Left Unsaid: Cultivating Diaries, Poems, and Food

Throughout the course of Japanese 70, we have encountered a series of literature and film that depict a range of genres that cultivate different relationships between humans and food. Upon reflecting, and perhaps due to personal taste, I believe that, from this range of genres, the genre of diaries is the most effective for cultivating a relationship with food. The reasons are its poetic nature, subjectivity, casualness, and accessibility. Above all, I believe the diary genre establishes a personal and intimate relationship between people and food. Specifically, I refer to My Years of Meats and Vibrator to demonstrate this relationship.

In My Year of Meats, we get a personal account from Jane regarding her development of a new cooking program and her encounter with the Flowers family. According to Jane, “While you are shooting them, they are your entire world and you live in the warm, beating heart of their domestic narratives, but as soon as you drive away from the house, away from the family all fond and waving, then it is over” (Ozeki 35-36). This statement marks the intimacy that Jane develops with the program, the family, the wife, and the food. Her accounts are subjective, giving others a perspective from a multitude of perspectives. This leaves the readers the possibility of judging on their own to consider what is left unsaid and what it means.

In addition, her comments, because they are subjective, are also personal. This creates another level of intimacy in which the feelings of Jane are directly portrayed without further manipulation and editing, in contrast to the reshaping publicity in Giants and Toys. Moreover, the interludes of Sei Shōnagon’s diary poems attach a poetic element to the diary genre. Such elements create a sense of brevity, succinctness, and ordinariness, avoiding the distant and unfamiliar feelings typically associated with serious and formal methods.

Shot 1: Food Creating Social Connection on Truck

Similarly, we observe the same type of casualness and ease of access in Vibrator. Rei Hayakawa and Takatoshi embark on a road trip after their random acquaintance at a convenient store. They slowly break the ice with the help of soju, cigarette, and chips. This natural tendency of desiring to eat is complemented with our natural tendency to establish relationships and connections with others. Another important aspect of Vibrator is Rei’s constant self-conscious voices. They represent her innate feelings, without any disguise, and can be seen as a form of mental diary that reminds us again of poetic elements similar to The Pillow Book by Sei Shōnagon.

In conclusion, I believe the diary genre creates an intimate relationship between people and food. The diary genre lends naturally to the understanding of food through personal accounts and experiences in which we can freely interpret according to our tastes and beliefs. To serve as an extension, I point to the current technology in which personal blogs are so accessible and easy to create, forming a platform in which many foodies share their experiences and thoughts on food. Pictures are not only easily embedded on the blogs, open platforms also enable bloggers and readers to share comments and feedback regarding specific articles. Truly, we have seen how the traditional form of a diary book has transformed in our current generation, marking a more open and interactive yet personal relationship between people and food.

“Americazation” of Japan

In the novel My Year of Meats, written by Ruth Ozeki, it follows the lives of Jane Takagi-Little and Akiko Ueno as they experience a cultural clash with American culture through the reality TV show My American Wife. The novel follows the lives of the two women in different viewpoints; Jane’s life is seen in first person while Akiko’s is viewed in third person. By choosing to use different perspectives Ozeki allows us to see what occurs on both sides of the camera and the change of “Americanizing” Japan.

“Meat is the Message”, a simple quote from Jane’s pitch for My American Wife yet perfect in explaining the purpose behind the show; to raise the interest of meat in the Japanese public in hopes of increasing sales (8). The show is created in From following Jane’s journey with the filming crew, traveling across America to find a new housewife every week to film, we see Jane having conflicting feelings of how they are “bending the truth” for their show. How for the sake of the shows reputation they twist the truth to the point where it makes Jane “sick” (29). Although the story repeatedly tells us how Jane feels about lying, she is forced to keep doing it as part of her job because of her responsibilities towards BEEF-EX.

Ozeki uses Akiko as a way to represent the housewife target audience of the show My American Wife and shows us the “Americanization” through the changes in her life. For example, her husband Joichi is shown to be quite fond of anything having to be American as he changes his name to a name he considers more modern, “John”. By using Akiko and “John’s” relationship, Ozeki is showing us a representation of the cultural change from the older Japanese ideas to the more modern one today. How as Akiko, representing the older heritage of Japan, is struggling to deal with all of the new ideas and changes that her husband, representing the more modern American ideas, pushes on to her. From working on the show My American Wife “John” is shown to be becoming more American with each episode: he drinks Remy Martins instead of tea like his wife, he uses American quotes like “Kill two birds with one stone”, and he forces Akiko to use meat in all of her cooking. As the story progresses on Akiko is shown to be having increasing difficulty following “John’s” plans as she becomes weaker from being unable to properly ingest the meat “John” makes her cook. Akiko’s increased weakness with the stories progression is a symbolism of the old Japanese culture weakening, or even slowly dying out.

Ozeki portrayal of Akiko and her husband is a representation of how the new modern American ideas are replacing the old Japanese culture.

Listful Women

“My Year of Meats” by Ruth Ozeki follows three women—Jane, Akiko, and Suzie— through the production of My American Wife, a television documentary series. The show is sponsored by BEEF-EX and is designed to interest Japanese housewives in cooking with beef products. Jane is the strong-headed Japanese-American coordinator of the show, Akiko is the Japanese bulimic wife of the head producer, and Suzie is the American star of one of the episodes. Ozeki uses lists throughout the text to link the stories of these women and show the differences in their lifestyles.

2 kilograms American beef (rump roast)
1 can Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup
1 package Lipton’s Powdered Onion Soup
1.5 liters Coca-Cola (not Pepsi, please!) (19)

This is Suzie Flowers’ list of ingredients for the Rump Roast she is to make on her episode of My American Wife. The measurements are big and simple, 1 can of this and 1 package of that. The ingredients are also big and simple. “Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup” is one ingredient that can actually be broken down much farther into a compilation of ingredients. However if Campbell’s does not make the soup then Suzie’s recipe is no longer simple. This list demonstrates Suzie’s limited interpretation of things. Suzie says that before she discovered her husband’s affair she was “asleep”(26). She took things at face value and did not attempt to find the deeper meaning or interpret them farther.

This list also becomes Akiko’s grocery list for Saturday night dinner as instructed by her husband. Inspired by Shonagon, the author of a book full of lists and notes, Akiko writes a list entitled Squalid Things: “Darkness in a place that does not give the impression of being very clean / A rather unattractive women who looks after a large brood of children” (41). This is in reference to Suzie Flowers, the Coca-Cola Lady. Akiko, used to her complicated and small life, is disgusted by and slightly envious of the gluttony and simplicity inherent in American lifestyles. Both women are making the same dinner to appease their husbands and feed their families, but Akiko views it as squalid whereas Suzie has never questioned her lifestyle.

While at a strip club with Akiko’s husband Jane composes a list of things that categorize him:

Hateful
Unsuitable
Depressing
Annoying
Presumptuous
Things That Give a Hot Feeling
Things That Give a Pathetic Impression
Things Without Merit
Things That are Unpleasant to See (46)

Both Jane and Akiko subscribe to Shonagon and find solace in writing lists about things they observe and experience. Jane is unabashed in her list describing Akiko’s husband using strong unrelenting words and speaking her mind freely. Akiko’s list however has qualifiers such as “rather” (41) and “impression” (41) that demonstrate her lack of confidence. If either Akiko or Suzie had the confidence that Jane has perhaps they would be able to repair their marriages or at least progress out of their respective stagnant states. The lists associated with each woman in this narrative not only provides insight into their personalities but links them together despite their obvious differences.