This paper examines taste as a factor in beer's arrival as a symbol of modernity in India, Japan, and China. From nineteenth-century colonial production of India pale ale to contemporary attempts by global brewing firms to profit from a burgeoning Chinese market, beer has had an important but largely unexamined role in modern Asian-European encounters. This paper follows distinct agents of transmission—merchants, migrants, and empire builders—and their interactions with local drinking cultures to shape the particular tastes and meanings associated with beer in these countries. The case studies illustrate the different relationships that each country had with Western imperialism: India as a subject of British occupation, China as a site of commercial competition between imperial rivals, and Japan as a nascent imperial power in its own right. Beer gained least acceptance in the Indian subcontinent, in part because of Hindu and Muslim moralizing, and it symbolized western modernity for those who wished to challenge traditional culture. South Asian preferences often focused more on alcohol content than on the taste of malt or hops. The Japanese became Asia's most avid consumers of beer, adapting German lagers to local tastes. Chinese beer drinking has been limited to cities, and local brands are also bland, which reflects the place of beer within Chinese meals as a neutral grain. More broadly, I suggest that beer became a subject for nation-building efforts in Asia precisely because of its cosmopolitanism, which provided status to nationalist ideologues and supported their program of transcending regional rivalries.
This essay examines the history of the taco in Mexico and the United States as a way of shifting the focus of "McDonaldization" from technology to ethnicity. It begins with the origins of the taco in Mexico to show that it was a product of modernity rather than an ancient tradition transformed by Yankee ingenuity. It then examines patent records, cookbooks, and archival sources to demonstrate that all aspects of the Mexican American taco, including the pre-fried taco shell, were actually invented within the ethnic community. Indeed, new forms of tacos were one of the many ways in which ethnic women mediated the boundaries between Mexican family traditions and U.S. cultural citizenship. These sources also refute corporate hagiography attributing the fast food taco to Glen Bell, founder of Taco Bell. Finally, using GIS to map taco shops against tract-level census data, the essay concludes that non-ethnic fast food chains succeeded by marketing tacos as a form of exoticism or safe danger within the segregated landscape of 1950s Los Angeles.