Joi Lee

Joi Lee

Joi Lee - Producer and documentary film maker at Al Jazeera; co-founder of Fork the system

Food is deeply personal. What we eat, how we eat, with whom we eat - all are lessons in understanding who we are and the world we live in. Meet Joi Lee, who wants people to think differently about food.

“It’s easy to look at the world and see it defined by divisions. We are saturated with the language of ‘Us’ vs. ‘Them,’ ‘We’ vs. ‘Others.’ It can be difficult to reach across the divide and have conversations built on empathy and a commitment to really listen. But there is something we all have in common. We all eat. Food is universal. With food as our language, we can gather around that dinner table and chat about some of today’s most important issues.”

We all cling to markers of our identities, in one form or another. For Joi, surprise surprise, it was food. She grew up in California, a daughter to Korean immigrants who believed in the American dream. As a lil’ kid, Joi believed in that too - maybe too much. Schoolmates made fun of her stinky Korean lunches, and Joi believed that to be American, she had to denounce her cultural food. She was ashamed. She wanted to erase her ‘difference.’ (Don’t worry, Joi knows better now, and can be found eating kimchi every day of the week).

Looking back, her relationship with Korean food comes into sharp focus. The love story between Joi and Korean food is one that’s ripe with metaphors for the political, cultural and social world she belongs to, provoking questions such as: What does it mean to belong? Why is your food different from my food? Does that mean you’re different from me? Who gets to say my food is worse than your food? Who gets to decide what cultural markers are socially acceptable?

Food. It’s not really about the ingredients, or the recipes. It’s about the stories they hold. What do you think?