Tag Archives: identity

Not for the Faint of Heart

Yes, this is a real sign.

Yes, this is a real sign.

Yesterday, I found myself driving in the crowded parking lot of an Asian (not so) mini-mall. On Saturday night. There should be signs clearly stating: “ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK.” It was every person for themselves while looking for a parking space and trying to dodge pedestrians crossing willy-nilly. There was an Asian woman in a white sedan who kept making last-minute changes in the direction she was turning: left, no, right, no, left, while waving a hand and mouthing “Sorry!” Okay, that might have been me. Regardless, as I turned back onto the main road, unscathed, I felt a sense of accomplishment. It occurred to me right then that this would make for a good video game. Like Frogger but more PETA-friendly, if a little politically incorrect. I’m just sayin’.

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Happy Year of the Wood Goat!

A mythical Qilin, hanging out at the Grove

A mythical Qilin, hanging out at the Grove.

I love Chinese New Year. Besides receiving hong bao (cash-stuffed red envelopes) from your elders (sadly, a tradition that I have aged out of), it is about family, friends and good food. I also love it because it is a second chance to start anew. Since the lunar new year tends to fall between late January to mid-February, it provides the opportunity to reassess what has or hasn’t been working in the first 5-8 weeks of the Gregorian calendar year. You’ve had a chance to give it a go but it’s still early enough to change tack if your initial efforts haven’t produced the results you were hoping for. It’s a free do-over of sorts. On the other hand, if you are on track and have kept up with your resolutions, you can just give yourself a pat on the back and eat dumplings!

Hand-rolled skins...making Waipo proud.

Homemade dumplings, wrappers and all…making Waipo proud.

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Kick-Ass Oriental Lady

Top Chef spoiler alert. Though, if you have even six degrees of separation from any form of social media, this post is not a spoiler. But just in case you were busy and DVR’d last night’s finale…

I love Top Chef. I am inspired by how excited the chefs get about their food and their craft.  Also, I might have a mini-crush on Tom Colicchio. I really liked the last four standing, but sorry, Douggie and Gregory (who seem like genuinely nice folk and I would be super excited to eat their food), I was secretly hoping either Mei or Melissa would win. I love that one of the courses in Mei’s winning menu was congee. I also grew up eating congee (congee is Cantonese. In the Mandarin vernacular it is: xi fan; literal translation: thin/soupy rice). She made congee cool. People who have never heard of congee or hundred-year old duck eggs may now want to go try some. This NEVER would have happened a few decades ago when kids would stare at my pork rou sung (shredded pork “floss”, a common congee topping) and butter sandwiches. I am lucky to have eaten at ink., so I may have already had the privilege of eating Mei’s food. Sorry, if I didn’t notice you though, because I was too busy staring at your boss!

Both Melissa and Mei spoke during the season of the need they felt to prove the validity of their non-traditional careers to their traditional Chinese parents (with the exception of Melissa’s mom, who seems pretty darn cool). I consider myself very lucky that my parents have always been supportive, even when they doubted my choices. But it did remind me of when I told my dad I had decided to be an English major. He said: That’s good, baobei (“sweetheart” in Mandarin), but how are you going to eat? He wasn’t trying to be discouraging; he was just being practical, based on his experience as an immigrant who arrived here on a one-way ticket with a single suitcase. Ironically, when I surprised my parents, choosing on my own accord to go into one of the traditionally Chinese-parent-approved professions, my mother lamented: it’s such hard work and I’m worried you won’t be able get married or have children for a long time! As Mei and Melissa would probably agree, sometimes you just can’t win with Chinese parents. Or maybe, just parents in general. They want the best for you, but may not always agree on what is the best. But the best parents are those who respect your choices and stand by you anyway, even when the road may be long and/or less taken. The best part of last night’s show was when Mei, who was known for her stone-cold “Mei face” all season, broke down in a string of holy sh*ts! and tears when calling her mentor, Michael Voltaggio. Congratulations, Mei! Thanks for representing Oriental Ladies everywhere. I hope your parents are really, really proud.

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Origins

You look like a nice Oriental lady. What country are you from?  My thoughts, in logical order:

  1. USA
  2. Umm, which part of my profile did you find to be grammatically incorrect?
  3. USA, jackass.
  4. Crap. Do I look like a FOB in my profile pic?
  5. I need a snack. And I hate online dating.

Then again, who am I to judge? It wasn’t until freshman year of college when I learned that Oriental should only be used to describe rugs, rice crackers or certain species of flora and fauna. Granted, my freshman year was so last century. Literally.

Where are you from? No, where are you FROM? No, what are you?

When I am in Asia, my dress, demeanor and accent get me labeled as “the American.”  Here, my Asian-ness is a defining characteristic-neither good nor bad, but as obvious as the color of my hair or the color and shape of my eyes. I’ve been called an ABC (American Born Chinese), a Twinkie or banana (yellow on the outside, white on the inside), Korean, Japanese, chink (not in the last two decades, thankfully) but I usually just prefer to be called by my first name. And I’m more interested in someone who wants to know who I am rather than what I am.  And that someone starts with me. For various reasons, the past year and a half gave me a shake-down to the core. I lost myself for a time and I’m still getting my bearings back.  I’m not sure where this is all going, but it is a beginning. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step…or a single post. And maybe a few recipes and a cup of hot water. Ready or not, here we go!

Update: 6/13/15

My friend A recently sent me this hilarious video from Ken Tanaka. Hilarious because this has happened to me and most of my friends too many times to count.

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