|Courtesy of Spiegel & Grau, New York|
I love a good underdog story. Especially the ones about individuals from migrant backgrounds living in predominantly Western societies who take this thing we call Asian diaspora, wrap orange-dyed batter around it, stuff a bit of cream into it and call it mango pancake (a yum cha dessert arguably made famous in Australia – it’s even got its own facebook page).
Moving to a completely new country brings with it the challenge of somehow retaining the cultural identity of your homeland whilst trying to figure out your place in a new one. I recently read a book called Fresh Off the Boat, by Eddie Huang which is about just that – only this time it’s a gua bao (or Taiwanese steamed bun) instead of a mango pancake.
Huang’s parents migrated to America from Taiwan in the 80s. As a hip-hop obsessed law school graduate turned dope dealer turned stand-up comic, Huang always had a deep love for food but never realised he could make anything out of it until he scored a place on the Food Network’s “Ultimate Recipe Showdown” hosted by celeb chef Guy Fieri. Despite not winning the show, it did give him the confidence to open a restaurant specialising in Taiwanese street-food style buns called BaoHaus in New York City’s Lower East Side.
Let me give you a better taste of the larger than life character that is Eddie Huang through some of my fave quotes from his book:
|Courtesy of E.T|
On experiencing the lifestyles of the rich – “These fuckers had EVERYTHING…When you washed your hands, they had hand towels so you didn’t have to wipe your face with the towel your brother wiped his balls with ten minutes ago. For real, if you are a broke-ass kids, you are wiping your face with your brother’s balls.”
On drinking a great bowl of soup – “Like the first time I heard Lauryn Hill’s voice scratch over Killing Me Softly, I felt that I just had a mental breakthrough via sound; there has to be something like that with taste. It was then and there that I realised you can tell a story without words, just soup.”
On the Big O – “Obama was, is, and will forever be my homeboy…He was a face we could trust”
On the poison of racial stereotypes – “Asian men must be emasculated, Asian women must be exotic, black men must be dick-slinging thugs, and black women must be single moms. People think it’s funny, but the stereotypes have the power to become self-fulfilling prophecies if we aren’t aware”.
On fusion food (urgh, fusion food) – “The most infuriating thing is the idea that ethnic food isn’t already good enough because it goddamn is. We were fine before you came to visit and we’ll be fine after. If you like our food, great, but don’t come tell me you’re gonna clean it up, refine it, or elevate it because it’s not necessary or possible.”
And with that I leave you with one of my fave eps from a foodie/travel web series aptly called Fresh Off the Boat hosted by the man himself for VICE magazine (it’s one of my fave eps because it shines a limelight on the humble tofu).
For more from the FRESH OFF THE BOAT series go here.
“No culture is better or worse than another…
…it just is…aight?!”
x Grandma AL
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