Don't Shake the Flask

Because you don't know if it'll explode

Tag: food

Month of Letters: Day 2

It’s three postcards this time. One for a nature lover, another for someone who specifically requested a Valentine’s theme, and the third for someone who I think will appreciate the cute stuff. One will go to Russia and the other two within the US.

Food Can Be A Cultural Landmine

Not long after I wrote my previous post, I came across this article where the magazine Food & Wine apologized for messing up some traditional cuisine just because they wanted to interject their own aesthetics into the picture. Which made me wonder if my attempts at kolokythopita was an exercise in exerting my “privilege” (which seems very strange to say since I’m not a white dude and almost no one ever listens to me anyway) over an ethnic cuisine. I ultimately decided that my attempts at cooking was not the same thing because: 1) I admit I’m no expert at cooking, 2) I make no claims on authenticity and readily admit to any changes I made with the recipe, and 3) I wouldn’t dream of telling anyone else that my adjustments to the recipe made it better, aesthetically or otherwise.

These days, if food tastes good, I’ll eat it. I think it’s because I live in a place where there is an ever present mingling of cuisines  in  pretty much any location that sells food. And I think everyone knows intuitively that it’s a fusion. No one’s seriously claiming to be an expert at an authentic cuisine–instead, everyone’s claiming to be the new hot thing. I think, too, that the blending of cuisines happens because there are the intersections of culture. While food can be a marker of identity, it’s also an easy way for different cultures to start understanding each other. 

Arguing about food’s authenticity is another matter. For example, I’ve had an antipathy for Chinese American restaurants because I didn’t think the food was authentic and it contributed to the stereotype that Asian Americans, and particularly Chinese Americans, liked this type of food and had the lifestyle that these restaurants conveyed. Of course now, I understand that the owners of these restaurants were just trying to earn a living like everyone else. And if they had to Americanize their menu to get the orders in, then that was what they were going to do. These days, I would argue that Chinese American cuisine is its own distinct entity.

But for the experienced chefs and other food experts of a particular culture who have spent a significant part of their lives mastering and understanding their own culture’s authentic cuisine? It would be terrible to override their knowledge just because you thought that your way was better. I don’t think this is any different than some prudish editor bowlderizing a work of literature or some new age guru misrepresenting a non-Western religion just to make a quick buck.

Wasting Time on the Internet

One would think that with all these months trapped at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I would have had plenty of time to catch up on my reading, but strangely (or perhaps not strangely) enough, that wasn’t the case. I’m as busy as ever, but maybe that’s not surprising considering my field of work.

Recently I managed to finish one of those books in my gigantic to-be-read pile: Wasting Time on the Internet by Kenneth Goldsmith. This particular blog post isn’t going to be critiquing this particular book–although I will say that Goldsmith’s thesis, that the internet has changed how we live and think and spend our time, is an interesting one. Certainly, many things happening in the world now (for better or worse) wouldn’t have been possible without the internet.

This has mostly made me think of what I usually do to “waste time” on the internet. There are so many things. But perhaps I can narrow this down to just stuff I watch on YouTube and maybe I can provide kind of a hodge-podge list of what I do watch.

Cats: These are probably the most time wasting sort of videos I watch. Although–they can also be informative. I also have a cat, after all.

 

Kpop reactions: It’s not so much the kpop videos themselves that I find interesting, but the whole ecosystem of react channels that have sprung up around it. The more watchable ones, obviously, are the ones with actual commentary instead of incoherent fangirling/fanboying.

 

Book and writing commentary: Food for thought, basically. You might disagree with their picks, but it’ll get you thinking about your own literary tastes.

 

People eating weird stuff: Totally mindless but at the same time, completely entertaining.

 

Music: This is just a small selection of the type of stuff I listen to.

 

Horror/RPG: I find the storytelling and the intersection of that with this particular genre very interesting. This scratches a different itch than the book/writing commentary channels above.

 

Science: I’m a scientist. Of course I like watching science videos on YouTube. This is just a small selection. I’m sure there are some other very interesting channels I’ve missed.

 

Linguistics: These are the channels I find more engaging. I’ve tried some other linguistics/language channels which also are very popular, but I find myself wanting to fall asleep in the middle of them.

 

Culture: Just some really cool and random stuff all around.

 

Notes from Los Angeles

After the whole move and everything, I totally forgot about my pitstops in Los Angeles. The photos below include works from LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art), The Broad, the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, and Little Saigon in Westminster.

 

Food in Hong Kong

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lo mein with spicy sauce

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mango and pomelo juice

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pork and rice vermicelli

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papaya/mango juice and coconut/mango/aloe juice

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chicken bun, sweet crackers in the shape of fries, and spicy cheese crackers

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taro dumplings

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duck feet wrapped in bean curd

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tempura fried fish

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roast duck

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steamed fish

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celery, shrimp, and macadamia nuts

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bean curds, wood ear fungus, and glass noodles

Singapore Food Binge

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turnip cake (lo baak gou)

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buns filled with lotus paste

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pork spare ribs

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dumplings with gao choi

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rice rolls with char siu

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pancit bihon noodles with BBQ pork and rice

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starfruit juice and dragon fruit juice

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bandung (rosewater extract and milk)

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passion fruit tea

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roti prata with chicken

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chendol (soy milk with dandan flavored jelly and red bean) and kyuri (cucumber blended with soy milk)

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fried shrimp

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chicken dumplings

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red jumbu from Thailand

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kueh tutu (peanut and coconut)

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cold lemon tea, hot milk tea, two soft-boiled eggs, and kaya toast with butter

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pineapple juice and kiwi juice

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collard greens, okra with shrimp, and rice

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soursop juice

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longan juice with longans

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pancake filled with leeks and egg, pancake filled with seaweed

Old Stomping Grounds

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Dinner with Beyoncé

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(Note: Obviously, I did not eat all of this. Most of these plates were my relatives’. I did try the balut, though.)

Paying One’s Respects

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Food and Family

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