Our Kitchen Reader book in November was Best Food Writing 2013. This is the first time I have bought one of these anthologies (there have been thirteen!) and it was brilliant. It is made up of such a diverse selection of short pieces - they were perfect for reading on the bus or just before bed.
There were two essays that stuck with me, both about eating Chinese food. One was "Eating the Hyphen" by Lily Wong and the other was "Meeting the Parents" by Eddie Huang. Wong is American-Chinese and Huang is American-Taiwanese. Both of them love dumplings and have lots to say about Westernized Chinese food. They want their dumplings authentic. Huang describes what he and his family look for in their dumplings using the phrase xiang wei: "the character a good dish has when it's robust, flavourful, and balanced but still maintains a certain light quality." The words were new to me, but I think we can agree xiang wei is what we are looking for in all our food.
Both Wong and Huang use their love of food to explore their ideas of identity. They draw from both their cultural backgrounds when thinking of who they are. And now I am beginning to feel some sort of Asian as well. After living in Hong Kong for three and a half years and now Singapore, I can see that I am now the type of person who has wants their dumplings authentic. Huang wants his authentic dumplings served with the good quality soy sauce. Wong likes her dumplings with ketchup! This is part of "eating the hyphen" involved in being an American-Chinese. Now I think I want to eat the hyphen too, as a Canadian-British-Asian person.
What cultural food, from your own culture or another, makes you feel at home?
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