Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Supposedly my people eat everything.

I take the NYTimes as my primary source of information. I like it most of the time. I just read about a health disparity study and the Asian American model minority myth, and these articles got me thinking and I'm trying to form something coherent about it to write down later.

But sometimes the Times disappoints me. Like the most recent article I've read tonight was "Scorpions for Breakfast and Snails for Dinner". Perhaps making the Times the target of my frustration is somewhat misplaced, or more accurately, too narrow, since I find this generalization rampant throughout American culture.

The author sums up Chinese food as such, "Both Roy and Alice were born and raised here in China, where people eat anything. I’ve seen animal markets in the southern city of Guangzhou where vendors sell live porcupines, pangolins, badgers, crocodiles, cobras and civet cats, all destined for the tips of chopsticks in the city’s costlier restaurants." You know, if all the Chinese eat snails, there would be no more snails in the world. And what is a pangolin??

Some people who read this article are going to say that the warm fuzzy moral of this article is an admiration for the tough, enduring character of the Chinese people despite hardship and famine, as reflected in their non-fussy palate, blah blah blah.

Well the author evidently didn't love the Chinese culture so much as to continue to send his kids to Chinese schools. They went to a French school. His characterization of the Chinese through their food might call for praise of the people, but it continues to distance salmon and granola Americans from those Chinese who "eat everything". Even if this was an ode to the Chinese, it's a very backhanded one.

Furthermore, the author seems try to establish his children as being just like the locals and embracing Chinese culture, including its gustatory one by describing them eating all kinds of things I've never even seen on a menu. Why have I not seen these things on a menu? I don't think I've ever been to that expensive of a restaurant. The anecdote about trout skin was appropriate to describe the poverty level of the people who ate gross non-food items THEN. Now civets or whatever aren't the grub of poor people. It's what you take people to eat on the expense account and want to impress them.

Dear friends, I challenge you to find an article about Chinese cuisine that doesn't gross out its American readers about all the gruesome non-food items that the Chinese eat with relish.

At least the Chinese don't sit down with their family to eat dinner brandishing knives and spears. The pale-skinned people are such barbarians.

1 comment:

Sous Chef Sony said...

hmm so you want to meet in Chinatown sometime next week and find a restaurant and write a review that doesn't gross out Americans? I've gone to Chinatown twice since i've been in DC and its pretty cool. lemme kno!