Food and Cultural Appropriation

Everyone needs to take it easy when it comes to food and cultural appropriation. I was reading an article the other day about how the latest trend about poke (pronounced po-kay) is a form of cultural appropriation and how, once again, another piece of some other’s culture has been stolen and vilified. As soon as I read that article, I got up, walked to the other room in my house, and let out the most passive aggressive sigh my little lungs could let out. In this time of social justice warriors and political correctness, I need to take a stand against the supposed cultural appropriation of different foods. I’ve worked in the food and beverage industry for the past four years of my life and I can assure you myself that when some restaurant down the street decides to sell a poke special on a bed of lettuce, more power to them. Shoot, I’ll go down there myself and buy two big bowls of it! While it may not be the same poke that I had from my family from Hawaii, it’s still poke (more or less).

Here is the reason why it’s so important though for these american restaurants to be selling these different cultural foods to the masses yearning for something new: it is a foot in the door. That’s right, it gives people who would have never had another chance to try something “exotic” a chance to try it. For example, take sushi and its immense popularity with the American populous. In the 1960’s sushi in the US began its wild climb to become one of the most popular food items sold in gas stations to this day. At first, how many people would willingly eat a piece of raw fish over a slab of sticky rice? Now, we have numerous sushi restaurants opening up all over the states and even professional sushi chefs are catering to guests at your local grocery store. Yes, there are moments when someone takes reinventing the sushi roll too far (like the this-is-so-wrong-but-I-don’t-care Philadelphia roll filled to the brim with cream cheese) but you know what? That is okay. Same goes with Poke. I had a poke taco the other day at a Dallas taco shop and it was literally poke, which tasted fine, wrapped in a piece of lettuce. It was fresh, succulent, and tasted like how poke should. Some would argue that it’s not the same thing as the real thing, which I do agree with, but not everyone can take a flight to Hawaii and order a bowl of fresh poke. It’s not a case of cultural appropriation but rather cultural appreciation. Food is not meant to be study on race and the stealing of culture, it is meant to be shared and enjoyed with friends, family, and strangers.

It’s also not about the food itself that makes it good, it’s the memory that is associated with it. The goal of making and serving food is for people to enjoy it and associate their good times with whatever item they are eating. Anyone can cook a good steak but it’s the memory of eating that steak with people you care about that makes it so good. Anyone can make a good bowl of soup, but it’s the memory of your mom making the bowl of soup from scratch because you were sick as a dog that made it so good. When someone orders a bowl of poke from a restaurant chain, I let them order it without a word of judgement. Once they start eating, I look at them and say, “it gets better” and make plans to get poke from a restaurant that focuses on it. It’s not the poke itself that makes it a good time but the act of making plans to get better poke with a new friend that makes it so good. Just enjoy your food, keep trying something new, and life will be good. Oh and stop taking five minutes to take a photo of your food. Just enjoy the damn thing.


Daily Prompt: Shiver

via Daily Prompt: Shiver

In a church parking lot, with a howling wind from Boston’s bitter winter beating against our 1989 Toyota windows, I would have the best meals of my life. I was about eight years old at the time, discovering the world with a sense of curiosity that would rival any other child of the world, waiting for my sister to get out of church school. My mother and I had to wait in our car which had a heater that just could not handle the Bostonian cold. It would roar with a fury of a lion but then putter into a breathless kitten in zero to three seconds flat. I remember my mom dressing me in layers upon layers upon layers of hand me down sweaters and jackets and by the time she mummified me in wool and synthetic fibers, I could barely move but at least I was warm. We were blessed with few riches during that time of my life, but my mother made the most of it. As my sister learned about the Lord, my mother and I were shivering away in our worn down jackets. Our hands were white like the snow that surrounded us and our cheeks blushed with a heavy hue of red.  We were in this for the long haul. It sucked.

But amidst this wintry hell which were my regular Sunday evenings, my mother always knew how to warm my heart. In a lunch box that my mom carried was a gift, a treasure, ambrosia that would heal any wound, any numbness. In two layers of aluminum was a homemade chicken pot pie, my salvation in this bitter winter. She would bring it out and hand me one. Warmth would instantly return to my hands as I peeled away the silver layer to reveal a golden fluffy crust. If you were to squeeze the pot pie with the most minimal effort, a golden elixir of peas and carrots would ooze out. Every bite would be a religious experience, so kind of like my sister but with less of the soul draining and more of the fun. You know that shiver you get when you step into a hot jacuzzi or a hot shower after you’ve been in the cold too long? On those Sundays, I would shiver not because of the coldness that surrounded me but because of the warmth that filled my stomach and the love that exuded from my mother. Those winters would stumble the hardest of men, but not my family and I. In those winters, we thrived.

Daily Prompt: Obvious

via Daily Prompt: Obvious

A few days ago, I was chatting with a friend about dating and how it was going for him. He looked at me with a sullen look and said, “Isn’t it obvious, Andrew?” I looked at him with a confused look, as a forlorn smile spread across his face and he replied,

“It sucks ass.”

That’s the usual sentiment that I’ve heard and said so many times during my tumultuous time of dating. It sucks ass and that is painfully obvious. We are in such a strange time of dating with where social dating platforms, such as Tinder, are responsible for so many awkward dinners and bizarre hook up stories. A time where texting allows two hopeful lovers to communicate almost instantaneously. A time where really the most dreaded thing that can happen when someone is talking to someone is to be left on “Read at 5:34 PM” with no response. Couldn’t dating be more obvious? There are just so many complicated factors, so many loops, so many hidden agendas that it just feels like I am in some sappy indie flick where I hopefully get that cute barista’s number by being adorably quirky. But that is never the case. I stumble my words, I sweat profusely, and the only thing I’ll be dropping is the phrase, “Keep the change” as I slink away cowardly. Or sometimes I could be talking to someone who seems interested and when I tell her that she is looking pretty, she hits me with the emotionless, “thanks bud”. Nothing kills confidence more than a punctuation-less “thanks bud”.

However, there is hope. Sometimes you get that lucky serendipitous meeting where it just seems right. Where either of you find an excuse to get closer to each other, or when your eyes meet and lingers for a split second, or even when your hands brush with hers and sparks fly. Your chest tightens and you make the move, reaching for your phone and handing it to her, hoping she does not notice how sweaty your palms are right now. She sees your phone, grabs it, and puts her number in it with no question. As she enters those sought for ten digits, you begin to think to yourself with speeds that rival even the smartest computers, “She’s playing me” or “She’s just going to ghost me” or even “What’s the point? Love is a lie.” As you begin to doubt yourself even more, which leads to even more sweatier hands, she hands your phone back and looks you straight in the eye, and she says, “I hope this won’t be the last time we see each other.” She smiles. You smile. Then you realize maybe dating doesn’t suck that much ass after all and, if it’s right, everything just becomes obvious.



I Done Did It Again

I regretted it as soon as I hit that stupid confirm button on my computer screen. A few months ago, I ran a full marathon and my time for that was 6:09:00 hours. It took me 6 hours to run 26.2 miles, 30 minutes before the cut off time. I was proud that I was able to run that many miles but when I crossed that finish line, a burning desire overwhelmed my heart. I wanted to run another marathon, but this time it will not take me 6 hours. The average finishing time for men is 4:19:27 hours (a 9:54/mile pace). I will complete the Cowtown Marathon on February 26 in 4:19:27 hours. I need to strip almost 2 hours off of my time in order to be an average marathon runner. Simple enough, right?

So why do another marathon? Wasn’t running one enough? Am I a sadist or a masochist? Do I really want to endure the same feeling of molten lava pouring through my legs as I pushed for another inch, foot, mile? Do I want to not feel my legs for a few days, with every step a reminder that I was not as prepared as I wanted to be? Yup. I do. I want to feel that feeling of elation when I pass another mile marker. I want to be around people who are pushing for the same thing as I am, though we do not talk, a certain bond is forged through the trials of a marathon. I want my adrenaline pumping as I near that finish line, with the chants of people egging me on towards victory. I have 7 months to prepare, which seems like a lifetime, but I know those 7 months will go in a flash. I promise you all that I will do this for real. This run is for you.

Oh That’s How You Do a Beer Dinner

“There aren’t enough tables.”

Five minutes were left before the Revolver Dinner Presented By Texas Star began and it was already a mess. There were not enough tables, the chef didn’t have enough plates for the entrees, and the first of the 75 people who reserved was starting to seat themselves. In the very pit of my heart, a panic was settling in and was threatening to anchor me down. I had my boss breathing down my neck and at least 7 staff members waiting fo13094223_10209597663565165_3300069182901554668_nr me to give them an order, a word of reassurance, even a mumble would have sufficed and I was already feeling the beads of sweat drip down my face. This was the moment that determined if I was meant for leadership or to be follower, the moment that determined if my prowess for planning and implementation was truth or a farce, this moment was shared by many people from the very beginning. Some failed and some passed this trial of fire and I am proud to say that I passed, not with flying colors but with colors nonetheless. At 6:30 PM on April 30th, I joined the ranks of restaurateurs and chefs as I led a staff, including kitchen workers, of 15 people to provide a fun and enjoyable evening to over 75 guests. This is my journey.

One day, in a sudden burst of inspiration, I approached one of the chefs at the restaurant I work at with an idea. Both of us were young, full of ideas, and we were ready to prove ourselves. I wanted to plan a dinner paired with beer, since I read that beer dinners were trending in major cities across the states. The restaurant I worked at was not exactly the forefront of trend setting events. We were old school with our chicken friend steaks and homemade mash potatoes, with most of our clientele being old enough to have seen action in Korea. Therefore, this made it the best place to host an event that thousands have enjoyed across the US. Now the only problem was to convince the higher ups of Texas Star to actually go for my idea. I approached the General Manager with my idea, with my plans aside, putting on my most confident smile I could. The conversation went a little like this:

Me: Do you have a second to chat?

GM: Sure. Come on in. How can I help you?

Me: Well one of the chefs and I wanted to plan a beer dinner for Texas Star and we wanted your approval.

GM: OK. You have it.

Me: Wait. That’s it ?

GM: Yep. Have an idea of what brewery and a simple draft by my desk next time you work.

Me: Okay.

With the hard part over, now the chef and I had to find a brewery that’ll help us, a full course menu with different beers paired with it, an action plan for the event itself, food and alcohol costs, meet a goal of forty guests to break even, and organize a venue that will hold all the guest, entertainment, and the food. Easy, right?

Over the course of the next few months, my partner and I sat down everyday at work to work out the details. What beers we would use, what kind of food we want to prepare, our theme, all of this was debated and compromised over. We knew our roles in this project of ours. He would make the recipes and take care of the food costs and I would organize the event itself. It was a match made in heaven. Where I was optimistic and he realistic, we balanced our dreams and our realities. Two days before the event, we sat down at the bar, notes sprawled out on the granite counter top, and we all of a sudden both stopped. We looked at each other and we both realized that this was really happening. We were planning our own culinary event. This was so different than planning a function for a club or school. These were paying customers we had to please, a boss that we needed to impress, and to prove to ourselves that we are professionals. We just sat there in awe of what we have and will accomplish and we fist bumped. We both knew what each other was saying, “Let’s kick some ass because we got this.”

The day of the event started rather lackluster. I was 5 minutes late to work and I was a bit hungover, just enough to cringe at the very loud bangs and clangs coming from a busy kitchen. But I needed to persevere, this was my job after all. I had 4 hours and 30 minutes before the event started, which I took full advantage of to make sure things went smoothly. The time slowly ticked to 6:30 PM, there I was in my nicest dress shirt with my black knit tie, and my partner was slaving away in the kitchen. The pieces were set, the servers were informed of their job, and I was ready to work. If I had known how much I would be running that evening, I would have applied some serious body glide to all of my body. I was like the Forrest Gump of the culinary world, just less chasing Jenny and more saving Bubba in Vietnam (I really did want to go home). While bringing out the hors d’oeurves took a little longer than I have wanted it, everything went off without a hitch. Everyone was happy, the band played all night long, and most importantly everyone drank themselves full with our beer. That is the whole reason why I even went into the business in the first place. To satisfy people with good food and good drinks, that there is the goal. 


Photo credit goes to Dillon.

When everything was cleaned up, the servers were long gone, the reports have been logged, and we clocked out, my partner and I went out to the kitchen dock. I saved us two beers from the event. We popped those bad boys open, and we just stood there staring into the night sky. We clinked our glass bottles together, which we took a big gulp out of. We savored each sip as if it was our first. Once our bottles were done, we simply shaked hands and left to get some sleep. We did it.

After everything was said and done, I was honored to work with such a great person such as my partner (whose name I have clearly avoided since he insisted on keeping his identity a secret, he said, “It’s about the food”). Well I am still going to honor you since without your hard work, this would not have been possible. This event got the ball rolling however, now people know that we are not here just passing through, coursing through life, waiting for something to happen. He and I are here to work and create and entertain the masses with our food. Just you wait world, we are going to show all of you just how awesome we are.

Five Simple Words

There are five simple words that could mean the difference between life or death, five simple words that can make a big scary world into a much smaller one, five simple words that remind you that even if the place around is crumbling into ruins that you are gonna make it. The phrase is simple but beautiful in its meaning, and when delivered by the right person, be it a lover, a parent, a random cashier, could help you in your time of need. It’s going to be okay.These five simple words, when spoken, assures you that even when the tough gets going that you’re going to be okay.

When I was a little kid, I was the only Asian in a block of mostly Italian kids. Thankfully I am proud to call of them my friends. Except for this one grown middle aged lady, who for some reason had a personal vendetta against my whole family and I. We did nothing wrong to her, and I am pretty sure our only crime was the color of our skin and the shape of our eyes. We lived on the top floor of a separated townhouse, she lived on the bottom and we lived on the top, with only a door and a stairwell that kept us apart. This door and the stairwell became my personal gates of hell, where other kids feared what was under their beds, I feared what was behind that door and at the bottom of that staircase. She was my boogeyman, my jeepers creepers, my constant reminder that there is so much evil in this world of ours.

I remember vividly how she would stomp up the stairwell, banging on pots and pans, wishing the most horrid curses to fall upon us. She called my mom names that I dare not repeat, she threaten to hurt me in ways that no kid should know about. I actually got in trouble once in school for asking my teacher what this and that meant, because that is what the Lady Downstairs would yell at me. She scratched the door, yelled profanities, egged our cars but throughout it all my mom kept a strong face. She would face the door, back straight, eyes forward, like a tiger protecting her cubs, daring the Lady Downstairs to come through that door. My mother, a small frail woman from the Philippines, stared down the devil at the door,  with nothing but her courage and her children to take care of. I was scared, shaken to the core, and my mother held me close and said, “It’s going to be okay.” And after that, it was.

So its going to be okay. You’re going to be okay.

The Marathon: Or How I Became the Better Me

I counted at least 20 very fit athletes eagerly waiting for the crossing sign to transform from the orange-red hand to the neon white walker. The neon white walker was mocking me, creating a cloud of dust as I imagined it running past me, looking back and smirking at how slow I was. In an hour and thirty minutes I was to run a marathon. That’s 26.2 miles of sweat, pain, and wishing that I had trained more for something that only 1% of the population has done. To sum it all up in a phrase: I was royally screwed. Most people would have skipped the race, citing that they did not train hard enough or that their body was not ready. Well I did not train hard enough and my body was not ready, but my ego and pride were being challenged and when I am challenged I rise to the occasion.




So there I was, 247 lbs of fat and pride, lubed to the brim with body glidsmiling buddhae (which I account for my victory over this marathon, not my mind or endurance, but the comical amount of body glide that I applied all over my body), primed
at the starting line along with over 1000 other proud runners of the world. I was completely out of place. Whereas their bodies were lean and toned, mine was like the pudgy Buddha that people rub its belly at the Chinese buffets. But their Adonis like bodies did not deter me, and I carried on. Each mile carried a new obstacle, both physical and mental, and each mile a new thought entered my mind:

Mile 1: Ok I’m starting strong. Not too fast not too slow, take your time and you’ll be fine.

Mile 2-26: I made a mistake. Oh my God please save me. 

Finish Line: Ok that wasn’t too bad. (Then I proceeded to fall to the ground because my legs were destroyed and so was my mind.)

I had no victory march, no one was waiting for me at the finish line except for version of me that I wanted to be. I limped to the gathering area, most of the various expos closed up or packing, almost all of the runners gone, and I gathered my backpack and my Lyft was there to take me home. I had my medal. I became the better me.

Moral of the story: Run a marathon. If I can do it, than you can do it. There are usually over a thousand runners but you are really only racing against the lazier and weaker version of yourself. You will fall and you will get hurt, but you will get up and run one more mile. Life without pain or struggle is not a life worth living. Only through trials and tribulations can you become the better you. Good luck and run.