The license to be assholes

I watched this kids’ movie the other day, called “ParaNorman”. It was about this little kid who speaks to dead people and he ends up saving his town from the wrath of the ghost of a persecuted witch girl who lived a few hundred years before him. He does so by telling her that it was horrible that people treated her poorly because she was different and they were afraid, but it does not mean that she should retaliate by causing such destruction on everyone around her. 

Sometimes kids’ entertainment is so profound in their simple, straight forward morals which can often be more relevant than the typical “subtext” of adult films. How relevant is that as a moral compass? Just because other people are assholes, it doesn’t mean that you should be, too. I think that’s my main issue with Edward Snowden and Chen Guangcheng. In Snowden’s case, sure, the NSA probably crosses lines with its operation, but that doesn’t mean that you risk destruction of security to teach them a lesson. You’re not God, so please get off of your extraordinary man bs. Same goes for Chen, stop playing your victim card as a cloak for what are very dickish moves. 

Monet

Or, how fashion rap has turned the game upside down;

Or, how butterfaced darlings of yesteryear have reclaimed self-worth through distracting accessories and outlandish packaging to become today’s “baddest bitch”;

Or, how Jeffrey Campbells redefined modern day “fly”;

Or, how, at the end of the day, Lil Kim and Foxy Brown remain girl world’s biggest aspirations (but you will never get there);

Or, how to spot a total Monet.

My Girl A Superstar All From A Home Movie

So there I was, going through the education history of a special education child, trying to develop a case theory when suddenly, Kanye West bursts through the scene with this revelation:

“My Girl A Superstar All From A Home Movie”

No, seriously, sit with it for just a second. Let’s lift the negative connotations of a reductive approach for just a second and appreciate the purity of the this simple and clear truth.

All the complaints ever uttered about Kim Kardashian revolve around the utter nonsensical state of celebrity. Why is this broad famous?

And Kanye, just comes through, with that nugget of matter of fact. However negative the message or characterization, the moment is still poignant – she’s described in one line. Not even described, just she’s there in one moment. Everyone knows what and who he’s talking about through allusion even. I mean I am probably completely alone in this but I really have been appreciating that for the night.

I sat there, like wow, how many people can be referred to with such specificity and clarity in an one line allusion? If that line had to be about you, what would it be?

The White Man’s Interpretation of Chinese food

which is, in true white man fashion, without contextual understanding and completely based on his own unsubstantiated assumptions based on his limited understanding of the world.

Last night, at some point during an intimate gathering of friends and irrelevant blonde hanger-ons, I suggested Congee Village as the midnight dinner spot. To which, my friend basically SNEERS at me, like, what IS it with Congee being the ONE place that white people who eat in Chinatown know and all LOVE. She is a dear friend, with whom I see more eye to eye on food than basically everyone but my mom, but Congee will always be a point of contention. Anyway, I have my own theories about the place – the size, location and the $5 cocktails all make Congee sort of a perfect candidate to be the bridge between east and west. Now, to be sure, Congee is nowhere near being representative of the intricate and complex profiles of Chinese cuisine, but what you do get is consistent Chinese and Chinese American foods. One caveat is, do not go to the White man outpost on Bowery.

So we found ourselves around a table at the original Allen Street location at 12am last night, and despite her OBNOXIOUS dismissal from earlier in the night, my better than normal friend also had an agreeable meal.
Which is all to say that stuff like this Animals Eating Animals video at Congee just UPSETS me. People who go to these “ethnic” restaurants to seek out the “weird” or “intimidating” items on the menu have no concept of “good food” outside of random conceptions about specific cultures, whether it’s their own or of another. I mean, sure, everyone is entitled to their own interpretations and sure, kudos for the bravery, but their ignorant prejudices are laughable and completely skews 1) Chinese food 2) Chinese food in America. Conflating the two would be to ignore the very beautiful results of the organic developments of Chinese food in being adapted to a new country, with its different influences, ingredients, and evolved (not in the sense of being more developed so much as changed) palates and at the same time completely undermining the complexities of original or “authentic” Chinese cuisine. I think it’s the same lack of understanding and reductive mentality that makes Asian fusion concepts such abominations. In addition, I don’t know why Americans still haven’t figured out that if given Chinese waiters are given the chance to “recommend” authenticity to you, they are going to rip you the fuck off without any hope at even a glimpse of authenticity, aka, most expensive item on the menu, aka Wuliangye, which by the way is less a “rice wine” than a grain alcohol. And it realllyyyyy drives me crazy that people like this really feel like they’ve experienced cultural immersion after experiences like this. Nah, brah. And that authoritative take on Chinese food at the end? That really kills me.

Breakfast reinterpreted

I’m in the process of drafting a post for my good friend, David’s website: the Gumship. The topic is breakfast. It also happens to be a major point of contention between my boyfriend and myself. Growing up, breakfast can be anything from steamed fish and soupy rice to scallion pancakes or the ever so popular Shanghainese specialty, Xiao Long Baos. This is not unique to the Shanghainese people either, in Hong Kong this summer, I had noodle soup with chicken leg, skewered and grilled gizzards, and all sorts of other delicious treats before the clock struck noon.

Anyway, Michael, being the American that he is, always tries to shame me for my habit of picking on chicken or salmon for breakfast. Sometimes, I just wake up with cravings for some real food, you know? I often feel like this American concept of breakfast consist of food that were “created” to fulfill a very narrow definition of a particular meal. They are compromised!
But I do love pancakes, especially when I have free reign over how they are compiled!

A few weeks ago, some lovely ladies from school gifted me with this spectacular thing: So, this morning, Michael and I did this:

Freckled cuties!!!!!
Anyway, so we were out of syrup, aka I’m Chinese and we don’t have maple syrup in the house. So, instead, we used chocolate syrup and ice cream. I also spread some peanut butter on these babies later on before a run.

Next week, I’m going to work on sprucing this up. Maybe, red velvet pancakes.

Weekend cooking

3L year of law school is basically like the last 3 miles of a long run. You’re in a groove and have gotten over the hurdle; the act of it is no longer a big issue, but mentally, you are just ready to be done with it. Originally, I had thought to take it easy this semester, but somehow, I have picked up a bajillion new things to do.

In short, I have work piling up higher than a Pinterest eligible stack of pancakes, which I meant to catch up on this weekend. I began by rewarding myself with a bottle of Pinot Noir on Friday, which turned out to be as disappointing as the hangover the next day. So I hunted around for a red wine chicken recipe today and did a little remix (I always remix recipes, not because I am a culinary master, but because I’m too lazy/cheap/broke to always get the exact ingredients).

Original recipe makes 12 servings
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 3 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup red wine
  • salt and pepper to taste

  • Pretty straight forward, easy to tweak. I had three chicken legs deboned – a tip for the unknowing in New York, Chinatown butchers have chicken that are both cheaper, fresher, and they’ll debone it for you in a jiffy. I always cook with the skin on chicken, but skip the oil, because the chicken fat will give you whatever fat you need in cooking and it’s definitely not as horrendous as you would think. So I salt and peppered the chicken, added some dried thyme and oregano (whatever herbs you have and like, you can add); threw it all skin side down. After about 5 minutes, there will be enough oil in the pan to sautee some garlic, so I threw in like a bulb of garlic (roughly minced). I looked around the kitchen for other stuff to add in, and saw the 5 lb bag of onions my mom insisted on buying because it’s such a deal (she’s the kind to buy Costco shit for the savings in theory and then end up eating it all like it’s a competition so it doesn’t go to waste). So I diced one and threw it in there too. You let the garlic and onions make happy for about 3 minutes. In goes enough wine to sort of cover the chicken, I don’t know exact measurements – probably half a bottle (way more than original recipe).I didn’t have paprika or brown sugar, so I added Sriracha, white sugar and honey. After all that, the color was a little pale for my liking, so I added maybe 2 tablespoons of Balsamic Vinegar (to be sure, that did not help; the color was still too ashy). I let it hang on medium for 10-15 minutes or just until the sauce thickens.


    It is ugly and delicious.

    So my recipe ends up being (scientific measurements and all)

    3 chicken legs, half a bottle of red wine, a bulb of garlic, an onion, 3 squeezes of sriracha (probably a tablespoon), 3 tablespoons of white sugar, 2 squeezes of honey (probably 1 tablespoon), and 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, a teaspoon of oregano, a teaspoon of thyme.

    A note though, this post is more about the process than it is about the “recipe”. Be creative, yo.

    I’d like to note that as I was cooking it, it occurred to me that this is kind of like a modified coq au vin (typical Chinese girl behavior to be bootlegging, right); except it’s so much better! My only issue with coq au vin is that stewing takes all the essence out of meat. There is no joy in stewed chicken meat. This recipe takes all the flavors of the coq au vin but maintains integrity of the meat.

    In retrospect, I would have given it one less squeeze of Sriracha.

    So there you have it; please go on and make your own counterfeit!

From ashy to classy

I have been back in New York for almost a week now, but my mind has been going over the last two months I have spent in China. It is inevitable; between the Olympics, Mitt Romney’s ridiculous campaign platform and the article on China that I have been working on, I have been forced to reflect on my perspective and seek some sort of reconciliation which is at this point elusive.

I have great faith in China’s potential and I am not afraid to say that I am so profoundly proud of the distance it has traveled. Of course, my background is a de facto bias on that front, but at the same time this faith in China’s future in no way detracts from my love for the great US of A.

I complain a lot about Americans, their wanton arrogance, their shameless stupidity and the endless slew of other defects, but ultimately, it is both a privilege and luxury to be American sometimes. There’s a reason why so many before us has come to this country and there are still reasons for the millions who risk much to touch American soil today.

I have written before about the jarring contrast of poverty in other cities around the world. Nowhere is that more evident than Shanghai, where panhandlers languish as untreated and unidentified illnesses leave their limps rotten, swollen or deformed, laid out in front of immaculate office buildings on the mile long stretch of sidewalk that janitors are to mop each morning. They are left ignored as luxury cars pull in and out of the driveways each morning providing dramatic contrast. This is the world in which I contemplated a future.

In my more ideal and romantic moments, I liken my own growth to that of China. From a naive child limited by circumstance, I have become a person who has managed to chart a course in life beyond boundaries that I could not even have previously conceived. I am proud of myself just as I am proud of China’s progress. Do you know how far China has come? Without going so far as the Revolution, let’s just talk about my childhood. The entire Pudong skyline was constructed within a span of a little less than 10 years; it has damn near emerged from the dark ages to the dynamic society it is today. Say what you want about the censorship and uniformity, there are at least organic perspectives in China rather than the recycled drivel that gets shoved down the throat as the cloak of democracy is falling apart at every seam. What’s worse, really? And maybe that’s why I can be so indignant and defiant of these assertions. It has not been an easy climb to endeavor yet so easily dismissed.

This summer, I found myself somewhere between where I started, amongst locals 老百姓 whose struggles are a distant memory, and where I may hope to reach, amongst the successful [mostly] expats I have met whose lifestyles I can’t help but seek. Both are humbling; both push me to go further.

And this is where I am on China: she has come a long way but there is still so much for her to achieve. I hope that she can overcome the setbacks and reach a height that has yet to be conceived. Thus, it is not surprising that there can be so many conflicting takes on China. China itself is grappling with its still present past and its future.

Ode to America

This morning, I felt, for the very first time, a sentimental pang of longing for US of A. If my naturalization was only ceremonial, then this moment of spirited fierte had truly ushered in a new era of citizenship (OR, perhaps, the moment only proved that as an outsider, only having been far removed from the daily systematic prejudices, disenfranchisement, and other such defects and impurities, am I able to identify with and value other American virtues, such as respect for traffic rules, for ex. But, that’s an aside. Another aside, today, my coworker, in one of those very very real, truth in jest moments, said to me, ah, but your case is quite dramatic, because you are nothing. You are not Chinese and you are not American.)

Anyway, so my point was that I felt so American that I took a detour from my morning Americano run from Costa for a Starbucks Iced Coffee. That is major, because I do protest and detest Starbucks in New York, but I was weak and hoped for half and half. Alas, I was to be disappointed on all counts.

And then, tonight, after trekking across 20 blocks in heels (that is nearly 20 street crossings with no guarantees from traffic lights), I came home to this: “That legislation, the Team USA Made in America Act of 2012, was duly introduced into the Senate and referred to committee on July 16.”

This actually happened? like, real senators sat around contemplating Olympic uniforms? Has the US become so utopian in the 2 months I’ve been gone that uniforms are now pressing matters?

On the one hand, it is moving to see the expediency of a political system when it is so moved and so compassionate about a cause. On the other hand, this is what they chose to dedicate that efficiency to?

I am not sure which is more terrifying: the gun toting Americans or the ever growing idiocy, each new layer of which never ceases to surprise with new  delights. This is just as petty as Obama exploiting the American sentiment of resentment against China by harping on Romney’s off shore investments as if it embodies an enemy of the state. Not because the opacity of Romney’s actual position (flip flopper that he is) on anything should not draw ire and that he should not have to answer for his hypocrisies (on so many issues), but to use that fact as a platform is to perpetuate ignorance. It’s wrong. Especially from Obama? Why play into that game, bro?

Source

Homecoming

I sometimes wonder why all the quality posts here do not beget more visitors, until I realize that updates are about as regular as a carnivore’s bowels (good bye, the 2 lone visitors I had left).
As you may know, I am in Shanghai for the summer, exploring my career options, myself and the world at large. But actually, that is coming to an end. I’ve had so many moments over the course of the summer during which I’ve wanted to blog (whine) about my experiences here, but have been too busy for any such frivolities (though, I do have time for frivolities like drinking whiskey, so I guess I’m a liar). But it’s also been wonderful. As with all things in life, there are layers, which I hope to recount someday, for now, back to the presentation I’ve to give tomorrow.

I don’t even k…

I don’t even know how to title this post.

I’m sitting here, trying, in vain, to soothe my dry irritated eyes with some Visine when it occurred me to procure some of the Extremely Effective ointment I used to use when I was little. So I Googled the Chinese name to find its English translation: Aureomycin.

A second Google search under the English name told me that in Amerrikuh, it’s an ointment for animals.

 

WELL I’LL BE DAMNED.