A Dining/Survival Guide for Those Moments as an Asian American Writer
When You’re with Your Friends After Work and You’ve All Agreed to Cancel Your New Yorker Subscriptions and Instead Subscribe to The New Republic and/or The Atlantic Because, Respectively, Cathy Park Hong and Ta-Nehisi Coates.
Dan dan noodles, Sichuan pickled vegetables, steamed chicken with chili sauce, fried lamb with cumin, chongqing diced chicken with chili peppercorn, tears in eyes, hot and spicy crispy prawns (in the shell), and Sichuan spicy ma po tofu.2
When You Read the Comments.
Mashed avocado with milk and sugar.3
While Trading Texts and Animated GIFs with a Friend Living and Writing in Another Country.
Palabok and lumpia.4
…chopped suey, crab rangoon, Mongolian beef, fried puns, and a fistfuls of fortune cookies that say Change.5
1 I didn’t like bittermelon (or ampalaya or liáng guā) when I was growing up, but I look for it on menus because sometimes the appetite is rumbling and isolation. Bittermelon, when it is in the mouth, is no language other than what it speaks.
2 The quantity of dishes is correlated more to the emotions represented at the dining table than the number of people seated. The dishes are selected to sear and then numb mouths in intervals much like the pace of conversation–when anyone gets past their learned diction a burning bite takes the place of language before the Sichuan chili, as it is its nature, anesthetizes the mouth to prepare it for further discussion.
3 This is thought, not eaten. A memory of it as sweet before it was savory. It cascades in and out at 3:00 a.m. trying to derail the language of others who translate as a kind of censorship. How many ways are there to say, This is not what you should feel.
4 The next day everything, including the leftovers, is wilted.