let’s talk about food

Growing up, we never really talked about food. We didn’t rhapsodise about it; we just consumed it in huge and varied amounts at home, at restaurants and at hawker stalls. In fact, our food reviews came in the form of: “ho chiak!” or, as my dad would say, “Not bad.”

We’re a family that goes out to eat at least once a week, maybe twice, and this has been our routine ever since I could remember. Yet, I can’t quite wrap my head around describing the flavours and textures of dishes, whether a dish “sang” or fell flat on my tongue, or committing to recommending a restaurant or not. I eat food, and I love food, and I would gladly write about food if I found an avenue to do so. But I can’t help but think about Coco’s Cantina’s recent move to issue a ‘ban’ on all food reviewers in apparent retaliation to Peter Calder’s unprofessional move at starting a Real Review saying he hated venison. (That dude is so fucking bitter, anyway. Someone bring him to a mimosa-filled brunch, stat.) And I can’t help but think of the owner of the restaurant Peter Calder hated the venison at, who stated that she thought there was a place for reviews, but the reviewer should have some sort of ‘expertise’.

I have no ‘expertise’. I do not live and breathe food, and yet my account on Zomato is sitting at 9-or-so reviews. Should they just ban me? Granted, I’m not publishing on a platform like NZHerald, and it should be pretty obvious to everyone that I’m not a legitimate source, but now I feel a little weird about it. Is there a place for everyday-eaters like me, reviewing on a platform on Zomato? I can’t help but take some of the reviews on there to heart – I sometimes decide where to go based on their rating system, (I loathe to admit. But there’s hundreds of restaurants in Auckland, how else can I filter through them all?) and I read reviews there on the regular. I wouldn’t consider myself a #selfproclaimedreviewer (you hear that, Coco’s? Don’t ban me, because I love your pasta) but there is a sort of satisfaction in making sure your opinion is heard. I don’t think it necessarily comes from any place of vindictiveness – in fact, I would never write a horrible review on Zomato, unless they really and truly screwed up (like, killed me, or something). I think there’s a lot of reasons for it. It’s like this feeling that we are the customers, not the Peter Calder’s of the world. It’s a community, you know? You’re on Zomato, and you see all the other people that went to the same place, had the same food as you, maybe had the same experience, so you need to contribute to that and let them know that – yes, this place is the bomb! Or maybe you had a totally different experience and go – hey, wait a minute, yes, you have the right to your opinion, and I totally hear you, but here’s another angle, and maybe someone else will think the same?

Like, you read a review in the papers, and it’s so definite. It’s fucking there in black and white, static, unchanged. It’s printed; it’s published; it’s done. With Zomato, and for the internet everyday-reviewers, it’s a totally different ball game. It’s not definite. You can go there again. You can change your mind. You can read all the reviews and get a different perspective on the food. (And isn’t food one of the most subjective things in the universe? Why should one food review be published, and that be it? Are people really interested in such a thing?) And do I really need to be an expert? Can’t you just hear me, an ordinary person with ordinary tastebuds and probably limited technical knowledge on food? I mean that’s what I want. And I always tell people – if I don’t like your food, or a food at a certain restaurant, doesn’t mean the restaurant or the food is crap. I am not neutral. To pretend to be so would be immeasurably stupid. I have likes and dislikes developed and honed over the years, through my upbringing and through my childhood. Restaurants find customers through this Not Novel phenomenon.

So I guess what I’m saying is – I really like food, and I’ll probably be telling people about it, despite an untrained tongue. Not really reviews. Think of them as personal essays, if you want. Sorry.

why the fuck should i be embarrassed about watching a tv show

riverdale.jpg

Should my admission that I watch Riverdale always follow by, “It’s trash, but entertaining trash?”

I watch a shit load of television. I watch television at home, and I watch television for my job. I don’t think I’ve said this yet, but I work as a Caption Producer part-time. This has resulted me in being exposed to a multitude of shows I wouldn’t normally watch, but, you know, I still enjoy. (And some I don’t. Fuck fishing shows.)

Recently I started embarking on the wild journey that is Riverdale, a CW show based loosely (very loosely) on the Archie Comics. I started talking about it with my colleague and after we both established that we were watching it, melted into nervous laughter, because well. It’s not Great, by most objective standards. It’s campy, but self-aware about it, and tries too hard to be contemporary while still being set in a dreamy, Twin Peaks-like small town. But it made me think – am I rotting my brain by watching this shit, and how is it any worse than saying you’re watching Breaking Bad?

No one would delve into nervous laughter after talking about Breaking Bad, Mad Men or The Sopranos, all considered God-tier television about white people (and predominantly white men) with “amazing writing” and “complex characters”. But let me tell you – I was way more entertained by Cheryl fucking Blossom’s slow-mo into her dead twin brother’s funeral in a white dress than Don Draper fucking another woman who is Not His Wife.

Why do I try to frame my consumption of shows which may not hold technical critical acclaim in a way that dismisses the value of the show? Why do I always pre-empt conversations about these shows as “yeah, I know it’s trash but it’s entertaining,” or “yeah, it’s not good, but there’s just something about it.” Um, Jean, is that something the fact that it is good? And why do so many of these shows end up being on The CW channel, with the target audience young women?

Admittedly some of these shows have gotten general acclaim – Jane The Virgin, for one, My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend the other. However, those fanboys that salivate over Walter White and The Wire are not watching these shows. They’re not going on about how ‘complex’ Jane Villanueva is. Is the criteria of a show that is considered ‘good’ in most circles that boys jerk off to how good the writing is? Why aren’t any of these ‘complex characters’ women? (And why did you hate Skyler White so much? Oh wait, I know. Misogyny.)

Like, fuck The WireTrue Detective and especially fuck Breaking Bad. I’d watch something like Fleabag (which you should and must watch) over those any day. And now that I’m finally admitting to myself that I don’t have to prove that I only watch Quality Television to some douchebags in film school, I can finally stop calling the shows I watch bad.

Now excuse me while I go watch The Mindy Project. Did you guys know Mindy Kaling was the only woman on The Office US initial writing crew?

am i just an ‘asian writer’?

the-girl-in-questionI was having coffee with an Asian friend the other day who, over the whitest brunch imaginable (eggs benedict and a flat white), asked me if I felt comfortable being an “Asian writer”. By this she meant if I was okay with constantly re-asserting my Asian-ness in my writing, whether it was opinion pieces or fictional stories or a good old tweet. “Don’t you want to be known just as a writer?” she asked.

Okay, so. If you look at my history of the last few years, what my friend said may start to make more sense. During my very first semester of university, I took Sociology 101, where we were asked to write an autobiographical essay using a few key concepts. Most of my concepts surrounded race – internalised racism being one of them. Just last semester, I took a comic book class, where I did a little comic called “The Girl in Question” about growing up Asian in a white world. Asian diversity in Western media matters so, so much to me, and I am riled up enough to write-in to places discussing these Asian matters.

Rewind the clock back a bit to say, Year 2. Fresh off the boat from Malaysia, a tiny little five-year-old who sat alone on the very first lunch of her first day at school.

I quickly spun into erasing as much of my Asian-ness as possible, determined to be seen as a ‘real Kiwi’. I played netball. I shunned the groups of Asian kids who hung out together and only spoke in their own language. I tried so hard not to call my dad ‘Papa’ in front of my friends, even though that’s what I always had called him. I refused to learn Chinese (a decision I regret to this day).

Realising that I could be a ‘real Kiwi’ while embracing my Chinese culture was a long, slow process which took many years spent on the internet, reading posts and following blogs of other kids who went through the same thing.

It’s funny, because it’s not really this huge, angsty identity crisis that it may sound like on paper. Internalised racism isn’t obvious, and trying to undo it is also not always a visible process. It was really just teenage-me spending a shit load of time on the internet, reading everything that came along her screen. Lots of time thinking about why I liked it when people called me “not really Asian”, and then realising how fucked up that is.

So when I think about all of that, and I think about where I am now… I don’t really mind being the “Asian writer”. Do I want every single thing I write to be about being Asian? Do I want people to reduce me to an ethnicity? Do I want to only be given work that has to do with being Asian? Fuck no.

But do I believe in open discussion about Asian representation, Asian writers, Asian creators, identity politics, and, you know, just not being racist in general?

Fuck yes.

why did i make this

Full disclosure – I created this blog on a Saturday night, at home in bed, feeling very dejected after deciding not to go out because “I wouldn’t enjoy it anyway”. And then having a big pity party about why I wouldn’t enjoy it – because no one likes me, because I’m not cool enough, because they wouldn’t even realise I wasn’t there, because they aren’t really my friends blah blah blah blah. Typical shit that crops up from time to time, and usually just ends in a crying session and then going to sleep.

Except this time, I made a blog.

Pity party at mine is just a shameless acknowledgment that I never go to parties, and that I’m a chronic sufferer of wallowing in self-pity and not doing much about it. It’s my place to rhapsodise about the unfairness of life without people accusing me of being a huge fucking whiner, because newsflash – it’s in the title.

And because sometimes I want to write about stuff that’s not just me trying to churn out Relatable and Depressing Millennial content, I also added “eat your feelings” and “live vicariously” tabs, which are about food and film and television respectively. I do, in fact, eat out a lot, and it’s my ultimate goal to cash in on that and have people give me free meals or something. (I cross-post on Zomato in eternal hope of this.)

I also watch a lot of film and TV, so you know, sometimes I want to talk about that.

Even if blogging is a little bit like shouting into the void, at least it’s a void with a URL.