By Rei Tanotsuka, 8 June 2020
Which sister is calling Asian girls black fungus? This one is!
The following post is dedicated to my beautiful niece. May you grow up to hold our lanterns high and be the beacon of a new generation of Asians who won’t apologise for simply being us!
Hope comes in different sizes and different surprises and this time, I found one in a shroom!
Asian cuisine is not only reserved for the palate, food for Asians is: medicine, a greeting and a wealth of symbolism. The staple grain was used to pay taxes in bygone days in China where catties of rice (1 catty is equivalent to 0.6 kg) was a common currency. So when assholes from foreign lands, diss our exotic delectable cuisine because anything more exciting than cattle titty juice is seen as “eeeewww”, then we get snappy…. only we kinda… don’t.
Sorry for my chicken feet!
As a kid, I used to love chewing on the gelatinous plump feet of poultry served in Yum Chas. A sumptuous collagen feast of soy braised goodness, arranged like a concept fork with little prongs beckoning to be devoured. Eeny meeny miny toe! The spirit of my childhood days of carnage (before my inner vegetarian kicked in), was dampened when I learned from my Aussie mates that these super delish morsels of cultural fare, were infact, “DISGUSTING”. Not only did the chicken feet have to take a hike, tripe, pigs feet, liver, kidney had to be binned along with the self esteem of relishing the soul food that had sustained my people for CENTURIES!
Especially of late, where covid-19 has once again pilloried our cuisine and plummeted our reputation to consume, to the depths of Lucifer’s boudoir (the Chinese don’t eat bats in China btw, nor pangolins legally, read more here and here), it takes chutzpah to say “up yours, I LIKE ME EATS, you can get bent!”.
Denying our passion for kimchee, rejecting our obsession for stinky tofu and refuting the dalliance we had last night with the wickedly pungent funazushi, is doing ourselves a great disservice. We need to celebrate who we are, in all our glory!
To the West: if you take our fried rice and spring rolls, YOU can shut your trap about the other wonders WE HAVE ALREADY DISCOVERED and have been using for CENTURIES, which you have not yet learned to appreciate. When you do, QUIT pretending that you know MORE about it than us, and turn our foods into YOUR “wholefoods” story. Yeah I’m pissed off at the West claiming the 枸杞; pinyin: gǒuqǐ, now a superfood that answers to the Anglophone “goji”, and has a mark up of 6 trillion percent, as theirs. This is a berry our Asian mums have been dumping in our teas, broths and whatnots for eons and now the white folk are pretending its THEIR superberry, and that it belongs in a friggin smoothie.
During my childhood when our mates giggled at the soysauce chicken and rice lunch boxes mum made for us initially, we told her to stop because other kids were eating cardboard with fake meat and we demanded the same tortue. Fitting in was something we were expected to do… it wasn’t even conscious, we just did not want to be teased, but guess what I learnt today from my little sister? My niece is woke and she doesn’t even know what that is!
My niece is a tiny specimen of sass and self esteem, bundled up in pink with a gorgeous grin! Sometimes she enjoys going to ballet lessons, not for the dance but for the distraction. She has a penchant for blueberries and steamed eggplants and one of her favourite costumes is a princess dress, matched with punk scrap hair, holding a used alfoil roll to perform her “magic”. However, among all her mysterious ways of interpreting life, at the tender age of 5 she has developed a titanium, unassailable identity. She knows who she is.
So my sister tells me she enjoys cooking vegetarian meals for the kids and Asian ingredients are liberally employed. One day my sister (possibly for kicks, lol) put black fungus (woodear mushroom) in the vege mix which made its way into my niece’s lunch box.
During lunch, another girl, her frenemy for the longest time now, said something along the lines of “eeeewww, you’re eating stuff fished from the rubbish bins!”, thinking this would be an unbearable insult on the fragile ego of a kid. My niece, without a moment’s pause replies “Well I like it.”
END. OF. STORY. *Drops mic*.
We Asians need to defend OUR black fungus moment!
What if, just what if WE ALL stopped apologising for the things WE LOVE, but have yet to be “discovered” by the West?
Let me put it more succinctly, SCREW THEM.
Why are we only singing praise for cultural things that the West has approved of, yet clandestinely relish in the “fetishes” not commercialised by the them? Why are we ashamed to listen to our CANTON POP in mixed company, yet proclaim we LOVE K Pop?
Why do we even need EXPLAIN that frogs legs go well with XO sauce? Why do we ALWAYS and I mean ALWAYS make food jokes on our expense? (you have a cat? Yum, well you know me, I’m Chinese). These jokes are not even funny, they are demeaning and PATHETIC.
Why must we AGREE that Asian societies oppress women when it’s CHINA THAT produces 57% of the female billionaires in the world, at 16% of the population, this demographic holds 20% of the WEALTH? Click here to read more.
We need to grow a pair and grow up by mimicking a fiesty primary schooler! A kid who sports wonky pony tails and a cherubic face is telling the world who she is. No apologies. No explanations. She doesn’t NEED her school friends to give her permission to like black fungus, her TONGUE DID!
As adults we need to stop grovelling to people who are adamant on denigrating our self worth, should we act in a manner that is anything but inveigle. We stand for OURSELVES and there’s no need to APOLOGISE OR EXPLAIN THIS!