American cuisine

Turn the tables on American cuisine

By Wayne Chan

Last week my wife Maya and I went to a neighbor’s house for “Yappy Hour”.

Yappy Hour is a twice-monthly neighborhood meeting where everyone brings their dog along with drinks and treats (for people, not dogs) to socialize. We used to have ‘kiddie hours’ where we brought our kids instead of dogs, but found that barking was much easier to ignore than screaming.

Anyway, for our treat, we decided to bring scallion cakes, or “Cong You Bing”. For those of you who aren’t in the know, Cong You Bing are little flour pancakes with sliced ​​green onions that are seared to crispy perfection.

Sometimes I add a little egg to coat it just for a little change of pace.

As I put the Cong You Bing plate down and sat next to one of my neighbors, she asked me what I had brought and I explained to her. She looked puzzled, took one, bit one and said, “Yum! That’s great ! So unusual!

I knew she wanted it as a compliment but it surprised me a bit as I have lived in the USA all my life and grew up eating them at home and in many Chinese restaurants, usually on Sunday mornings, when they are often served. I probably should have known, as we were one of the few Asian (or minority) families in our neighborhood.

Still, I thought it would be fun to turn the tables a bit.

“Well, Mary, I’m glad you like them. But you know, even though I grew up in America, there are certain things you guys eat that, if you really think about it, are a little weird. “

I don’t know why I’ve always been a little uncomfortable calling someone white or Caucasian. I guess it’s just easier for me to call them “dudes”. Come on, they know what they are.

Puzzled, Mary smiles and says, “Really? Like what?”

“Well, let’s see…”, I said, “Let’s start with the meatloaf. What is the point of this?

It is not roast meat and it is not a loaf of bread, but a loaf of meat that you bake / roast in the oven and then serve it in slices as if it were a piece of bread.

What is the point of combining them? I mean, if you serve me a steak with garlic bread, I guess it ends up being meatloaf by the time it hits my stomach, but what’s the point of combining the two before for having eaten it? Was it designed for lazy chewers? Isn’t that basically a pre-digested meal? “

I was on a roll now.

“Anything else, what’s up with the roast turkey?” ” I asked. “I mean, I really like the roast turkey and the gravy… but what about that cranberry sauce?” What’s the point of eating roast turkey with what is essentially jam? If it’s totally normal to eat turkey with cranberry sauce, then why don’t you see this kind of combination elsewhere? Why don’t you ever see someone eat a hot dog and smother orange marmalade on it? “

“And while we’re on the topic, what’s the deal with hot dogs?” First of all, it’s a misnomer – luckily, it has nothing to do with its namesake. My golden retriever heaves a sigh of relief. But beyond that, who the hell had the idea to take the lining of a cow’s stomach and then fill it with crushed pieces of various parts of said cow, and then make it in such a way that the meat stays red no matter how long you cook it? I have never eaten meat that stays completely red on the inside even when the outside is scorched. What does it mean?”

We all had a good laugh at my little rant. And frankly, I really like meatloaf, turkey, and hot dogs.

In the end, it’s really the blessing and the curse of being Asian American. You can adapt from both sides while being pushed back at the same time. I am a critic of the culture of equal opportunities.

I think the key is to always look for the commonalities that unite us.

At the end of my conversation with Mary, I had one last example.

“When I go to some of my friends in the morning, a lot of them will have scrambled eggs and add ketchup to it. It sounds so strange, why would you add ketchup to scrambled eggs? “

Mary looked at me and said, “Remember last month you invited us over to your house and made this special dish – it was basically scrambled eggs with sautéed tomatoes and chunks. of chicken served on rice. That was delicious! You said your dad made this dish when you were little. It was tomato and eggs, Wayne! “

What can I say ? When you’re right, you’re right, Mary.

Yet at least you haven’t seen me put it all in little tubes and make little sausage links out of them.

Wayne can be contacted at [email protected]