[Cross posted at Cranial Gunk]
When you make fried rice, you use rice that’s been in the fridge overnight (“gwoye faan” in Cantonese). You don’t use fresh rice right out of the cooker.
The other thing you don’t do when making fried rice is you don’t cook everything all together, all at once. I mean you can, but I’m pretty sure my Dad would give you his patented WTF-look. It’s not a look of anger or reproach. It’s more on the lines of “if you’re not going to do it right, please step out of my kitchen.”
It’s been so long since I posted to Rice Daddies that it didn’t feel right to repost or cross-post something from Cranial Gunk (my personal blog). Happily, other Rice Daddies have been composing some really thoughtful pieces and sharing some really interesting links. I tried to leave comments on the posts that really struck me, but had too much to say for just a line or two.
So here I am with my gwoye faan, my eggs, spring onions, and my Birds Eye Classic Mixed Vegetables, to make you some of my Dad’s “chaau faan.”
How do other Rice Daddies feel about Jon Gosselin? I think he is making some very foolish decisions right now in a belated effort to assert his identity and redirect the course his family has taken. I feel that a lot of unflattering reports are a result of his being a public figure without a savvy public relations team.
Obiwanhavanese posted about his anxieties regarding his son not learning his parents’ native language. I’ve also had the same fears. Currently, despite starting early with my eldest, we cannot say that he speaks Chinese. He remembers numbers and a phrase here and there but not well enough to actually use them with any automaticity.
However, it’s not his problem or his brother’s. It’s our problem, their mother and mine. The children want to learn but among the hindrances is the fact that neither their mother or I speak Mandarin (the Chinese that their mother and my parents say the kids should learn). Their mother speaks Vietnamese and I speak Cantonese. My parents (native Cantonese speakers) speak a little Mandarin but are not fluent enough to help the children learn. In fact, part of the problem is that my own Asian-born immigrant parents prefer to speak English to the children!
Malcolm Gladwell spends a good deal of Outliers speaking to the impact of “cultural legacy” in shaping success and Karen the Californian alludes to the social expectations of an Asian face mouthing Asian words. While I maintain my belief that learning Chinese is important for my children, I also acknowledge language is only one cultural transmitter. Language helps but there are other ways to perpetuate a cultural legacy.
In the opening of Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake, a pregnant Indian woman living in Boston, combines
Rice Krispies and Planters peanuts and chopped red onion in a bowl. She adds salt, lemon juice, thin slices of green chili pepper, wishing there were mustard oil to pour into the mix… a humble approximation of a snack sold of pennies on Calcutta sidewalks.
There are differences between Asian culture and Asian American culture. Food is another cultural transmitter. Lahiri’s description of a woman’s attempt to recall her home country through a self-concocted recipe is an example of this difference.
Now let’s go back to Jon. Current circus aside, there was a painful episode of Jon & Kate Plus 8 where he “teaches” his children about his culture. Jon’s mother is Korean (which brings up the interesting question – Why doesn’t he assume his father’s culture as his culture?)
I agree with Racialious, the episode was atrocious and upsetting because it promoted several Asian stereotypes. In this day and age, it is not outrageous to expect both Jon and Kate to be more racially sensitive. In the show, Jon talks to the camera about his “culture.” I wonder if he identifies himself as an Asian American or if the designation was put upon him by the show’s producers seeking to expand the show’s demographics?
Back to Obiwanhavanese’s dilemma, as Asian Americans how important is it for our children to speak our parent’s language? Do you think the Gosselin children will learn Korean? Does their father?
Assuming our children do not speak the ancestral “mother tongue” (it is a given that mine don’t because Mandarin is not my mother’s tongue) can what is lost be replaced by another cultural transmitter?
Part of the challenge of identifying yourself as Asian American is determining which is Asian and which is American? Identifying yourself as Asian American necessitates the establishment of new common “norms,” traditions, or practices that distinguish the categorization from identifying yourself as Asian.