Tuesday, February 19, 2013

So Cal Asian Foodies

*long post that jumps around without real transitions warning.

I don't know why, but I find it horrifically offensive when people accuse me of being a foodie and I would rather shrink in a corner than admit that.  I'm not sure what the exact definition of a foodie is, but it feels like you need more money to be one and you care to spend the money to be one so therefore, I do not qualify.  I have many friends who do, and I admire them for their foodie hobbies and look forward to recommendations and photos of places to eat, but as for me... I take photos of my food because I'm Asian and that's what we've grown up doing.  I Yelp! about my food because I like to share my opinion, not because I'm exceptionally good at rating places or a certified food reviewer.

I like trying new and innovative places that get great reviews because I like good food.  Good food can be something cheap, something expensive (as long as I'm not paying), or something super Corporate.  The nice thing about mom and pop places is that sometimes you do get more for your money, or more ambiance to enjoy, and then it becomes famous and everyone invades it and it's just not worth the effort anymore.  I know, I sound so hipster and it's so annoying to admit it, but that doesn't mean I don't go back or that I look down on chain restaurants.  Or that I don't love getting in line for the tourist trap that will be a huge letdown just so I can cross it off my list and not wonder when I drive by the long line again (here's looking at you Pink's and Honey Boba).  I personally love chain restaurants and have been to more than the average consumer, but I simply do not discriminate... it's just with us not eating out lately and on a budget, when we do.. we usually try to go somewhere we haven't been yet.  But good places to eat are good places to eat, and for the short time that we're visiting So Cal come March, I already know all my normal spots to hit up.  I don't care much for anything new or trendy, but maybe we will try one or two... for the most part, we will be going back to all the good eats I miss so much.

Come to think of it, most Asian people who grow up in Southern California are probably easily labeled as foodies.  Not by choice or habit or design or hobby, but by mere fact that Asians just love food and aren't super outdoorsy like white people (there are exceptions like when they grow up and become more adventurous or start to run a lot or bike a lot like one of my cousins who is super into marathons and being fit and healthy now, but keep going with me people) and frankly, hate the sun (ever seen those Dark Vadar visors, gloves while Asians are driving, and umbrellas to shield the sun?), so with it sunny all year round in SoCal, food just becomes the one safe haven away from the sun where one can bond and eat and talk and connect and umm, we love our cameras and have even before they became easy to use via phones, yes - we use to carry those big cameras around and developed our film before everything became digital, that's just what we do....  and throw peace signs, but seriously - it's what we do.  

Food brings everyone together, but for Asians, especially American Born Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Thai, Phillipino, or whatever else I've left out, it is a thing, a big thing.  I've never had my friends back home get together just to hang out without having something to snack on be it fruit or chips or something!  Most of the time, we go out to eat because what else would we do... go to the beach?!  Heaven forbid.  Again, that's something we've grown into but we still would prefer to eat than hang in the sun together.  

You think about how much variety there is in Asian food, and you can only fathom why food is such a big deal because really, there are so many different kinds of it.  Chinese food is actually not a category of its own.  You see, within that, there is Taiwanese, Shanghai, Hunan, Cantonese, and that's just to name the ones I can think of!  Then there's also Mongolian, Malaysian, etc. and provinces and areas that I don't even know about but have surely eaten foods from.  With Korean, there's Korean BBQ, tofu, soups, sushi (they call it kim bop), rice, noodles, etc.  With Japanese, there's sushi (which is super hip now for everyone) but then there's also the BBQ bar grilled Japanese type of genre that hasn't really been explored by non-Asians yet (at least to my knowledge).  But western civilization has modernized most of the popular Asian foods and helped make them easy to appreciate by the general public, which is why sushi, Korean BBQ, Vietnamese Banh-Mihs, and pho have slowly made their way into mainstream eats.

Growing up, I knew more about all the different Asian food before I even knew what minestrone was (or the pronunciation for that matter).  With the exception of Indian food (which I did not learn about or try until college in 2002), my world of taste had already encompassed all other Asian areas of the world.  And yet, I did not know what rye bread or matzo balls were until 2005 (because I grew up in Arcadia people, not Bel Air).

I also think the "foodie" labeling comes with time and experience.  I look at my cousins who eat at all the hopping places, but I also remember when my eldest cousin came home from eating out one time in the 90's and explained, Olive Garden is the best restaurant ever!  Okay, it's a great restaurant, but certainly not the best Italian out there!  I guess taste and disposable income for dining out just evolve (and hopefully grow) over time, but one should never forget their roots!

So all this has got me thinking because I have seen a trending shift of eating out to fancier places by a lot of people these days, and I've come to appreciate that a real foodie cannot look down at a chain restaurant or think it's below them, instead - they had to have been there, done that.  Hence, So Cal Asians easily qualify as foodies but Beverly Hills wannabes who have never been to a chain cannot.  And the more I think about it, the more I am envisioning where we take our kids when we do go out in the future.  I certainly do not want my teenage sons explaining to their friends how great Ruth's Chris when he's never even been to a Black Angus.  That just doesn't feel right.  Then again, I don't want to take him to Ruth's Chris period until way later in life.  Maybe after he's already had it, when he's working for the man and the man is paying for it.  Until then, I refuse to pay for it, and I know for a fact that Andy is on board with me.  We are just stubbornly cheap like that, but we personally think it builds character... and true foodies.

Okay, so maybe by default of being from So Cal and Asian, I am a bit of a food person, but a foodie that does not make me.

Still my favorite place in Spokane... Chaps, and the only place we've been to three times, alas these photos are from the summer (notice how small my baby is).

1 comment:

Lauren said...

Being Mormon probably only contributes to your food addiction. Because even though I'm not Asian, I was nodding along with everything in this post (except for maybe the anti-sun parts, but with my fair-easily-sun-burned skin maybe I should have...). When I went home to visit one summer during college, my friends made a video montage of me eating...it was only from a span of like 48 hours, but it was long enough to be embarrassing. I like to blame that on my southern roots as well as my religion though. ;)