Archive for ‘asiaphiles’

August 25, 2007


by la rebelde

This weekend I went to the annual Tofu Festival in Little Tokyo with an old college friend. I’d heard so much about it that I just couldn’t miss it. And once I found out another friend of mine was in the promotional tofu-eating contest that aired on the evening news, I just had to go. When we got there, they stamped our hands with the word tofu! (too bad it doesn’t show up well in the photo or I would’ve posted it here. Tofu Festival is also on myspace.)

Armed with sunscreen, sunglasses and food tickets, we strolled among the booths, trying all kinds of different dishes. Mis amigas liked the tofu tostadas the best—but I just thought it was pico de gallo with chopped tofu mixed in. It was good, but I wasn’t as impressed as they were. It’s amazing how much better fresh tofu is than that packaged kind. I stuffed myself with fried tofu, dipped in peanut sauce with sriracha. Yum! I could have gone for some tofutti too, but the booths started closing before I could think of it. Luckily I got to the blacklava booth before they shut down for the weekend and I bought this fabulous t-shirt.

When I saw it on the wall, I couldn’t resist! Asiaphiles irk me so! And Blacklava is awesome. I think my next purchase will be the brown sweatshirt with JUSTICE on it. But I’ll have to wait for my fellowship check to come in.

That evening I spoke with my mom on the phone. She said she can’t help but feel a little envious that I live in a place where all these foods are so accessible. “You should enjoy it while you can.” She said. “When you leave, you’ll miss it more than if you never had it.” Huh, I hadn’t been thinking about the fact that I probably won’t live in LA forever. I love how my mom likes to state the obvious things that you don’t want to think about in the moment.

But she is right, there aren’t any tofu festivals in small-midwestern-college-town or any of those other midwestern/appalachian places where I’ve lived. When I lived in NYC, my supervisor, who’s also Chinese Am, had been in California visiting family and returned to our office with tales of the amazing selection at Ranch 99 market. It became legendary amongst the APIAs in our office, since none of us had ever experienced this kind of Asian superstore. We wanted to see this “isle of nothing but ramenfor ourselves.

But when I first moved to LA, I had trouble getting acclimated to the suburban Chinatown thing, of which markets like Ranch 99 are exemplary. I knew how to shop in Chinatown NY, but this whole strip-mall-grocery-store thing, where you have to drive, park and go inside was a different story. If you decide they don’t quite have what you want, you can’t just walk to the next store and see what they have. You have to get in the car and brave the traffic again. What a drag! And you can’t buy less than like 5 pounds of baby bokchoy or 10 bulbs of garlic or a giant sack of ginger root at once. Not good for the single person. It all took some getting used to. And to be honest, I’m not sure I’m used to it yet.

But I am inspired to make a run to the Ranch 99 for some fresh tofu this weekend. Hmmm. It’s good to live in LA.

December 21, 2006

a top-shelf tequila gimlet kinda week.

by la rebelde

Last week I traveled to small-midwestern-college-town to defend my dissertation prospectus. Nevermind the defense…the best part about being in town was chillin with my homies! Over the last three years, my small-midwestern-college-town friends had become my community—a family away from family. And they still are. Half of them have now moved on to bigger and better things, so it wasn’t quite the same as before I left. But it was great to spend time with the ones who are still struggling through the bitter cold winters and long dark months. I am SO lucky to have such great friends—in small-midwestern-college-town and elsewhere. In my many years of schooling and many, many moves after high school, I have friends scattered all over the country. A diaspora of friends maybe? Perhaps that’s really arrogant of me—to assume that I would be the homeland… Maybe I’m part of a number of diasporas of friends. Whatever, the important thing is that I have great friends who I love dearly. I just wish more of them lived near me. * sigh *

And of course, I spent some time in my favorite coffee shop spots—okay, well, only one—Eastern Accents. The name is (unfortunately) not made up and, as the name would suggest, there are a number of asiaphiles and liberal white women with adopted Asian (American) children who frequent the place. But its owned and operated by a great Korean family and I think it’s the best spot in town—internet, no undergrads, square tables, good food and good coffee—what more can you ask for as a grad student? And even though I can have Chinese baked goods whenever I want in LA, I had to savor some bi bim bop and ginger tea in the Midwest. Of course, I also had to be sure to get the best tequila gimlet in town, which is at a bar that I usually can’t afford to frequent. Small-midwestern-college-town is home to an unusually large number of asiaphiles and my girl and I were reminded of this annoying fact as we sat at the bar on a busy Saturday night. White dude who had tried to strike up a conversation earlier in the evening came back to invite us to accompany him to another bar. “Let me guess,” he said. “You’re Filipino and you’re Japanese.” Uhhh…wrong and wrong. And why the hell do white dudes feel so self-assured in their ability to “guess” brown women’s ethnicities? “Sure,” I said. What the hell is the point of engaging an ignoramous like that? Of course, maybe it was wrong not to just call his ass out–because then he proceeded to tell us how he loves Tokyo and his father’s nurse was “the nicest Filipino nurse.” Ugh. He finally got the hint when my girl didn’t take her cell phone out to get his number. He was icky. Aside from tofu-skinned white boy, we had a good time. And anyway, it was a top shelf tequila gimlet kinda week. That’s my drink, by the way!

Oh, so about the defense…My anxiety came in waves over the few days prior, but as soon as I started talking, of course, I realized I had spent unnecessary energy worrying. I didn’t even need the little intro speech I prepared because my profes just jumped right in with comments and suggestions. They seem excited about my project, which made me realize that I am too. It seems I had forgotten. A few months ago, when I first moved to LA, I kept telling friends and family that I was never going to move again—that if I didn’t get a job in LA, I’d quit the academic life and find something else to do. I’m good at other things. But what this prospectus/defense process made me realize is that I’m committed to telling the story. I’m invested in telling the story. So who knows what my future holds now–I still don’t want to move to another city again, but maybe I’ll change my mind by the time I finish in two or three or four years.

At a small dinner party thrown in honor of my girl, M, who also defended last week, I had to shmooze with a bunch of professors, and I didn’t even get nervous this time. My friend, P, has said that I have “academic game” meaning I can turn on the intellectual charm when I want to–I never believed him. I admit to getting a little star-struck from time to time, even around profs who I know well. Maybe it was the wine, but I finally felt like I was becoming an academic grown-up. Geez, its about time!