This week we’re sharing stories by Jason Fagone, Betty Ann Adam, Christian H. Cooper, Clarissa Wei, and Robert Kolker.
Of the 263 entries under the “Chinese” recipe filter on the New York Times food section, almost 90 percent have a white person listed as author in the byline. Only 10 percent of the recipes are authored by Chinese writers.
On Munchies (a Vice channel), Clarissa Wei shares what we’re missing when Chinese food is covered by writers with no personal connection to the cuisine. Many writers still use a colonial era style guide (the Wade-Giles guide). Some are stuck on the notion of Chinese food as cheap eats, with no sense of what it takes to make the food. Writing about Chinese food is also subject to a lot of “discovery,” as though a dish hadn’t been around for hundreds of years, influencing other cuisines we take for granted.
Prosciutto, in the Western world, is glorified, but people have rarely heard of Chinese ham. Marco Polo allegedly brought ham-making techniques from the Chinese city of Jinhua to Europe, and many of today’s processing technologies for dry-cured hams have evolved from the techniques from this modest Chinese city.
Clocking in at about 5,000 years, China is the longest continuous civilization in the world. The Chinese, after all, were master farmers and cooks. Though the country only has 10 percent of arable land worldwide, they produce food for 20 percent of the world’s population.
Yet, here in the West, we read and commission more stories about poop-themed restaurants, Communist hot pot eateries, and dog-eating festivals than deeply, thoughtfully researched pieces on Chinese pickling techniques and the art of Chinese lamb roasts.
After the body of 14-year-old Tina Fontaine was found in Winnipeg’s Red River in 2014, members of the community took action. At Vice, Geraldine Malone reports on the Bear Clan Patrol, a grassroots group that formed in Winnipeg’s North End neighborhood to walk the streets at night. Nearly three years later, over 530 volunteers act as “boots on the ground,” focusing on harm reduction by handing out condoms, offering rides, diffusing violent confrontations, preventing opioid overdoses by administering naloxone, and protecting the vulnerable to “get that village feel back,” as co-founder James Favel says. They’re “Trying to inspire people to care more about one another.”
Gathering in the small centre before patrol all of the volunteers grab their necessary gear: the bright yellow vests, plastic gloves and containers to store used needles they find on the street. There’s also bags of apples this night. A volunteer named Bob bought them and everyone fills their pockets with the fruit, a hot commodity on the streets, especially with kids. Sometimes they also have candy to hand out, the volunteers laugh that it’s a favorite of the kids.
One kid runs up with an envelope and whispers to a volunteer, “there are needles inside.” It’s taken some time for the Bear Clan to build this kind of trust. Favel says at first when they started people assumed it would be like most social efforts in this neighborhood—here one day and then gone the next. Good intentions with little follow through is something they know all too well.
Last fall they were in this same housing complex when a woman came outside screaming, Favel says. Two people had been drinking and got into a fight that escalated quickly when one of them brought out a machete. A guy had his fingers almost completely chopped off.
The Bear Clan Patrol have first-aid training and responded quickly, treating the severed fingers and calling for paramedics. It was because of that response the guy ended up keeping mobile fingers, Favel says.
Last November, many of the Bear Clan Patrol members were trained to administer naloxone, an overdose-reversing drug. Members carry the naloxone kits on patrol but they also work with paramedics if they come across someone who may be overdosing.
At Vice, Eve Peyser has an essay I strongly identify with about belatedly embracing her Jewish identity. Raised by atheist parents in New York City and educated at Oberlin, Peyser more comfortably identified as a liberal, and was reluctant to be lumped in with certain kinds of Jews—rich, entitled, Zionist, anti-Palestinian. Recently, though, the rise in antisemitism ushered in by the new administration—plus personal attacks by racist online trolls—have prompted Peyser to analyze how she’s distanced herself from her heritage, re-evaluate what it means to be Jewish, and take pride in owning it.
A recent sunny afternoon, my best friend Beck (a fellow secular New York City Jew, and college classmate) and I went for a walk to a Jewish cemetery near my apartment in Ridgewood, Queens. The grid of tombstones and mausoleums engraved with Jewish names—the sort of place that has been vandalized recently—got us talking about why it took so long for us to feel OK with (or even proud of) our heritage.
Both of us had felt the same shame at times, heard the same things. Beck remembered a time in Oberlin when a leftist activist remarked on her big, Jewish nose—a shockingly casual bit of bigotry given how “woke” our little bubble was. We had both seen a Facebook post from a former classmate of ours who quoted a pamphlet called “The Past Didn’t Go Anywhere,” a 32-page guide for leftist activists on how to incorporate fighting anti-Semitism within their movement. In explaining how anti-Semitism functions and differs from other forms of racism, the zine perfectly addressed the complicated identity of white Jews, like myself:
“Many oppressions rely on keeping a targeted group of people poor, uneducated, designated non-white, or otherwise ‘at the bottom.’ Anti-Jewish oppression doesn’t depend on that. Although at many times it has kept Jews in poverty or designated non-white, these have been ‘optional’ features. Because the point of anti-Jewish oppression is to keep a Jewish face in front, so that Jews, instead of ruling classes, become the target of people’s rage.”
It also notes that part of the reason we’re so willing to dismiss anti-Semitism is because it moves in cycles—in the aftermath of oppression, Jews are often allowed to blend in again—and atrocities like the Holocaust seem like ancient history.
I’m notoriously grumpy while grocery shopping. Once, my partner and I got into a fight in the Aldi parking lot because one of the eggs in our carton broke. He does his best to keep us supplied in soups and noodles–simple things I can heat up when I’m anxious and depressed — but I find myself yearning for expensive, fresh produce. As much as cooking intimidates me, I eat constantly — popcorn, apples, Toblerone, peanut butter and crackers — whatever I can find. I scry for news of the downtown market that was promised two years ago. I grow hungry and impatient. The world of food seems impenetrable, a place for people with money and time, and I never feel as though I have either. Read more…
At Broadly, Gabby Bess — a writer who has depression — interviews life-long sufferer Daphne Merkin, and reviews Merkin’s new memoir, This Close to Happy: A Reckoning With Depression, in the process. Although Bess reports that the book doesn’t offer any prescriptions or promises for relief, she seems to find comfort in identification with the frequently suicidal author.
“…during our call, we agree that life is bad. It’s clear from her own case that money can’t buy happiness—it can only buy the stints in psychiatry units, or therapy sessions, or however you take your self-care. Wanting to die while living among the rich and being one them, perhaps, makes the emptiness of our current setup and its values all the more pronounced.
“There’s a lot that’s terrible about life. I think some people have a guard up against it. They overlook it,” she says. “I think that people who suffer from depression are sort of finely tuned to it. I write somewhere in my book that depression is the loss of necessary illusions. You need a certain amount of illusion to live.” She adds, “Depression can be very humanizing. I’ve thought to myself, If [Donald] Trump suffered from some type of depression, he’d be a different person.”
However, until we change the world, which might be more possible now than ever, we need to take care of ourselves and continue living. Merkin recognizes that life is all she has: “I think [suicide] affords a kind of—this is putting it strangely—a paradoxical relief to a very depressed person, to think there’s one way out of it,” she tells me over the phone. “I would somehow think if I commit suicide then I’ll be happy, but where am I going to be happy?”
On Sunday, the first openly gay Miss America contestant will vie for the crown on national TV. She’s Miss Missouri, Erin O’Flaherty, and her platform centers on suicide prevention—a particularly prescient topic, since LGBTQ-identified teens are far more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers. I’m excited for O’Flaherty and hopeful her presence will increase awareness of the abysmal suicide rates among our community. On the other hand, I take issue with O’Flaherty’s declaration that “the Miss America Organization has always been open and accepting of women of all backgrounds.” This, as I learned during my reading this week, is simply not true. Black women were prohibited from competing until 1950. Women who had abortions or were divorced could not compete until 1999. Until recently, the “swimwear” modeling portion accounted for 15 percent of each contestant’s overall score; this year, it’s 10 percent. These are just the facts.
Miss America isn’t the only pageant out there, of course, and this week, I learned about Miss Rodeo America and Miss Gay America, too. In this list, you’ll find stories about drag royalty, the price of the perfect Western wardrobe, the perils of butt glue, and more. Read more…
Learning more about the history of the LGBTQ movement is a goal of mine. I came out to my friends and immediate family last year, and I feel as though I need to make up for lost time. I’ve added dozens of books to my to-read pile, like This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color, Hold Tight Gently: Michael Callen, Essex Hemphill, and the Battlefield of AIDS and Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers: A History of Lesbian Life in Twentieth-Century America. Learning where I come from and to whom I owe my respect and gratitude is important to my self-acceptance and growth as a queer person. This Pride series continues with stories and interviews surrounding LGBTQ history in the United States. Read more…
These stories offer a glimpse into the weird world of “professionalism,” how young women are expected to adapt to rapidly changing, innately biased work environments. (This list isn’t exhaustive. There is no one universal millennial experience, no matter what your crotchety relatives on Facebook would have you believe.) And while millennial women are at the forefront of some of these changing norms—monetize that side hustle!—we are still at the mercy of societal forces beyond our control, including nepotism, sexism, and, in many cases, racism and discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender expression. Millennial women are the hardest working people I know, and I wanted to celebrate their perseverance, fearlessness and creativity.
1. “My Job Search.” (The Point, Emilie Shumway, 2012)
A hundred cover letters + a handful of interviews = months of desperation. My favorite part of Emilie Shumway’s meditation on life after college is her deconstruction of professionalism and the disconnect between her personhood and the self that job-hunts. Read more…
In 2011, I had hair down my back. It was thick, wavy, and supposedly enviable. I hated it. I wanted it off my face, but my sensitive scalp made me prone to headaches and “sore spots,” as I’d called them since childhood. I didn’t have a knack for hot styling tools, which meant I was at the mercy of luck. When a bad hair day struck, I had to wait it out. I spent middle school trying to emulate the hyper-straightened hair of the popular girls and high school begrudgingly accepting my texture and reading a thousand WikiHow articles on living a shampoo-free life. I never could give up washing my hair completely. I’ve even made the mistake of getting bangs.
My first short haircut was a revelation. Two of my college friends accompanied me to a salon in Pittsburgh I chose via Yelp (I did not trust the hair-cutting joints in my small rural college town). My stylist was nervous, but my fellow clients and her colleagues encouraged us both. I wish I remembered her name. I felt as though I were a block of marble and my pixie cut, a sculpting. I could finally be who I was. I debuted my new “lifestyle” (the stylist’s words!) that night at the faculty talent show, striding up and down the aisles of the auditorium.
How strange that the fuzzy stuff on top of our heads is fraught with social and political implications, that it can destroy our self-esteem or make us feel like new creations. Read more…