Ugly Delicious Again!

So I finished this show and the last episode about dumplings is fantastic.  The guest appearance of Ali Wong at Din Tai Fung was hilarious.

But aside from craving fried chicken, asian dumplings, BBQ, fried rice, pizza and tacos (all of which Chang showcased as a thematic episode), there’s this underlying theme that Chang touches in every episode about “What is American food?”

My friends and I also had this discussion once during an overseas trip.  We came up with only a few food dishes that seemed to be authentically American: Creole/Cajun, Barbeque, and hamburger.  Most of these dishes were derived from other cuisines… but it’s been transformed to become uniquely American.

The show takes this question a step back.  The chefs, food writers, and food critics on the show imply that America embraces these foreign cuisines like Italian, Chinese, French, etc… and then creates a cuisine that is not quite like the original.  When America is talked about as the “melting pot” of the world, the food evolves as the immigrant community becomes assimilated into the ever changing American culture.

Creole/Cajun is a great example of what the show is saying.  Creole food originates from the French settlers in New Orleans in 1690s.  The settlers absorbed the food traditions of other immigrants (Italian, Spanish, African, to name a few) to become what it is today.  Cajun food originates from the Acadian settlers who were transplanted from French Canada in the 1700s.  Although there are differences between Creole and Cajun, the fact that these food cultures absorbed other food culture and traditions is exactly the “melting pot” metaphor of America.  To add even more credence to this melting pot phenomenon, the term “Creole/Cajun” is even synonymous to the Louisiana food region despite their differences.

Perhaps I’m reading a bit too much into the show given the state of our charged political climate, but I think the show is saying that what makes America great is the cultural appropriation of immigrant culture.  What evolves from this appropriation becomes uniquely American yet neither American nor the donating culture.

Icarus

I just finished this Oscar winning documentary called Icarus on Netflix.  I have to say it’s pretty amazing.  It’s a documentary was made predominantly in 2016 about the Russian doping scandal.  The documentary follows a Russian ex-WADA whistleblower, Grigory Rodchenkov, in his quest to expose the state sponsored Russian doping scheme in the Olympics.  The show goes into detail how the Russians in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics circumvented the WADA testing with the help of the FSB (formerly KGB).  The investigations that followed from the exposé led to Russia being banned from Olympics in 2016 Rio Summer Olympics and a partial ban from the recent 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

Although we don’t know truly the full extent of the Russian doping scheme, I have to commend Grigory for his bravery to release these details.  The show ends with Grigory entering the witness protection program.  Hopefully nothing bad will happen to him unlike the recent double agent spy assassination in London.

 

On a side note, does Russia view the doping scheme as a “scandal” or more along the lines of #fakenews?

 

Allegiance – The Musical

Allegiance is this new musical starring George Takei (better known as Mr. Sulu from the original Star Trek).  He’s gained somewhat of a cult following through various forms of social media (Twitter, Facebook).  He provides socio-political commentary via these forms of social media recently with the new Trump administration’s Muslim Ban.  Unfortunately, he also wasn’t spared the recent sexual harassment allegations that has some high profile stars falling from grace.

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Putting all the non-theater/non-musical issues aside,  this musical portrays the struggles of a Japanese Americans during World War 2 and the Japanese internment camps.  In particular, the story revolves around a family and their struggles.  Although probably not without controversy itself, this musical has a number of unique aspects that other musicals so far have not done.

  1. It’s produced by Asian Americans.
  2. It has a predominant Asian American cast.
  3. It puts the Japanese internment and it’s ramifications as a talking point.

The music has a very “classical musical” feel with strings, woodwinds, brass and percussion well represented.  Spoken dialog is interspersed throughout.  The character solos have that aspirational feel.  The company songs have a mix of genres that range from traditional Japanese songs used in festivals to the more modern 1940s swing with respect to the time period.  Honestly, it didn’t hit me with a wow factor like Rent (I actually disliked it initially) or Hamilton (I really loved it).

When watching the musical, I was struck by a number of different themes… some specifically Asian American but others more relevant to the current times.  The first memorable theme occurred near the beginning of the play when the father made an interesting side comment of “not an A student but A minus.”  This totally plays into the stereotypical High Expectation Asian Dad meme.  If you don’t know, Asian parents have a very low tolerance for their children’s academic failure.  Even Chloe Kim’s dad wants her to go to college!  And she won a gold medal at the recent PyeongChang Winter Olympics!

Another theme that stayed with me was the power of the women especially Kei (the female lead) in the internment camps.  Despite Asian culture being a patriarchal society favoring males over females, I find that Asian families nowadays tend to have a power dynamics emanating from the females.  Certainly that was the case in the musical.  And with the recent #MeToo movement and much talk of the disparity between men and women, it made me think that this particular theme holds a pretty significant place as one of the major themes in the musical.  It was Kei who took over as the de facto mother when the real mother died.  It was Kei who tried to keep the peace in the household between her brother and her dad.  It was also Kei who stayed to take care of her grandfather up until the grandfather’s death.  It was also Kei who again tried to patch things with her brother immediately after the war when he returned.  And at the end, it was Kei who also again reached out to try to reconcile with her brother AFTER she had died.  Honestly, modern society gives women way too little credit for the amount of work and amount of shit they have to put up with.

I would recommend watching this musical to think about the different themes that occurred in the 1940s that are still ongoing today: immigration, racism, segregation, civil disobedience, patriotism, family, power of women and forgiveness.

Gotham Coffee Roasters

This month’s Angel’s Cup (or maybe next month?) comes from Gotham Coffee Roasters.  It’s another Ethiopian coffee from the Guji area.  I think it’s the same region as the Guji Sidamo coffee beans that I’ve gotten before from other roasters in the past.  I do have to say that this packaging is simple yet stylish.  I think there’s something about the simple two color design similar to the Ritual Coffee Roaster bags.

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Upon opening the bag, this wonderfully fruity/berry, chocolaty and licorice aroma greets me.   On a second sniff, I get this distinct nutty, earthy aroma that smells very much like many of the other African coffee beans… perhaps it’s a “regional” aroma?  I feel that the South American beans have a similar yet different nutty aroma.  Grinding the beans brings out the chocolaty licorice aroma followed by a strong blueberry aroma.  That nuttiness lingers on kind of like an after-smell.  Is there such a word?

Sipping my latte, it’s an explosion of different flavors.  Blueberry hits first. Followed by hints of licorice and chocolate.  Then the latte cycles back for some more fruity flavors of peach and it ends with this gentle peanut/nutty after taste.  The latte leaves this nice coated nutty flavor on my tongue.  The smoothness of the latte is also amazing.  I have at times found myself wanting more of the latte.  I think that shows just how delicious this bag of beans is.

 

 

 

Ugly Delicious

David Chang of Momofuku fame and who starred in a previous Netflix show called “The Mind of a Chef” now has another Netflix show called “Ugly Delicious.”  In Mind of a Chef, that show dived deep into Chang’s inspiration on creating food.  From the first episode of Ugly Delicious, it seems like it’s a deep thematic dive into different food (pizza, tacos, fried chicken, etc) and probably on how they’re made across the different ethnic cultures that have embraced their own version of the food.

All I can say is… the first episode of pizza made me want pizza. =p

 

Daylight Saving Time

Today (March 11, 2018) is when clocks “spring forward” because of Daylight Saving Time (DST).  You lose an hour of sleep technically as clocks advance forward an hour for the next 8 months.  Marketplace Weekend had a short segment titled “5 Things You Need To Know About daylight Saving Time.” It’s fascinating to listen to.

I learned one thing though.  Apparently the myth of how DST benefits farmers is an actual myth perpetuated by the Chamber of Commerce to benefit the sales.  Who knew!?

Passion House Coffee Roasters

This months Angel’s Cup coffee subscription service comes from Passion House Coffee Roasters.  The beans come from Rwanda’s Lake Kivu Kanza.  As I open the bag, an aroma of licorice, cherry, and hints of raisin(?) greets me.  I don’t think I’ve ever tasted beans from Rwanda.  So this bag will be a nice change to see if a different African region will have a slightly different profile.

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After grinding the beans, the licorice aroma is much stronger and a cocoa aroma emerges as well.  This smell is actually pretty addicting.  I caught myself sniffing the ground beans a couple times to enjoy that aroma.

Brewing my latte, the licorice and chocolate flavor becomes the dominant taste in the first few sips.  I also taste some cherry and raisins as well.  Surprisingly, I don’t get that strong earthy nutty taste typical of many of the previous coffee beans I’ve gotten.  However, I do taste this nutty flavor in the aftertaste.  This is an extremely smooth coffee that drinks very quickly.