Category Archives: Essays

It Gets Better

When I was 12, I had a frizzy, layered perm. I was overweight and had to buy all of my clothes in the “husky” section. If that wasn’t bad enough, my mom didn’t think it was appropriate for girls to wear jeans so I wore polyester slacks or dresses. I was horribly nearsighted, and ugly, enormous glasses covered nearly half my face.  I was weird. I loved taking tests, Broadway musicals, and reading.

Sometimes cruel kids would taunt me and call me a nerd or a fat cow. They would tell me to watch out because the dogcatcher was coming. But mostly I was invisible.

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My Third Place

I’ve always been envious of people who saunter into a coffee shop, restaurant, or bar and are greeted by name by the staff. They have a special place where they sit. They know the menu backwards and forwards, even though they almost always order the same thing. They’re regulars.

That’s not me.

I do not crave routine, and while I have my favorite places, I don’t go there on any kind of regular basis. So when my friend Laura asked me to write about my third place, I was somewhat at a loss.

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Low to High

The spectacular rise in popularity of pork belly over the last few years has always perplexed me.

As a pork-loving Filipino, pork belly is a cut of meat that I know well and have enjoyed for a long time. I’ve come to appreciate it even more after marrying into a pork-loving Chinese family.

Before it cost $18 a plate in high-end restaurants, pork belly was a humble cut of meat. It is not pig stomach but literally the belly of the pig. And yes, that is the same place where bacon comes from. Some people describe pork belly as uncured bacon, but this cut of pork is actually a lot fattier. For pork belly, the ideal ratio is basically half fat, half meat. This much fat freaks out a lot of people, but many others love its lusciousness.

I was reminded of the ascendance of pork belly while listening to a radio interview with “New Yorker” writer Dana Goodyear.

She was promoting her new book, “Anything That Moves.” The book explores how foods that Americans once considered gross are now celebrated as high cuisine.

One of her comments in particular stuck with me. She said, “The high and low have converged. Elite dining in America now is being substantially reshaped by the foods of poverty or the foods of desperation.”

What does it mean when food that poor people eat out of necessity becomes a food of choice among richer people? Is this discovery or slumming?

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Love Is a Grilled Cheese Sandwich

I wished I had a hat.

The sun had already surrendered to the night, and a fierce wind nipped at me as I left work and hurried to my car.

I got inside, cranked up the heater, and headed home with one thing on my mind—dinner.

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Filed under Essays, NaBloPoMo 2013, Savory

The Most Important 2 Miles of My Life (So Far)

One year ago today, I woke up and knew that something was terribly wrong.

As I shifted in bed, I could sense that my right knee was out of alignment. I got up and was able to walk, but it was extremely painful, and my knee would collapse without warning.

I took some ibuprofen, elevated my leg, and put a bag of ice on it. I went to see a doctor, and he told me to continue this treatment.

Three days later my knee swelled to the size of a cantaloupe, and I had to borrow my mother-in-law’s cane to hobble around. The pain had intensified and made it hard to sleep.

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Smells

To support my efforts to produce 30 posts in 30 days for National Blogging Post Month, my friend Laura Kimball has been providing writing prompts for me and my fellow blogger, Harmony Hasbrook.

Last night, Laura gave us the following prompt:

Smell, the sense that triggers the richest, most obscure memories during the most awkward times. Write about a time when a smell triggered a deep or odd memory. What was the smell? What was the memory? And did that recollection cause you to do anything in that present moment.

I was completely stymied by this prompt. I had no idea what to write about. I sifted through memories of a variety of smells—ranging from pleasant to repugnant—but nothing moved me to write. Then a faint recollection tugged at me.

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Filed under Essays, Filipino food, Food and race, NaBloPoMo 2013

A Love/Live Affair with Food

While chatting with a co-worker, the conversation (as it inevitably does when I’m involved) turned to food.

“I eat to live, not live to eat,” he proudly proclaimed at one point.

It’s a sentiment that I’ve been hearing more frequently, and one that puzzles—if not exasperates—me.

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