Chicken and Egg

January 4, 2010

in through the looking glass

I wonder what the statute of limitations is for going on and on and on about a trip one took in the blogosphere. Bear with me here: there is an urgent whining I need to unload…

WTF ASIA?! What’s up with all the skinny bitches?

If you know me, you know that I’d be the last person on earth to reinforce/subscribe to any stereotypes knowingly. I am the self-proclaimed, kill-joy, party-pooper, stereotype police. But I have to say, I felt totally out of place when I was in that part of the world last week. Actually, I felt TOO MUCH OF ME was IN the place.

I left in 1993 and have not been living over there. Throughout the years, I have become complacent. I am 5’7″, so by all measurement, I am of medium height in the U.S.  I “carry my weight” really well and I have the advantage of living in the Midwest, to be more specific, in Chicago, the #13 Fattest City in the US in 2009. In addition, I often wonder whether being Asian automatically makes me look thinner, like, here’s my theory, people cannot believe that there are fat Asian women… When I renewed my driver’s licence last year, the man at the DMV refused to accept the number I gave him for my weight.

“You look like you weigh no more than 150 lbs!” So he put down that number. Hey. I was NOT going to argue with him…

As soon as I got on the plane from Washington D.C. to Tokyo, I felt like a giant. Not only was I taller, I needed more girth. I was in the middle seat, and both of my seat mates voluntarily surrendered the armrests to me. That is the kind of nice gestures you make for the overweightI looked: neither of them filled up their seats. I could see the blue seat cushions. Like the “air between thighs” test, they also passed the “visible seat cushion” test.

As soon as I got off the plane in Tokyo, I had the vision of Godzilla rampaging through the City of Tokyo in my head. Was I merely imagining the worst about myself? I wish.

“You are so fat now!” My nephew said as soon as he greeted me at the airport. With affection, mind you.

“Have you gained more weight since March?” My mom asked. “Look at your arms.”

When I saw my dad at home. “Oh, ha ha ha. Look at you. You seem to be bigger than last time.”

At the restaurant where I saw my brother and my sister-in-law, because that is really all we do: we get together, we eat, we talk, and we eat some more,

“You didn’t lose any weight at all!… Never mind. Eat eat eat. Eat now. Go on a diet when you return to the U.S.”

My entire trip I vacillated between feeling obese and stuffing my face. Often simultaneously.

“You need to lose weight. Now eat some more!”

I love my family.

So here is the chicken and egg question:

Did I feel the urge to get out of there because I knew I would not fit in, in more ways than one? Or did I let myself grow to fit the space that was afforded me, physically and figuratively?

More WTF moments came when I was at various restaurants, roadside stands, shops, stalls, surrounded by skinny women stuffing their faces heartily with delicious food. So fucking unfair…

One of the best beef noodle in Taipei. There is a line outside on a Monday night...

Deep fried anything tastes yummy

Big giant tapioca balls, oh, how I love thee... So much so that I had 6 of tapioca treats in 2 days...

Dan Dan Noodle - a tradtional Taiwanese dish; I had no desire to go to fancy restaurants. I craved the roadside vendors and night markets...

At the basement of any department store worth its weight, there is a tricked out food court lined with shops offering any style of Chinese cuisine (and Japanese and Korean) one can possibly crave. As if that is not enough to mock the overweight amongst us, on the other side of the food court, there are always fancy pastry shops and bakeries, tempting us with the mouthwatering, intricately decorated, baked goods.

Temptations! Tell me this is NOT a case for "f* unfair!"

Another pastry shop. How many pastry shops does one need? Apparently many.

Another fancy pastry shop? No. Wait... This is good ol' Dunkin Donuts! Upgraded!


honeypiehorse January 5, 2010 at 3:36 am

I used to live in Japan. I felt like a big cow.
.-= honeypiehorse´s last blog…New Year’s Resolution =-.

Absence Alternatives January 5, 2010 at 5:49 pm

That’s cool! Your having lived in Japan, I mean. So you have seen The Bloggess’ dress-up adventure in Japan right?

pixielation January 5, 2010 at 5:28 am

I think you grew into the space, part of the societal expectation. It’s up to you to decide where you are happiest. Don’t lose weight because they want you to, or because it’s expected – but only if you feel you want to.

With all those dunkin donuts on every corner it’s pretty hard to resist though!
.-= pixielation´s last blog…press 5 for a childhood meltdown =-.

Absence Alternatives January 5, 2010 at 5:52 pm

I have been wanting to lose my pregnancy fat since Mr. Monk was born, eh, 7 years ago… I am now heavier than when I was pregnant, and that always bother me, but not to the extent that I am depressed or anything like that. NOT being on the market does relax one’s tendency towards self-criticism… (being 100% honest here)

The donuts, and all desserts, over in that region are much less sweet than those found in the U.S. My mother couldn’t eat the cakes here. Too sweet. They hurt her teeth. She said.

William January 5, 2010 at 7:17 am

I didn’t know that Tapioca was male.
.-= William´s last blog…Literal Sign =-.

Absence Alternatives January 5, 2010 at 5:54 pm

LOL. The big brown ones definitely are…

Shelli January 5, 2010 at 7:38 am

I’m not sure it’s your fault at all! I mean, this could be a stereotype (if it is, I apologize), but don’t they make healthier foods, as a rule, in Asian countries? I mean, fried food is even healthier over there, right? How can it be possible for people to stuff their faces over there, and not gain a pound, and yet over here, you eat ONE wrong thing, and you’ve packed on 10 pounds without even giving it a thought. There has to be an explanation. And if so, maybe we as Americans need to adopt some of the food ideas from the Asian culture. Kinda like those in Samoa can eat the same foods we eat here, and yet they’re gaining 10 pounds to our every 1 (which is not only acceptable, but encouraged there).

Oh, and as a side note, what is in that Dan Dan Noodle concoction? Is that mystery meat, or beans. And what is that large brown blob at the bottom of the dish?
.-= Shelli´s last blog…First they came … =-.

Absence Alternatives January 5, 2010 at 5:59 pm

I want to agree with you. Over there people walk a lot more too. At least in big cities with public transportation options. In general, there is less sugar in food. And butter is usually not called for in Asian cooking. But we use LARD. (Probably not any more…) So how much better is that I have no idea. LOL.

You know how American pop culture likes to make fun of eating Chinese food by saying “You will be hungry again at 3 pm?” My family LOVES asking me, “How do you and your children survive on bread and pasta?” And my dad used to NEED rice with every meal. He would go to a wedding banquet with 12 courses with fancy dishes, then came home and had a bowl of rice before he felt full. How weird was that?

Shelli January 6, 2010 at 6:36 am

Thanks for the answer to the “blob” question! I checked out the recipes you linked, and I have to say, I think it’s something I’d have someone else (who knew they liked it already) order it, and try just a taste. I’m somewhat of an adventurous eater, but that combination of tea and soy sauce puts my stomach on alert! LOL I love hard boiled eggs, though, so I might like it. However, I can’t stand pickled eggs (or red beet eggs, if you prefer). I guess it’d be a toss up. Where I live, there’s not much in the way of Asian restaurants (I live in Amish central in PA). I think there’s a Chinese restaurant and a Thai restaurant in a 50 mile radius (that I’ve seen anyway).
.-= Shelli´s last blog…First they came … =-.

Absence Alternatives January 6, 2010 at 8:59 am

I hope for that you have great pieces of furniture in your house… 😉

The eggs are not pickled at all. They are like hardboiled eggs, with flavor. I LOVE hardboiled eggs too. Now my boys love them, but only the white part.

Merrilymarylee January 5, 2010 at 8:49 am

Shelli asked about “the blob.” Looks like a pickled peach to me. Dan dan noodle looks like a healthy dish! The pastry shops? Not so much.

Gee, I hate to think of you flying all those hours to be told “affectionately” that you’re FAT! There IS no nice way to be told that. If I remember correctly, you said Hubby thinks you’re a good size. Listen to him.

If you look at the old movies from the 40’s and the 50’s, it’s amazing how much our perception of appropriate body size has changed.

Hey, look at Venus of Willendorf pictures–they’ll make you feel absolutely gaunt (says the woman in the 9th fattest city, where only 11% of the residents walk or run regularly.)
.-= Merrilymarylee´s last blog…Reading By Moonlight =-.

Absence Alternatives January 5, 2010 at 6:04 pm

No worries. I am used to my family “telling it like it is”. Unlike the stereotypical “austere” Chinese families portrayed in the movies/books, my family are all a bit, eh, off.

Velva January 5, 2010 at 1:40 pm

A food post! A deep philisophical approach to food and culture too. I have hit the jackpot today! You are 5’7? That is awesome….You may not feel like you are at the perfect weight but, man oh man you are the perfect height!!!! Oh, what I would give to be 5’7.
.-= Velva´s last blog…Honey Roasted Pork Tenderloin Stuffed with Pecans and Apricots =-.

Absence Alternatives January 5, 2010 at 6:03 pm

I am following your foot step: I now compulsively take pictures of food I eat. LOL. My mom was completely embarrassed by my taking pictures of “things”. I even took a picture of myself in a fancy bathroom which horrified her completely.

Jennifer Lynn January 5, 2010 at 4:55 pm

Yeah—answer Shelli’s question please…I could not look away from what looked like one of those 3-month old fermented eggs……always curious about the taste. The egg always comes first!
.-= Jennifer Lynn´s last blog…A White-Tailed Deer Not A Mule Deer =-.

Absence Alternatives January 5, 2010 at 6:15 pm

Shelli, Jennifer Lynn, Mary Lee, the brown blob is an egg. “Ding ding ding ding” goes to Jennifer Lynn I guess. 😉 The “sauce” is made of pork (minced? Ground?) stewed in soy-sauce-based broth. This is the Taiwanese style so it is not crazy spicy like the Sichuan style which is made with peanut sesame paste, and vegetarian I believe.

The egg is the traditional Taiwanese style hard-boiled eggs. You probably have all heard of Tea Eggs right? You can find tea eggs (which come with shells on) sold in many places, including 7-11. LOL. The egg you saw in the photo is made by putting peeled hard-boiled eggs in soy-sauced-based broth and stew (the right verb here?) the hell out of them.

I LOVE the Internet! Here is a blog I found that honors one of my favorite traditional Taiwanese dishes: The stewed minced pork mentioned in this post is exactly the same kind used for the noodle in the photo.

Jennifer Lynn January 6, 2010 at 11:53 am

Spank you! Egg in soy sauce, check.

Just because I wanted to cause you rock….I awarded you:) Check it out….but no pressure to pass it on!!
.-= Jennifer Lynn´s last blog…GIVE US A GOLD STAR, BEEOTCHES =-.

Elly Lou January 5, 2010 at 6:19 pm

5’7″ isn’t really average height is it? I’d call that reasonably tall. You’re practically Julia Child…but, ya know, without the weird voice and the crazy french cooking, etc.
.-= Elly Lou´s last blog…Suck It, Sally Field =-.

Absence Alternatives January 5, 2010 at 6:25 pm

I need to go see that movie. And 5’7″ is tall? M’lady, you need to come visit the Midwest. Just sayin’… 😉

Amanda@Brilliant Sulk January 5, 2010 at 7:41 pm

If I chopped off my head I’m not sure my family would even notice. I’d probably get “Oh, your hair. Did you do something different with it?”

Your trip looked like loads of fun. Lots of balls over there, huh?
.-= Amanda@Brilliant Sulk´s last blog…The Worst Invention Ever. Trust Me =-.

Absence Alternatives January 6, 2010 at 8:50 am

I ate way too much food. And now all the talk about the eggs, I get homesick again… LOL.

A Vapid Blonde January 5, 2010 at 7:55 pm

I think 5’7″ is tall. I would love to be tall…oh and this: “Like the “air between thighs” test…” When I was a youngun I totally thought that girls who had that were sluts!
.-= A Vapid Blonde´s last blog…Simple Joy Sunday #8: The Death of My Black Thumb (hopefully!) =-.

Absence Alternatives January 6, 2010 at 8:52 am

The air between the thighs… LOL. Your interpretation makes perfect sense!! 😉 Being 5’7″ effectively narrowed down my mating circle by about 75%. I got indignant whenever I saw really short girls with super tall guys. Come on! Do you really have to go and do that?!

Ambrosia January 5, 2010 at 8:37 pm

Those pictures of delectable desserts was enough to kill me! I am laying off the sugar (it is how I deal with my post-pregnancy body) and I was doing well. Until now.
I wish I could provide some insight into your questions. Perhaps a deeper question, were you socialized to, as you call it, “stuff your face?” And, did your socialization include a healthy dose of “skinny talks?”
By the way, I think this was a very brave post. Very brave. I am freaking too cowardly to talk about my weight in the public arena. Only my husband gets to hear my complaints.
.-= Ambrosia´s last blog…Schedule, Friends, and Why I Didn’t Post Yesterday =-.

Absence Alternatives January 6, 2010 at 8:56 am

If you look across the ads, 50% are about weight loss even though you hardly see any truly overweight people over there, and 50% would be about cosmetic surgeries. This is really not being brave. I am ok with my body image when I am here. (I have to admit: not being on the dating circuit helps… LOL. Nah. It really does help to have a committed spouse who is not ogling at the other women when you are out and about… ). I simply went through a culture shock when I was over there. “Back home”. It is all a bit bizarre…

Jack January 6, 2010 at 10:21 am

Damn, now I am exceptionally hungry for all sorts of good stuff. In theory that is not a problem. It is 2010, the year of Jack and I am gearing up for turning the 40 year old body back to the 19 year old one.

But oh how I love to eat some of these things. Got to run do some push ups, have to distract myself now.
.-= Jack´s last blog…Things of Note =-.

Absence Alternatives January 6, 2010 at 9:31 pm

Ironman FTW!

TheKitchenWitch January 6, 2010 at 10:31 am

My mom is 5’7 and when she went to Japan, she felt like a giant. She actually went shoe shopping and they sent her to the basement of the store where all of the “jumbo-sized oddity shoes” were…she wears a size 7 1/2 shoe.
.-= TheKitchenWitch´s last blog…Shrink-My-Ass-Month: Asian Chicken Salad =-.

Absence Alternatives January 6, 2010 at 9:32 pm

Yes yes yes. Shoes. Another reason for me to feel gigantic. I wear 8.5. Good luck finding those sizes. Ugh.

Ry Sal - aka @bwdstudio January 6, 2010 at 7:37 pm

I’m 5’7.5″ and, although there are many many many women out there taller (ahem my cousin Kim 6’2″) I pretty much feel like a giant at all times. The weight thing too… when I’m on the scale I’m all WTF, then some skinny friend tells me that I’m tiny (lie). Perhaps it’s this fabulous Blog that’s fueling your POWER OF GROWTH. Cause that’s what we’re calling it from here on out. Live your lovely life… Asia’s got nothin’ but love for POWER.

PS. I bet your a knock out. Wear heels.
.-= Ry Sal – aka @bwdstudio´s last blog…Wordless Wednesday =-.

Absence Alternatives January 6, 2010 at 9:36 pm

Margaret Chow, if she were not Asian, I bet she would not have had eating disorder/body image crisis. Thank you for the p.s. kind words. LOL. Now whenever I think of heels, I think of this blog: or this tweet because of the avatars they use. Heels. They ARE intriguing.

alejna January 6, 2010 at 11:54 pm

“You need to lose weight. Now eat some more!”

Too funny!

I’m glad you enjoyed the food while you werethere. I always see travel as an opportunity to eat foods I don’t eat every day. And I loved the photos. Food porn rocks!

The tapioca balls sound good to me. In Brazil, in the city Salvador, some street vendors had “bolinhos de tapioca,” which were fried (I think) tapioca balls. They were sooo good, and I haven’t had them anywhere since. (And that was back in 1991 that I was there.)
.-= alejna´s last blog…Holy crap. I totally missed a decade. =-.

Absence Alternatives January 7, 2010 at 8:24 am

Fried tapioca… (Channeling Homer Simpson here) For some reason, I am craving deep fried Mochi now…

Jane January 7, 2010 at 12:00 pm

I love how they comment on your size and then encourage you to eat more. Food is love, right? I think you’re perfect just the way you are!

Robin January 7, 2010 at 12:51 pm

I have always wished I could be Asian because they are so beautiful and so thin, life just seems…more fair somehow although I’m sure I’m way off.

My husband went to China and he felt so fat and if you see pictures of him, he really isn’t, though he was a little heavier then. Thing is, I’d love to eat the way they eat…all rice and noodles and fish but if I ate as much rice as they do, I’d blow up.
.-= Robin´s last blog…To Be A Pet Owner =-.

Falling January 8, 2010 at 1:53 pm

Coming very late to the party to say:

1) I love your honesty here and the way you’re genuinely questioning without being unkind to yourself or fishing for compliments.
2) Sorry, but that brown egg is scaring this white girl.
3) If you haven’t checked out Joel McHale’s new show, Community, go do so. I totally thought of you during the second episode during the Spanish teacher’s opening monologue (here on Hulu at about 5:20:
.-= Falling´s last blog…2010: Where’s My Damn Flying Car? =-.

Life with Kaishon January 9, 2010 at 6:56 pm

I can not believe the man changed your weight for your liscence : ) How nice is that? They don’t put our weights on our liscences in Pennslvania and I just want to send a GREAT BIG SHOUT OUT to God and also the PA government for this fact… Oh my word. I would die to have that number on my card! Seriously die.

And all that food looks so amazing and delish. I am not going to believe a word of you being too big. I think you sound just PERFECT! 5’7! Perfection!
.-= Life with Kaishon´s last blog…3,650 days. 3,650 magical days. =-.

Stephanie January 11, 2010 at 6:00 pm

OK – I just discovered your blog so I’m posting a response to this WAY late. I just wanted you to know that I feel your pain. I have always felt like Godzilla – I’m 5’11 and all of my friends are tiny and petite. I was always so self conscious – and if someone called me a “big girl” I wanted to either cry, or punch them in the teeth. One day I decided that it wasn’t my fault everyone was short and I started wearing heels – high heels. No more big girl comments after that! Or maybe there were comments but my head was too high in the clouds to hear. I have no idea what you look like, but good for you for enjoying your vacation food – eating is 3/4 of the fun of a vacation (IMO)!

Absence Alternatives January 11, 2010 at 9:55 pm

Sorry for lagging behind in responding to your comments. Thank you all for the comments!

Jane, “Food is love.” I love that. Thanks for the kind words. You guys totally spoil me!

Robin, OMG. LOL. I hope this makes you feel better: many of us envy the big eyes you have, the curly/wavy hair (think BAD PERM. If only you could see some of my pictures with perms…), the long eye lashes, the pale skin, etc. etc. “Grass is greener on the other side” applies here too. 😉

“Falling” 😉 1. Thank you for getting it. I really do appreciate it. 2. I made a pot of tea eggs this past weekend just to see how scary they could be. Well, my kids won’t have anything to do with them… 3. I can’t watch that show ’cause my kids are always there when I watch TV and that show has a lot of sexual references. UGH. (No, we don’t have TiVo… Sad, I know). But I did see that scene and LOVED IT. That guy is in “Hangover” and he’s so way over the top that I wasn’t sure whether that counted as a gross stereotype or just uncategorizable…

Kaishon’s mommy, 😉 “I am not fat, I am just big boned!” LOL. Seriously. I only feel like a giant when I am back home. Maybe that’s why I stayed. So sorry, America. You sort of got stuck with the big ones. LOL. (I am just kidding! Now I am going to offend all the gorgeous skinny people who also came from Asia and stayed. “Insert foot in mouth” now).

Stephanie, thank you for visiting and commenting! I am lagging behind on all the blogging-related thing but I will hop over! Promise! Yes, to me eating is 100% of the fun. And my family will agree. That’s really all we do when we get together. I love your high heels strategy. Do you have any pictures of hot high heels action on your blog?! 😉

Robin January 12, 2010 at 7:06 am

I wish I had curly/wavy hair…
.-= Robin´s last blog…My Night of Debauchery =-.

Jen @ NathanRising January 16, 2010 at 10:09 pm

OMG this had me laughing my ass off!! Because, girl, I am right there with you… the whole Visible Seat Cushion Envy? Hilarious! I noticed the other day when I sit down, I have no visible seat cushion. I love chocolate just a little too much…
.-= Jen @ NathanRising´s last blog…Yet Another Shower Mishap =-.

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