Monday, September 6, 2010
Chinatown Part I: Authentically Asian American
I was an hour early to meet my parents, so I decided to go to Fay Da Bakery in Chinatown. I purchased my food and took my book out. Reading an essay about improving health through nutrition, I ate the fluffiest sponge cake I’ve ever known and sipped a sugary boxed drink called Yeo’s White Gourd Drink. The drink box was gourd green and its claim was that it is “the Authentically Asian Drink." The sponge cake was equally authentic, as it was not too sweet, and delightfully airy and moist. Relishing the pillowy softness of this cake, I felt at peace this Sunday morning. I watched three old Chinese ladies sipping their teas with milk, eating fresh Chinese pastries-a warm taro bun, a lotus bean filled bun, and a curry puff, golden and flakey in their hands. Each bite was savored casually but purposefully, in between animated Cantonese discussion about whose arthritis pains were worse. I sipped my gourd drink thinking this was truly a Chinese American moment. Where else can I gulp gourd juice to Beyoncé’s “Baby Boy?” I know gourd juice doesn’t sound appetizing, but the drink actually had more of a sugar cane flavor. It’s not surprising, as it’s the second ingredient to water. However, it was the sponge cake that stole my tongue’s attention. It was not so much the flavor that made it spectacular. It was the texture. This cake was so light, so soft and cushiony, I wanted to buy a hundred of them and stuff them in my pillowcase. Temperpedic’s got nothing on this sponge cake. By the time I consumed the last crumb and made the slurping sound of a straw’s last air-filled sip, my parents had pulled up to the front. I got up and walked out of the café, looking back at the ladies still arguing. I chuckled to myself. This is Chinatown, I think, and I’m happy to be here today. I threw my juice box and napkin in the trash, and headed out to greet my parents. I knew the flavors that awaited me next on Mott Street. It was high noon--time for dim sum with the folks.