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  • 1.

    One day. when I was a little boy, in second grade, I came home and announced to my grandmother that I no longer wanted to eat with chopsticks.

    My grandmother said nothing as she sat in her rocking chair reading a book.
    When dinner arrived, my grandmother handed me a pair of wooden chopsticks.

    A few days later. I came home again, breathlessly, I announced to my grandmother that I no longer wanted to eat rice. I wanted us to eat pasta and potatoes.

    Once again, my grandmother said nothing, continuing to sit in her rocking chair, reading her book.

    When dinner arrived, my grandmother plopped in front of me: some rice, some sautéd vegetable, a bowl of hot and sour pineapple catfish soup.

    A few days later. I announced to my grandmother that I no longer liked the smell of fish sauce. It stinks I told her. I wanted us to use ketchup

    My grandmother put down her book, with a scowling look said: Son, what’s got into you? Have you gone crazy?

    No one messes with fish sauce. For Vietnamese people, it’s like mother’s milk.


    I once asked my mother for a recipe for pho (the traditional Vietnamese soup usually made with beef broth and vegetables).

    Her: Oh, it’s too complicated, I’ll make it for you next time you come home.

    Me: But mom, I need the recipe for a dinner party I’m giving. I want to impress people with my culinary skills.

    Her: But it’s impossible. Men are no good at cooking. You’ll just make a mess

    Me: That’s ridiculous. Mom, just give me the recipe.

    Her: You know, son. You really need a wife. Then you wouldn’t need to cook.

    I never got the recipe.


    Speaking of pho, in Hanoi (where the dish originated), you can get different varieties of the soup including a dog meat version.

    Having being raised in the West, I too have an aversion to eating a pet. (It’s a special breed of dog that they fatten for slaughter, so you need not worry about your Labrador or German Shepherd becoming a meal).

    Dog meat is only one delicacy that most westerners would find unappetizing. Other possibilities, include live monkey brain (don’t ask), duck egg with fetus, fermented snake.

    And durian, which to some people, smells like the public lavatory at the Folsom Street Fair (a queer street fair in San Francisco dedicated to those who like to spice their sex life with whips, handcuffs, candle wax, ball gags, etc...)

    But then again. My distaste for certain aspects of Vietnamese cuisine is not that different from my aversion to factory farms in the United States, where chickens are debeaked to prevent them from cannibalizing each other in those cramped stressful environments, where cows are injected with antibiotic, growth hormones, where pigs are butchered as if they were widgets in an assembly line, where global conglomerates like Nestle and Krafts recycle what seems to me like leftover napalm from the Vietnam War into their processed packages of so called food which are then injected into children’s veins like sewage.

    If I was forced to choose, I might even prefer the taste of dog meat.
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