Bill and I have been living together for over a year, and in that time came the physical manifestations of our two worlds coming together. I’m always amused that I live with a blue-eyed boy from Massachusetts, and I’m pretty sure Bill never expected to be cooking dinner for a Chinese girl from California.
We’re nothing special when it comes to being a White Guy-Asian Girl couple. That particular pairing is the subject of much academic interest. It practically makes up its own genre in “multicultural” lit. Once you get over the affinity between Asian girls and White guys, there are tidbits of the daily lives in a White Guy-Asian Girl couple that really highlight basic comforts that turn into points of compromise.
“Let me check your er-doh.”
When we were growing up, my mom cleaned our ears with a thin bamboo scoop like the one pictured second from the left. It wasn’t until I was in my tweens that I saw my (Caucasian lesbian) “aunt” clean her “cabbage” with a cotton swab. When I brought it up to my mom, she said something about cotton swabs leaving moisture and bits of cotton behind in the ear, making the bamboo scoop a more efficient method.
Bill grew up with the cotton swab approach. He says a doctor once poked his eardrum with a metal scoop before, and he always reminds me of how dangerous they are when I “check my ears.”
Well, solid as I am in staking my ground as an American Asian, I have found that cotton swabs can be just as satisfying as bamboo scoops. Though I still believe bamboo scoops are better at getting into the “detail” areas, swabbing is, indeed, far less abrasive.
When I was originally cooking up the idea for this post in my head, it seemed a no-brainer that I discuss how chopsticks* made their ways into our drawer of combined eating utensils. It’s very Joy Luck Club, that scene where the White boyfriend doesn’t know how to use chopsticks and then causes all the aunties to gasp when he pours soy sauce all over his baifun. The incorporation of chopsticks into the Western way of eating is so prolific on contemporary tables, though, that it almost isn’t interesting. The Chopstick is kind of a small talk-level observation. The Spoon, though. The Spoon is where it’s at.
Less obvious than the token chopsticks, Asian spoons seem to be a real indication of a bicultural household. Asian spoons are simply superior to Western spoons. True, they may take up more depth in a drawer, but I think it’s a bit of an anthropological conundrum that so many Western cuisines developed so many hearty soups and stews, and yet they couldn’t find a proper way to deliver it all from bowl to mouth.
Asian soup spoons have got it down. They hold more volume and they support more fillings – And what American doesn’t want to heap more into their perfect bites?
I felt an ounce of triumph when I confessed to Bill once that “I broke one of our soup spoons.” By this point he had learned a lot of recipes for soups, so spoons had become an even more pronounced necessity to our place settings than ever before.
“Oh no!” he replied. “But where are we going to get more?”
Luckily for Bill, the Bay Area is anything but lacking in 99 Ranch (Or is it Ranch 99?), Marina, and any some such Asian market. One trip to the “hardware” (I love Asian “hardware” stores.) store, and order was restored.
Mission accomplished, I thought. My Asian spoon had won Bill over.
*Bill’s chopstick gaffe.
In our first Christmas together, Bill did a very sweet thing, a very “I want to learn more about you and your background” kind of move. He gave me two pairs of artisan chopsticks with accompanying chopstick rests. I was very touched. I can’t say anyone had given me chopsticks before, especially not any guys, but there was a reason for that. I debated whether or not I should have told Bill for a couple of weeks after the gift exchange.
Finally, I decided that Bill was significant to me, that I wanted him in my life for a long time, and so it would be unfair and wrong to not tell him why he should be careful with giving people chopsticks. It’s not just because you can poke an eye out at the dinner table.
“In Mandarin,” I explained, “The sounds for ‘chopstick’ and ‘children’ sound very similar. ‘Kuaizhi’ and ‘haizhi.’ So when couples first get married, you give them chopsticks. As a sign of fertility. In hopes that they’ll have lots of children.”
Bill was a little freaked out, and I’m not sure if I said, “You probably shouldn’t have given me chopsticks.” Here we were, our first significant holiday together, and Bill had just given me a sign that he wanted me to pop out some babies. Of course, the meaning wasn’t known to him at the time, but seeing as how I gave Lee Lee (Who is Black, by the way.) a wedding gift of chopsticks and she texted me less than a week later that she’s pregnant – Well, maybe there is some divination to be noted there.
Regardless, we still have them in our utensil collection, but we haven’t purchased any more chopsticks since.