Weird things come with being mixed-race. These include, but are not limited to: no one ever guessing your heritage correctly, random stereotypes you wouldn't expect, a fusion of your parents' cultures, and questions of "Wait, where did your parents meet?"
Being mixed-race, I commonly get mistaken for being of Hispanic origin, which is a laugh as neither of my parents are from the same continents as any Hispanic country. It's my favorite bar game to have people guess my heritage when they ask, "But where are you really from?" (cue my desire to act like this).
It's kind of like that Parks and Rec scene where Leslie asks Tom where he's from, and it ends with him saying his mom's uterus.
But what most people don't realize is that the best part of being mixed-race isn't that you don't look like any certain race or anything physical. It's the fusion of the different food styles your parents and community bring to the table.
My heritage is Persian-Taiwanese, and yes, I'm incredibly specific when I say that. If you don't know why you don't call someone from Taiwan Chinese, educate yourself. And never call a Persian an Arab, they will not react well. Seriously, I saw my friend lecture someone for an hour about how they were not Arab. Just no.
A lot of people have commented they'd love to see a restaurant that was a fusion of my parents' cultures. And I don't really blame them. Growing up and trying the different foods my parents made was awesome. At this point, my dad's better at cooking Chinese food than my mom.
But growing up I wasn't so grateful to be mixed-race. I just wanted to be what I deemed "normal." It took me a while to grow out of my picky eater phase at home (not in public though, little me was strange), but in doing so I realized that picky eaters are legit the worst friends to eat with when you're a foodie.
However, it also taught me that you have to try everything that comes your way, even if it doesn't seem like you'd enjoy it.
I mean, seriously, think about it. Growing up, I got to try all these crazy types of foods that wouldn't be present in a stereotypical American household. That is the glory of growing up mixed-race, nothing is off-limits.
In hindsight, I wish that as a child I hadn't been so easily influenced. All of the foods I stopped eating as a child have broken back into my diet with a vengeance.
I remember growing up I had to at least try something before I could say I didn't like it. My dad told me stories of how I used to love tomatoes as a child until I went to elementary school and heard all my classmates say they hated tomatoes. This went on to repeat with several different food items.
There was an interesting transition out of the picky eater phase into being a person who will try anything and eats whatever she wants. Even if it's hella weird. But, I learned to respect food. Even if I think it's gross.
When I watch shows like "Worst Cooks in America" it makes me cringe. And it's not even the lack of skill. It's the ignorance and immediate gut reaction of "gross" people have to the unknown.
To me, there's nothing worse than wasting food. It's inherently part of me because of how my parents raised me. My mom's culture is true to the Asian stereotype of using every part of the animal. My dad grew up in a poverty-ridden town in Iran and always told me I was lucky to be able to eat as well as I did.
My parents always said we had to finish the leftovers before we could have something new. As a result, my entire family hates leftovers even though none of us know how to cook below the amount for a "small Asian family." There's actually a joke that our refrigerators will get fat before any of us do.
I remember the first time I went to Taiwan that I can actually remember (toddler ages don't count) my uncle gave me the challenge of trying a new food each day. These foods ranged from longans to stinky tofu. And — surprisingly — I liked a lot of them despite being a picky eater at the time.
There are so many different foods you can try once you expand past what you know. And growing up in a mixed-race house where my family couldn't agree on one type of cuisine exposed me to that.
My mom grew up in a culture that ate loads of pork, whereas my dad absolutely hates most food items that come from a pig. And I get how my dad feels — I avoid eating pork if I can — but I also do like pork on occasion.
With these food-related disagreements, we could never really go out to eat. I think the only types of restaurants we would have visited more than once (after my siblings and I grew out of the fast food phase) were Greek and Vietnamese.
We never went to a Chinese restaurant unless my mom considered it authentic. And Iranian restaurants are basically nonexistent — read: do not try to tell me Moby Dick is Iranian, just no. As a result, I have a high disdain for Americanized Chinese food, and not just because it's unhealthy.
On the other hand, I've definitely tried foods that most people wouldn't. As the new human garbage disposal of the family (a title passed on to me from my brother), I often find myself eating the leftovers my family has at Dim Sum or things my friends wanted to try and found out they didn't like.
How many people do you know would say they've willingly polished off their friend's pork ear or chicken feet? A lot of people cringe or look disgusted at the thought of eating those anomalies. And yeah, I've seen some weird things. If I wasn't mixed-race I probably would never have realized people still eat lamb balls.
From chicken feet to black pudding, I haven't found something that's made me cringe away enough that I refuse to try it since I graduated from being a picky eater. I live by one rule: I have to try it twice before I can say I don't like it.
That does mean I've tried some pretty weird things, like a lamb's heart from the VT Meat Science Center. It was morally disconcerting (who wants to eat a baby animal's heart?), but good.
I believe that you should use every part of the animal you can. It's disrespectful to the environment and the animal itself if you don't. My parents also impressed upon me that your food doesn't have to look good, it just has to taste good. And that's definitely something that's stuck with me. Some of my food is U-G-L-Y.
But in the end it always tastes good. I don't use recipes anymore because my parents taught me what flavors go together with all the compromises we had to do. I've literally been told "I will put anything you make in my mouth," because I know how to combine flavor profiles.
The biggest thing I took away from growing up mixed-race was that food requires compromise and openness. A lot of people don't realize it. Every culture has their foods, sometimes they become trendy and sometimes they don't.