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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

My City and Milk Toast

One memory from my childhood that sticks out is driving home from my grandparent's house. Since my parents both worked full time, my mother's parents took care of my brother and I during the day. We had to be around six or seven. On this particular drive, I don't remember what possessed us to do this, but we said,

"Look Dad! We're Asian!"

And we put our palms to our temples and pushed back to make our eyes extra squinty.

I don't know who was more shocked, my dad, whose children were doing rather inappropriate racially insensitive things; or us, when he told us that we actually were Asian, in part.

"Look at your grandma, she's 100% Asian American and her eyes don't look like that! Besides guys: your eyes are already almond-shaped, you inherited that from her. You eat mochi, dried squid and nori for after-school snacks, you're both Japanese American."

Talk about floored.

Like in my ichigo daifuku post, I didn't think of eating dried squid or mochi after school as weird or different, I didn't even know it came from Japan. My best friend next door was a first generation Korean American, who loved mochi and nori just as much as me. I thought everyone ate like this, and I didn't think twice about it. We bought salt and lemon powder from the ice cream truck and ate tamarind candy with the Hispanic kids on our street with no ideas about race.

Until my mother started working part time and we started going to school in our very white community. You would think growing up in Southern California in the 90's would be safe from any racist or xenophobic tendencies, but that was not the case even though I am very Caucasian in my looks. Sometimes I think that was what actually made it worse, because people would talk more freely about Asian Americans in front of me.

Japanese bakery in Mitsuwa market
Like when we started talking about prospective colleges after a horse competition in high school. A mother proclaimed she didn't want her daughter going to a school like UCI or UCLA because there "are too many Asians there... she won't be able to hear herself think over the sound of their flip flops and she won't have a normal college experience with too many of them around, you know what I mean." she confided in me as if I was I was some sort of conspirator.

(Never mind this is Orange County, and everyone wears flip flops year round, including the woman while making this bold statement.)

And then my first job, I was banned from bringing in saki ika, dried squid, for my lunch because it "smelled bad and would scare customers," despite working in a pet food store where smelly smoked beef pizzles were proudly displayed.

So when I went to a very mixed race magnet high school in neighboring Fullerton, I really felt more at home. Milk toast and boba tea during lunch, k-pop and traditional Indian dancing during rallies, and tolerant teenagers letting a blondie tag along for the ride, it was a great experience despite the sometimes grueling academics. Going out after school, we always met in my adopted hometown. While I am fully aware that my high school wasn't perfect and not necessarily an indicator of all of the city, it is the first place I was me; proud to be a crazy mixed up girl.

Like the Patrick Stump song, every time I go grab some boba in downtown, I can't help but proclaim to myself:
Thick slices!

This city is my city.

For the milk toast, it is traditionally made with thick 1" or more slices of white bread, which you can get from Asian bakeries. However, I have had regular toast from boba shops and it still tastes great! You have a choice of toasting the bread first, and having crispy milk toast, or forgoing toasting for a pillow soft middle.

Milk Toast
Molten sun egg yolk

1 egg yolk
half a stick of unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup condensed milk
5 slices of bread, preferably thick

Preheat toaster oven to 450 degrees F, or use your oven's broiler if it hasn't died on you lately. Mix the butter, egg yolk, and condensed milk thoroughly.

Forgot to warm up the butter :D
Score the slices of bread on top, about halfway through, 3-4 cuts in a crosshatch pattern. Spoon a generous amount of the milk mixture over the slices, going all the way over the edge of the crust to keep the edges from burning. Sprinkle with a generous amount of sugar.

Broil until bubbly and golden and the sugar has caramelized. Feel free to then spoon another layer over it and rebroiled until golden again. Serve immediately.

Stay tuned for a boba tea recipe!

See Also:
Humble Pie

1 comment:

  1. Oh wow. My little son did that thing with eyes recently, too. I was so horrified, and reminded him that he is half-Asian and I am fully Asian, and we don't look like that, it's just an artist's (not very nice) interpretation of how Asians look.

    How awesome, though, to go to high school in a time and place where boba and Bollywood are just part of the culture.