SO I'm out here in sunny Oakland at the big queer organizing conference. Big evil word of the day is binary. Folks here don't like being put into labels and boxes. I on the other hand, have mixed feelings. Being queer and Vietnamese is important for me. That "label" is my identity and I am proud of the culture I come from and the communities that I am a part of. It's an interesting experience come to Big Ol' Queer Conference because I know so many people. There's an amazing security in seeing so many people I can catch up and talk shop with. As much as anyone can feel "in," I certainly do here. These are my peeps. As messy as things can get when you think about the intersections of sexuality, gender, race, and class, I feel at home. It has certainly afforded me the freedom to spend time by myself and call it a night when it seems the rest of the world is going to some fabulous party.
Woo, sorry to get all deep on you. I'm just in that kind of space. Speaking of the space I'm in, I love being in downtown Oakland, near a thriving and vital "Chinatown" that serves the diverse Asian Pacific Islander population of Oakland. It brings home the fact that DC's Chinatown bites the big one. Oakland's Chinatown, reflects the multicultural nature of this city. This Chinatown serves the Asians who LIVE in Oakland and you will be hard pressed to find a Starbucks or Coyote Ugly in here. Instead there are blocks of Asian markets, jewelry stores, herbalists, pharmacies, restaurants and take-out places. I have eaten every single one of my lunches in Chinatown alternately at Vietnamese delis (with amazing Banh Mis - Vietnamese sandwiches) and the take out dim sum places with potstickers the size of my fist. I have never paid more than $3 for a filling and delicious lunch. Things like shu mai and har gow are 45 cents. Char Siu baos are $1. And Banh Mis are $2. I have never left my lunches hungry. It's also fairly evident with the take out dim sum that the dumplings are made fresh on the premises. It's weird to eat supersized versions of my little dim sum dumplings but it allows you to taste the flavors of the savory fillings more clearly.
Foodwise, Asian seems to be the theme. I ate one meal that wasn't Asian food, and that was breakfast. Wednesday night I had dinner with my brother at Le Cheval, an upscale Vietnamese restaurant near my hotel. We had the seven courses of beef. While I appreciate the delicate flavors of the beef carpaccio and the beef that was rolled up in rice paper, there were too many dishes that required you to rolled up thin slices of beef in rice paper with lettuce and herbs. Having three dishes done that way, homogenized the differences in flavor between beef that was dipped in boiling broth and beef that was grilled in a hibachi on the table. Being a cold night, we both appreciated the warmth of the Vietnamese rice porridge with shredded beef.
Last night, I had a little reunion with June, Auntie Ang, and R1.0, meeting in the Mission district to have dinner a Burma Star, a very small and very popular restaurant. I was impressed by similarities and differences Burmese food had with other cuisines from Southeast Asia. There were the usual curries and noodle dishes but these dishes had the deeper salty-sour flavor that marked Burmese food. Thanks to Auntie Ang for being the Auntie to the group and picking up the tab. We LOOOOVE you.
I always come away from the Bay area impressed with the love of good cheap food that is in almost every neighborhood here. In one block in the Mission District, there were three coffee houses, two dessert places, a Korean restaurant, two pho places, a vegetarian sandwich shop and of course, Burma Star.
DC is my home and my community, but I am always wistful about the food of San Francisco.