Whining, Dining, and Other Unpaid Observations

White Girls Want Good Food, Too

Posted in Culinary Experiences, Customs & Cultures: An Observation by KP on February 8, 2011

I’m a Caucasian female. I’ve even taken it so far as to be of the blonde-hair-and-blue-eyes variety.

Sometimes, this is viewed as evidence that my delicate, Americanized palate should be fiercely protected from all manner of flavor and texture, lest it be ravaged by the fire of a thousand suns. After all, should my delicate palate be ravaged, my litigious, American instict might be, subsequently, to sue.

This is evident when I used to visit Nit Noi, this Thai restaurant down the street. I’d order Putt-Thai Korat (pad thai, essentially) and request it “spicy.” I’m often charmingly met with the question, “A little spicy?” to which I reply, “No, very spicy.” It often arrives a few steps up from bland.

I’ve since realized that the concept (and execution) of “spicy” varies drastically, depending on whose mouth from which it is spoken.

I don’t take offense–stereotypes are often based on fact. However, broad assumptions are one thing, and specific requests are another.  

Speaking of, at the same restuarant (which has “Café” in its name), I asked for a coffee once, and the guy behind the counter told me they didn’t have any. When I shot him my most quizzical look (I’ve been practicing) and inquired as to why they were named “Café,” he replied that, yes, they had coffee, but it was “strong.” I told him to bring it on.

Your typical Thai iced coffee

Your typical Thai iced coffee

And you know what? It wasn’t strong so much as it was sticky sweet. I’m not sure if it was altered for my delicate, Americanized mouth sensibilities, but holy mother sweetness. I couldn’t stop puckering.

Anyway. Let’s travel to more current times.

The adorable matriarch of Cali Sandwiches reminds me of my childhood best friend’s mother (also Vietnemese)–small and domineering, but in the most lovable way. I typically frequent Les Givral’s or The Teahouse for banh mi or vermicelli dishes, but today I thought I’d try Cali. I attempted to order the bbq pork sandwich (#1 on the chalkboard menu, not the printed menu), but was quickly steered away in the most hilariously stern manner.

“No,” said the adorable matriarch. “No, you don’t want that. Too much fat, and skin.”

“Oh,” I said, blue eyes wide and frightened. “I didn’t realize. What’s my alternative?”

“The #8. This is what you want.”

My delicate, Americanized sense of hospitality was reeling. Did she just tell me I didn’t want what I wanted? Did she just tell me to order something that seemed vaguely unexciting in the extreme? “#8: Grilled/seasoned pork.”

A bbq pork banh mi

A bbq pork banh mi

I blinked, and I stuttered. As my delicate, Americanized mind wondered if I would still get that quintessential bbq sauce on my terribly dry-sounding sandwich, my delicate, Americanized mouth opened and said, “Yes, yes I think I want that.”

I took my seat. What had I done? There was the potential for no sauce. And sauce was the very reason I was indulging a banh mi craving. That, and the crusty French bread. Mmm.

Sandwich arrives, and the adorable matriarch smiles at me. I melt. Such good intentions; I love her instantly.

There’s no sauce, but there’s no fat or skin, either, which proves to be a very good thing. Thanks, matriarch. The pork tasted dried but not dry, which is an interesting sensation. The extras–cucumber, carrot, and cilantro–were bright and fresh. It was a solid sandwich, especially with some self-applied squirts of Sriracha throughout.

Mid-squirt, I realized something: my motherly little matriarch helpfully left off the jalapeno.

Whew. Thanks for looking out for me.


3 Responses

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  1. subtitles said, on April 20, 2011 at 10:21 am

    yawn. i just wanted to read a review about bahn mi. why must so many white people (females particularly) be so racially focused? always desperate for attention. no matter how much you run from pork “fat and skin” (or any other meats) you will stay have gigantic frames. so yeah. ive been to every restaurant mentioned in this article several times and i have never once walked into, sat in, such places with this sort of hyperconsciousness of “race”. despite the effort to present this obsessive tendency as though it is innocuous/benign, one cant help to be befuddled by the sorts of things mentioned in this review. anyways, keep eating that pork. it matches you quite well.

    • KP said, on January 26, 2015 at 3:35 pm

      Haha, truly sorry to have missed this. You are wise beyond your inability to capitalize and punctuate. Keep on readin’, complainin’ and revelin’ in that irony, kind sir/madam.

  2. kathie said, on June 1, 2011 at 11:26 pm

    Kristin, darling, you are too hilarious! Wonderfully written. Like a true ad pro 🙂

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