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« The Bed and The Light | Main | Public Displays of Affliction »
Saturday
Feb052011

Subject Rehash, the KK fiasco.

This is in response to the 3 years worth of comments I have received on my most controversial post, Hating Kylie Kwong.

I'm going to break my silence.

I can't believe how much traction that little rant from almost 3 years ago has, and is still getting. Interesting fact, the most searched for terms that would land you there is "is Kylie Kwong gay?" seconded by "Kylie Kwong husband". Clearly there is a general interest in the public regarding her marital status, that's a market that her people should really look into.

All the comments have entertained me to no end. From those who agree with me, to those who think that I "obviously hate myself" (I'll be honest, I couldn't really follow the logic on that one). To even a drinking game created by a fellow hater. The happy news is that over 95% of the comments join me in this rally that I unwittingly championed, and even the ones who don't share my wrath seem to see my point and have stated their case as such. But I still feel like I need to clarify a few things. By way of organising my thoughts, I am going to address my latest comment, which is an example of a very lucid and gentle criticism of my outpouring of bile.

LOL. I had fun reading the blog and comments. But I must say it's so typical of the Chinese to be so defensive of what's authentically chinky. Personally I find it rather stupid to be arguing about KK being less than Chinese and how that gets in the way of her "representing" her so-called heritage. It just hints of some deep insecurity about one's own Chineseness... it's like a game of how Chinky are you? Frankly when I'm confronted by something like that, I just give up. The only place you can get authentic Chinese food is presumably China... and yet it's also in China you can find the biggest McDonald's in the world. And really who gives a jizz about whether it's authentic or not--just as long as it tastes good, I'm down with it.

The way I look at it: we all grow up with our own version of what's Chinese... every family has its own spin on dishes--and in my family cause we're Malaysian chinks, we love our spices and we would add them liberally. In a way it's Creolised--the foundation is Chinese but the treatment has changed. We eat everything with bird's eye chilli. Numbs the tongue but it's fucking yum. And I can see that with KK's cooking too cause she's 5th gen--although I have to admit that sometimes she goes a bit too far. Fried duck eggs? Culturally, that's just silly. But from a culinary point of view, it sounds intriguing. So I don't think KK's all that bad. She's a more interesting TV chef than Martin Yan... LOL... that guy just cracks me up with his lame jokes and chink accent but how's that for a stereotype? He simply drowns everything in "wonderful powder"!

If there's one thing I agree with all the haters on this thread, it's that KK tries too hard to pass off as some kind of Chinese/Asian whatever... she should relax the power lesbian attitude a bit and just go with the flow. Get drunk or get laid or something... LOL.

And also that we should all just admit that the thing that makes Chinese food taste so damn good is MSG.

-JK Feb 3, 2011

The main point that JK (for whom I am going to use the masculine pronouns, for simplicity's sake) makes is my own identity crisis. A Chinese Authenticity Complex of sorts. You'd be right, as a first generation immigrant who moved to Australia at the age of 8 from mainland China, and visits the place every 3 years or so, my "Chineseness" is something that I think about a lot. Clearly my diaspora is no longer that of native Chinese, drop me in the middle of where I was born today, and I wouldn't really know what to do with myself. I understand the nature cultivating cultural identification and the varying degrees and ways people come to terms with theirs. I am not even going to take offence with your use of the word "chinky", because that is your prerogative, but I would gently remind you that just because you have reclaimed that derogative term does not mean others would be so comfortable. Mainly I just think it's an inelegant word for something that I hope denotes an elegant part of my identity.

Of course I don't object to the infinitely wide range of Asian identities. I am completely behind taking what is yours, making it your own, and forging your own sense of self. In fact my objection is that her identity is not specific enough. Even in the original post I made the point that China is a huge country with I-don't-even-know how many regions, all with their own customs and cuisine. That is not even including the different cultures outside of mainland China, such as Indo-, Thai-, and of course Malay-Chinese like yourself. My issue with Kylie and her show, is that she presents a generalised sweep of one China that only cooks with Shaoxing wine, sesame oil, and Japanese light soy. Even from a culinary point of view, her dishes are bland and uninteresting, which makes the whole Chinese Authenticity stamp she puts on them all the more insulting. Co-incidentally, I have had fried duck eggs in China, they weren't very tasty nor exciting.

How many times has a non Chinese friend of yours, or anyone who has not experience Chinese food outside of take-out, made a comment pertaining to how much they don't like Chinese Food? I encounter this almost on a daily basis, and I've given up on trying to explain to them how that is not even Chinese food, let alone inclusive of the vast smorgasbord of culinary delights yet to be tasted from that side of the world. What I deplore so much in Kylie is the perpetuating of this myth. That all Chinese food is supposed to be aiming to achieve the mediocrity that is served in take-out joints catering to Western palettes, and that they all taste the same. Its seen as greasy and strong and what is unfathomable to me, unhealthy, when most of the Chinese food I have been exposed to down the south eastern provinces is light, delicate, and nuanced. The landscape of food in China itself is changing constantly and new fads and innovations come in and out of fashion, including a lot of modernised, Westernised, fusion cooking. I accept the whole shebang, I would happily taste test my way through all of it, but dammit just make it good.

I am not going to retract a single thing from my original post, because as ranty as it was (It was rushed out in 10 mintes as my laptop battery dwindled and therefore unorganised and somewhat rash), I still stand by my every point. Lastly, darling JK, I almost agree with you on the point about MSG, but I haven't cooked with MSG for over 6 years now (as long as I've been cooking), and my food is delicious.

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Reader Comments (3)

Being Malaysian Chinese-Australian myself, I find JK's comments disturbing, but not uncommon. I am bothered at how frequently and liberally he uses the word "chink," as if he holds immunity from the offense is carries. There is some sort of superiority complex amongst Overseas Chinese towards Mainland Chinese, especially in regards to the degree of Westernisation, wealth, culture, and whatnot. The level of active antagonism is ridiculous.
Just a point, though; to be "Malay"-Chinese implies being of mixed Malay and Chinese ancestry, which is actually incredibly rare in Malaysia. Malaysian Chinese are simply ethnic Han Chinese, mostly of Southern Chinese stock, who hold Malaysian citizenship.

Having said all that, wow, do I dislike Kylie Kwong. It's not that I think she's a bad chef -- she has shown some pretty good cooking technique in the past, and she's quite handy with a knife. But it's how she bastardises Chinese cuisine AND presents it as authentic. I don't fault her for trying to get in touch with her heritage, even if she makes a few cultural faux pas along the way (speaking her one word of Cantonese to people in Shanghai, etc.). I just wish she would not pretend to be authentically Chinese. I'm not sure how she can sell what she claims to be a "traditional Chinese salad" (complete with raw vegetables and olive oil). Perhaps it's the Shanghai Tang clothes she wears (did she not notice while in Shanghai that she was the only person actually dressed that way?).
I would be a lot less bothered by her if she were just more...honest.

May 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBen

I can't relate to the Chinese heritage thing, as my maternal heritage is indigenous Australian, and my dad's ancestry is Irish. What I CAN relate to is the identity issue that arises from the diaspora spoken of above. It's interesting when you're an Irish-Indigenous Aussie, who looks like you could be Brazilian or Mauritian, Sri Lankan or what-not, but the culture you relate to most strongly is just plain old Aussie culture. What exactly IS that?? I mean, I drink decaf lattes. I eat Thai food, Afghan food, "Chinese" food, African food, Indian food, Sri Lankan food, whatever I can have a go at really. I'm vegetarian. I'm totally partial to the vegetarian steamed Shanghai dumplings at DC Noodles in Box Hill. (And I always confuse the soy sauce with the soy-looking vinegar that's right next to the soy in an identical and unmarked bottle, and it pisses me off not matter what my heritage is.) I grew up watching Hey Hey, Home and Away, 90210, and the X-Files. And the muppets. I played computer games like King's Quest, Super Mario and Donkey Kong. I read (past tense, waaaay past tense) Dolly magazine. (Dammit.) I read (present tense) Charlotte Bronte and Thomas Hardy. I wear doc marten boots, and I straighten my hair. Just because I got bored with curls. I have an iPhone 4. My husband is Scottish-Irish descent. My daughter has totally white skin, blue eyes and blonde hair. She looks nothing like me. I have cats. Two of them. They eat normal Aussie cat food. Last week, I bought Cold Chisel tickets. I hate cricket, and I'm not a fan of AFL. Sometimes I wear hoodies, sometimes I wear a collar. I was never a fan of brussel sprouts, but I seem to have come 'round, with a little bit of butter...
So, what I'm saying is, what is it that makes me Indigenous-Irish? Is it who I am, or what I do?? I don't stand on cliff edges holding a spear with my right foot resting stereotypically on my left knee, with the sun setting behind my wild-haired silhouette. I don't speak pidgen English, and I don't wear a plaited red, yellow and black string around my wrist, ankle, neck or head. I have eaten kangaroo in my pre-vego days, but I preferred it with red wine and quince paste coulis with a side of garlic-mashed cannelini beans. I will never eat a witchety grub, nor probably a honey ant. If you put me way out in the bush, and left me there, I'd probably die, even if I was able to track the 4WD that callously drove away from the site at which I was dumped. (I don't watch Man vs Wild. I probably should.)
Despite all this, I am STILL an Australian with Indigenous heritage. I cried when Kevin Rudd said sorry. Because all of that history is a part of me. I get pissed off when I read about the disparity between Aboriginal Australia and everything-else-Australia. I get confused when I sit at the MCG and there's a welcome to country that looks nothing like the country that was there a couple of hundred years ago. (Did you know that the Yarra was channelled and the course of it completely diverted??) I get equally confused when I go to a gallery with the works of acclaimed indigenous artists, and all I see are dots, lines and half round circles. Sorry. I just don't get a lot of it.
I would NEVER refer to myself as an Abo, or any of the other repugnant titles that have wormed their way into the lower ranks of the Aussie vernacular, because I am an Australian who deserves respect and treatment just like any other Australian. I think people who refer to themselves using derogatory terminology to reappropriate its impact, (think Niggaz, Queers, and the above mentioned Chink etc) kind of subscribe to the idea that you are what you look like, or what you do, or limited identity markers. I don't. I'm just Megs. And my future is open. I can be anything, and the projections of others will not frame me.
I try really hard not to subscribe to stereotypes, but I have to admit, I bought the whole Kylie Kwong chinese authentic chef extraordinaire thing, because I didn't know any different, like all the other suburban wasp housewives who need a break from their weekly routines. It sucks! It's just more evidence that the media in Australia is still shipping out the pre-packaged co-opted middle class regular Aussie dream. And it has infiltrated the ABC. The last vanguard of truth and "real".
So, Kylie, I take off my pointy cone shaped straw hat to you, coz you had me fooled sister!

Well, I'm better get him back 'ome up d'ere to dem caves with dat ol' fulla Ernie Dingo. Him good old fulla friend o'mine, eh. We got dem yams cookin in da ground, so I reckon you fullas come for tukka, eh! .....

August 12, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermegs

I didn't find your original post controversial at all. Had lots of fun reading it and still have fun reading the comments even todayn. But yeah, I just change channels now when she comes on.

September 5, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjv leong

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