If you've never heard of him, if it seems like all you know is soundbites and bravado.
Eddie Huang matters.
He just might be the most important 'scholar' of my son's generation if you can hear him over the Dipset and see him through the Purple Haze.
Three years ago I clicked on this twitter link . It gave me hope that there were still aspects of the food world that mattered to people like me. Real chefs who could give a fuck about how fancy your dinner was last night. There were funny and touching stories to be told about families and connection and diverse points of view to be discussed over Cheeto-fried chicken bao and bong hits.
His blog was as good as it gets for a chef, a stoner's dream of pictures of pork belly smothered in chilis, Cam'ron videos, riffs on white chefs appropriating ethnic cuisine, and Asa Akira's ass.
There was a minute when it seemed like Eddie was poised to be the next Cooking Channel talking head, but his inability to play nice and enjoy Anne Burrell's hair-do led him down a better path, one more in line with his brand of politics and entertainment. HBO's VICE channel gave him a show combining food, hip-hop, marijuana culture, music, conversation about racism and classism and all the other isms and makes it fun enough for my 9 year-old son to stay interested when the show is about Moscow and Marxism. He gets to ask the questions we should have been asking in Mrs. Baird's social studies class instead of looking at pictures of Peruvian corn farmers from the 60's.
For some reason, this sort of groove was exactly what ABC was looking for when it decided to option Eddie's memoir into a prime time sitcom about his Asian family and their move to Orlando. The trailer looks as good if not better than the other family shows like The Middle and The Goldberg's which are Evan's favorites, and he's already given it a million thumbs up. Except for the part where the jokes are all at the expense of his family who very painfully lived through them, I am wholeheartedly on board.
I grew up in South Pasadena where the population is 45% white, 31% Asian and 20% Latino. My friends were Cuban, Japanese, Chilean, Korean. They had Tiger Moms and Spanish-speaking dads who were fresh off the boat, who worked hard and owned companies (EAT CACIQUE CHEESE) and taught their kids about work ethic and manners. This is why these kids could do all the drugs and grow up okay without needing rehab, which is for white people. I also had a semester of something called Asian Cultures when I was a sophomore in public high school because the history of these places was more relevant to half the kids at my school. I knew about the effect of humidity on bangs, what kind of tofu was for what and whose dad wasn't fucking around in the socks and tan shower shoes.
Other than weekend trips down to Vinh Phat, Evan gets none of it.
We live in a part of California that is predominantly white, mostly redneck, and not just Republican, but Tea Party-Republican. I have an issue with the fact that Evan is only exposed to very bigoted group of children who don't have the benefit of other people from other places explaining that Mitt Romney is NOT, in fact, 'going to get our parents money back' and that when we don't search outside our little boxes for experience, our experience is pretty much limited to what they're selling at Wal Mart. When Evan brings a salad to eat for lunch he gets made fun of. Imagine if he brought shrimp rolls?
Public school isn't teaching this kind of stuff anymore. John Locke is that dude with the patch on Lost. No one is laying down economics for smart boys who want toys but hate sitting still in school. Evan needs critical thinkers to emulate, he needs to understand that making fun of people for being anything but assholes is unacceptable, and he needs to remember that his mama is always watching from somewhere.
When we went to the book-signing for FOB, Eddie was a little nervous, soft-spoken and very kind, especially to an elderly gentleman named Gary. He seemed surprised that we had all crowded into that tiny little room to see him.He did not disappoint.
The past knows the future when it sees it.
THIS IS WHY EDDIE HUANG MATTERS.