Thursday, 27 September 2018

A Twitter Thread: 'empty diversity'


So I got some thoughts. After reading the James Beard Awards efforts to find ways to combat inequality and inequity (and reading about another award that has said they want diversity but clearly had no time t say how/ have a mission statement). Let's talk about 'empty diversity'

*firstly, empty diversity is a term brought to my attention by Chryssy Hunter, who's PhD title used it - and she will be much better than I to explain it fully, but I'm going to adopt it in terms of food and accolade.

Awards are important. They validate work. Awards currently are problematic, as I bang on about, hugely because they rely on criteria that confirms status quo and that understands value in very narrow terms. So yes, we need to widen our concept of what makes something 'excellent'

But. Awards are like tick boxes. They're really useful for people to feel like they're doing good. But they mean sweet fuck all if you don't assist with helping winners capitalise on their success.

You can say 'oh look. Top 5 best restaurants are diverse. There's no problem in the industry'. And disregard the full list. Or, the following year revert back to non-diverse. For example. This doesn't take away from the wonderful 5, but it's not diversity.

Also. Creating diverse spaces is something we have to work to, together. It's not up to a 'saviour' of an awarding body, or the voices of marginalised people. It's a dialogue. One where everyone will get shit wrong.

What I really liked and value is that the James Beard Awards is asking for advice. Reaching out. Knowing it's not gonna know the answers. Trying to find practical, *structural* changes. Structural changes is how a system can change.

I'm doing a lot of thinking on this, so may add to it later. But, my thinking on practicalities is that, those often unheard of voices, when they get awards they need to be supported to capitalise on those awards. They are less likely to have had opp / experience with platforms

Diversity comes when diverse faces and voices are being paid. Earning incomes off their expertise, just like the status quo. Ppl love to clap at award ceremony, but still give jobs to familiar faces.


Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Soup du jour 2: noodles

Soup du jour 2: noodles

I'm tired. It's late. I'm eating 2 min noodles for dinner and Im talking to the dog about my day.

I feel guilty. Guilty that I'm eating something so low in nutrition, guilty that I'm getting chubby and this is not a meal to halt that. Guilty that I feel guilty. Guilty that I'm vain and want to be thin and beautiful.

But, I slurp each noodle and love it. It's home. It's hungover glory and comfort.

I'm tired because I went out cavorting with friends last night at the restaurant awards. Drank wine, whoop and cheered then danced dirty till 2am at El Camino. Its late because I've spent the last week juggling too many deadlines - freelance work and passion projects - so I'm working all hours.

This month I'm juggling eating well. If I had time I'd go to the supermarket and cook big batches of food. If I had more money I would buy healthy on-the-go food. I have money aside for the gym and exercise classes, but I've a friend who's struggling and run out of his NHS counselling sessions so I'd like to help him pay for some and no time for sport anyway. But I'm too tired to work out how to offer, so that he'll say yes.

The egg in the noodles is the key. Sometimes I drop it in so that the yolk is in tact and I can break it - yoke all through the 'soup'. Other times I break it up, egg all through the noodles, very little soup. This time it's all yokey, I stop feeling guilty and tired as slowly pierce the yoke and watch it leak out into the noodle water, I slurp it up. So noisey the dog cocks his head at me. There's a bottle of wine that needs finishing, something I got for working a wedding last summer, which I drunkenly opened with friends the other day thinking we needed more wine - I have a glass. It's goes down far too easily. A Macon-Uchizy 2016, Domaine Talmard, no idea if it's good, but I like it.

I'm tired because I've not eaten at regular intervals, good nourishing food. I think about watching a sad film, because crying into my sleeping dog feels good, and hope that my boyfriend isn't closing the restaurant tonight so that's he's not too late.

My metronome is off. But it's ok, because I get to go home soon. Soup, rice, chilli and Malaysian politics has a lot to discuss.

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Who gets a seat at the table? What is the table?

I have been thinking a lot about diverse voices and representation.

Representation is important. Platforming, showcasing, promoting people that don't usually get coverage, changes the game.

It changes the game by drawing attention to, and therefore leading to, accolades. Accolades bring in business (usually), and media exposure does that too. And also, accolades, brings rewards and leads to more diverse leadership and people of authority.

Better articulated here:
If you're thinking how can we make the food world more diverse, here are somethings you can do.

But. But. It's not just about representation. Representation helps people dream and achieve. But, it doesn't directly address the systemic quietening of marginalised voices. To change that, you have to put money where your mouth is.

Have a diverse payroll. Pay people. Money shows confidence. Money shows value. PoC, and other 'others' have been doing the grunt work for so long. And giving exposure or a platform is not enough.

I was telling a friend (middle aged, middle class, white dude) about a show I liked - how diverse the people in were. As I started breaking it down, how the guest experts were a lot of WoC... he stopped me, "but Anna, the three hosts are white dudes. This is not diverse, the hosts are the ones this is about, which means they call the shots... [as much as tv hosts can, it is more an idea of control]" I realised I'd been so starved of representation I couldn't see that this was still a power dynamic - or lack of power. (Side note, some older white dudes are ok, some got your back 🙃)

To be brutal, the success of our current economic society is off the back of brown and black peoples bodies - from slavery, to indentured workers and colonialism. We can no longer just wheel in an 'other' voice, to add colour to a narrative, and pat backs for showcasing diversity.

This does not create equality, this does not create equity.

Because it doesn't change the narrative. We need diverse voices shaping narrative, building, extending stories beyond just being a face. We need to call the shots, not just dream of being seen as experts.

What narrative? What is a narrative?

This is not a dig simply at media. This is about businesses in general. This is about professionalism, careers and livelihood. ALL organisations have stories to tell, and those stories and strategies need to have a diverse workforce to be part of the core business' driving force.

So, it's pretty simple. Hire, pay and give credit to diverse people. Don't just use our expertise, dangle 'exposure' and platform in front of us... value us as equals and part of the power systems.

*this doesn't mean I'm against working for free, if everyone is in it together. I have a lot of passion projects, which pay in different ways.

Friday, 29 July 2016

Soup du jour

I'm currently back home in Sarawak, Malaysia.
The day in punctuated by food, your metronome is meal times.

Breakfast is eaten out, at a coffee shop, the hunt for the best laksa, kolo mee et al, is always on. We talk about where is good, where has had a dip in quality. It is serious talk that we start the day with.

Dad comes back from work for lunch and we all sit down together. If you're not home for lunch - you call. As with dinner. There is always rice, there is always conversation.
Lunch and dinner are home cooked meals.

All meals are relaxed, quick, un-ceremonial. They are points of contact, checking in, keeping pace.
Each with a slightly different rhythm and topic of conversation.

Dinner is reflective of the times, the last week of July 2016 is a precipice. The East looks to the West and waits to see what it will do - fall or fly, there doesn't seem to be any other options.

Dinner follows a pattern, it doesn't change, except who asks the questions. We take turns:
So what you think about Trump? What are the polls saying?
I think he is ahead/Clinton will win by a narrow lead
I can't believe Trump will win
Ah, but I couldn't believe that Brexit would win, and it did.

My stepmother says does't think she could visit the States again if Trump won.
We all nod.

Last week we unpicked Brexit, will that close the global markets for the UK? Brexit also feels reflective of the conversations happening in Malaysia, were the union of Malaysia and constitution is being discussed - have promises been broken with the growing power of West Malaysia and Putrajaya? But the party in power ins Sarawak are talking so strongly and positively about unity and togetherness, and through union can strength, individuality and independency be achieved. The power of governance, can work with relationships and being part of a bigger picture. They are talking tough about the feeling taken advantage of, by West Malaysia, but there is positivity. David Cameron and Jeremy Corbyn could have learn't something.

Home cooked meals. The family table. Beside the kitchen. The heart of the home.
Always fresh food, whatever is available at the markets. Rice, vegetables, meat, soup. This Friday, the soup was prawns with a clear broth.

And politics is always the discourse du jour.


Saturday, 9 July 2016

Ladies who Lunch (Brunch, Afternoon Tea & Snack): Emma Underwood

I’m really interested in the things we talk about when we share food, and that time we share when we sit down and eat and drink. I’m interested in community, how we fit into the world, how we measure ourselves against the world, and the fact this year seems a particularly political year. 

I am also acutely aware that within popular media, there are still too few a space for women to have complex and in-depth conversation - the Bechdel test is still relevant to do today, with many films failing. Therefore, this is an interview column with women I find inspiring, and we sit down and eat and drink.

I recently meet with Emma Underwood, GM of Burnt Truffle in Haswell, for an earlier dinner. She was down in London to do Blood Shot at The Dairy with the Sticky Walnut crew. We spoke about how a restaurant can create a community, how people can still feel tribal about the space they have carved out for themselves. Both our PhDs had feminism theory as the main component and so we spoke about how we navigate ourselves within work spaces, as women, and how important it is to have such wonderful colleagues, bosses and inspiring people around us. And in a re-capp, I asked her my usual “Ladies that Lunch…” questions.

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Ladies that Lunch (Brunch, Afternoon Tea & Snack): Vera Chok

I’m really interested in the things we talk about when we share food, and that time we share when we sit down and eat and drink. I’m interested in community, how we fit into the world, how we measure ourselves against the world, and the fact this year seems a particularly political year, a year into a new government after a coalition, with the EU referendum, plus London’s mayoral campaign.

I am also acutely aware that within popular media, there are still too few a space for women to have conversation that range across different topics - the Bechdel test is still relevant to do today, with many films failing. Therefore, this is an interview column with women I find inspiring, and we sit down and eat and drink. It is very much a 'short & sweet' snapshot, but hopefully is an insight into some wonderfully interesting people. 

I recently sat down with Vera Chok, writer, actress, performance maker. We have, over the years, talked a lot about identity, trying to understand how our south east Asian identities fits into the western world we’ve chosen to live in. We’ve created work together, supported each other, and had a lot of laughs and danced a lot, not to mention shared meals in many countries.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Berlin: my home away from home, away from home

I am constantly trying to find a home away from home, away from home. I’m constantly trying to run away to somewhere comfy, like Goldilocks trying to work out which is the comfiest bed to sleep in. Berlin has become that place. 

I have been coming to Berlin since 2008; it is my almost twice-yearly pattern. I came here for three months and wrote the first (terrible!) draft of my PhD thesis here, and over the years I have built up a small but wondrous group of friends.

I grew up in Malaysia, New Zealand, and now London is my home and soon to be the place I have lived the longest. At my heart, I am a homebody, a homebody with itchy feet and a need for adventure. And so I calm both urges by visiting Berlin. Berlin is familiar, and yet changes, develops and grows, but hasn’t lost its soul. And so, this is a round up of what my most recent trip looked like, in food and drink, I have a few my favourites, which are asterisked. I stayed most of the time at my friend Sarah’s in Neukolln, which I admit is my favourite neighbourhood.