I like Chinese food

It was a beautiful morning. The sun was shining high in the sky, the birds were singing, and I had finally finished JK Rowling’s absolutely terrible book The Casual Vacancy so I could finally burn it and stamp its ashes into some dog shit. My pug was curled up beside me and I had a fresh chilled can of F-Max – the lightly sparkling fish drink – in my hand. All was good in the world.

So obviously I decided to completely ruin my good mood by logging onto the internet and seeing what ridiculous shit people have been offended about this week.

You can say what you like about Americans: you can call them fat, stupid, arrogant or any number of things. Yet you must admit that they are an incredibly creative people. Never in the history of man has there been a race of people who can keep finding new and unusual things to get upset about. Whether it is not enough black people in the new all-female Ghostbusters, enough black people in the new Star Wars film but they were doing the wrong things, or even the fucking word “too”… someone, somewhere in America can find something offensive. Hell, I’m British: I call the little dot at the end of a sentence a “full stop” rather than a “period”. There’s probably some lady in California with a very useful Liberal Arts degree who probably thinks I’m dismissing women’s menstrual struggles by doing so.

This week people are upset about a man writing about Chinese food.

Calvin Trillin is a man I had never heard of until this week; mainly because I rank The New Yorker alongside Kleenex and Charmin’s Ultra Soft 3-Ply rather than War and Peace when it comes to literary worth. This Calvin Trillin fellow as well as sounding like a character from Douglas Adams’ Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy series is apparently some long-established writer and food critic who also occasionally writes doggeral verse for The New Yorker when the mood takes him.

Worse than Hitler. Look at him: I bet he’s sitting on some poor oppressed Asian-American who is just out of shot. And stolen his prawn crackers.

Here’s the poem that landed him in so much trouble:

Have they run out of provinces yet?
If they haven’t, we’ve reason to fret.
Long ago, there was just Cantonese.
(Long ago, we were easy to please.)
But then food from Szechuan came our way,
Making Cantonese strictly passé.
Szechuanese was the song that we sung,
Though the ma po could burn through your tongue.
Then when Shanghainese got in the loop
We slurped dumplings whose insides were soup.
Then Hunan, the birth province of Mao,
Came along with its own style of chow.
So we thought we were finished, and then
A new province arrived: Fukien.
Then respect was a fraction of meagre
For those eaters who’d not eaten Uighur.
And then Xi’an from Shaanxi gained fame,
Plus some others—too many to name.

Now, as each brand-new province appears,
It brings tension, increasing our fears:
Could a place we extolled as a find
Be revealed as one province behind?
So we sometimes do miss, I confess,
Simple days of chow mein but no stress,
When we never were faced with the threat
Of more provinces we hadn’t met.
Is there one tucked away near Tibet?
Have they run out of provinces yet?

Did that upset you? Were you left shaking with rage at how offensive it was after you had finished reading it? If so, you weren’t alone.


Calvin Trillin’s New Yorker poem wasn’t just offensive. It was bad satire.

The verse angered many readers, who took issue with its vision of interchangeable Chinese cuisines pouring in from endless Chinese provinces. Some interpreted the final lines as a nostalgic wish for the days when Americanized noodles represented white people’s closest contact with the Asian “other.” Words like stress, threat, fears, and fret—and the martial portent of food that “could burn through your tongue”—seemed to stoke xenophobic anxieties. At the New Republic, Timothy Yu located a long artistic tradition in which “the disgusting food of the Chinese serves as the ultimate symbol of their foreignness and their refusal to assimilate.”

The New York Times:

Calvin Trillin’s poem on Chinese food proves unpalatable for some.

But detractors argued online that his latest effort, which appeared in The New Yorker’s food and travel issue, reflected fear and ignorance of China, depicting it as teeming with overwhelming numbers of people and places.

Oh dear. It seems that quite a few people are unhappy with a white man talking about Chinese food. Well, at least Margaret Cho can use this whole storm in a teacup for an extra five minutes of comedy material.

Margaret Cho
She said it, not me.

It’s a good thing that all these upset people weren’t around in the year 1980. Imagine the outrage if they were aware that THIS existed:

Did you hear that bit at 1:16? “I like Chinese food. The waiters never are rude?” Wow. Just wow. Who the hell do Monty Python think they are culturally appropriating Chinese food for the use of a comedy song? No wonder The Life of Brian is still banned in Singapore after all the offence they must have caused people of Asian ethnicity. John Cleese really needs to check his privilege. However, as offensive as this song is, we can excuse Monty Python slightly for existing back in the unenlightened 70s and 80s. The same can’t be said for this RACIST FILTH though that was made in 2013:

I love fried rice? I love noodles? I love chow mein, chow m, m, m, m, mein?

OMG. I cannot even. 

In fairness, it isn’t China for once that it is kicking up a fuss about all this nonsense. It’s whiners in America. China seems to be far too busy this week in its kidnapping of Taiwanese citizens from Kenya, sticking bags on their heads and making them look like it is their turn to be “bitch” in the Guantanamo Bay Lights Out Club. However, to try and heal the wounds that all this racial prejudice has caused, allow me to help redress the balance. I’m not in any way insinuating that most Chinese people have only a shallow understanding of modern American cuisine, but I present to you:

Have They Run Out Of Hamburgers Yet?

Have they run out of hamburgers yet?
Or is it as endless as their debt?
McDonalds came with Big Macs and fries,
Soon even Zhengzhou had a franchise.
Next came along old Colonel Sanders,
Pushed new stores through Party back-handers.
Everyone flocked to eat their Zingers,
The spice had all licking their fingers.
Burger King was entry number three,
Pushing aside even KFC.
Then Hunan, the birth province of Mao,
Even they loved to eat Han Bao Bao.
So much fast food out to ruin ya,
And here’s one more: fucking Carl’s Junior.
China was full of burger trendies,
Hoping for Taco Bell and Wendy’s.
Home-grown Dico’s was classed as shitty,
Never growing beyond Tier-3 city.

As the burger chains gain in vigour,
Chinese waistlines seem to get bigger.
The French fries, mayo and burger grease,
Combine to make China more obese.
We need to enforce stronger treaties,
To stop this laowai diabetes.
Close down their sites on the internet,
That’s how we deal with a foreign threat.
Do they have McDonalds in Tibet?
Have they run out of hamburgers yet?


If you enjoyed this post you may also enjoy my book Party Members – a dark comic fantasy that exposes the corrupt underbelly of modern China.

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