Somehow, I don’t mind walking under the scorching sun, but my two friends bailed on the idea of checking out the Taiwanese street festival. I was at the same event three weeks ago, and I had my heart set on the booth of a local Taiwanese community that sells a variety of foods. I was happy to see them again. The lady attending the booth asked me where I’m from. (Second-generation Asian Americans hate this question, but immigrants love it.) I told her I’m from Japan. She then gave me a tour of everything they had on the table. I asked her who made them, and she told me the community members cooked them at home, just what I was hoping for.
On one episode of his show, Anthony Bourdain said he would rather eat at someone’s home than at a restaurant. I feel the same way now. Restaurant food appeals more to our heads than to our hearts. It’s too fussy, like putting on the perfect makeup.
I heard someone say she prefers TikTok over Instagram because the latter is too “fake.” She thought the appeal of TikTok is that people are more “authentic,” with many dancing in their sweat pants with no makeup. It seems everyone is searching for “authenticity” because everything feels plastic these days.
There is no question that restaurant foods are technically superior, just as the photos and videos on Instagram are, but superiority does not seem to satisfy our hearts.
A great novel allows us to understand what it’s like to be someone else. Reading a novel about a wealthy person living a fabulous life, not a care in the world, is boring, even though she technically has the life everyone wants. Eating haute cuisine is similar; we are not even sure whose life we are experiencing.
When we look for authenticity, we are after stories more than flavors. What matters is that we share our experiences, even if they are painful, sad, or depressing. They don’t have to be pleasant.
The canopy tents of this Taiwanese festival say, “Taiwan: The heart of Asia.” I’m not sure why Taiwan is the heart, but it sounds right to me. What I like about Taiwanese cuisine is that it doesn’t look fussy yet tastes great. It certainly speaks to my heart.
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