Thursday, December 8, 2016

Final Anthology


My assignment blog focused on blog posts that reflect different composition-related topics discussed in class. Most of them are written in narrative format, starting with an anecdote that proves a point later on. Most of my blog posts are written in this form unless they require a certain genre. The underlying theme of the assignment blog is “food, feelings, and film,” the title of the course, because each one pertains to at least one of the words. Most of the blog posts are between 400-600 words long; writing within this word requirement helped develop a writing mindset: to be clear, concise, and to the point. Understanding this particular nature of writing allowed me to write well on longer or graded assignments because I understood the word count is negligible, as long as the same principle is applied. Composition is centered at quality, not quantity. 

The five blog posts I chose are: Strange Skewers and Squid, Confession of a Meat-Lover, the Proust free-write, the Eat Drink Man Woman voiceover, and the pie free-write. The first two are my favorite narratives I wrote over the semester and discuss both cultural and gender identity with relation to cuisine. They focus on “food” and “feelings.” The Proust free-write is also a narrative with a quote taken from Proust’s famous madeleine passage. This piece focuses on “food” and “feelings” as well. The voiceover represents how we learned to take our writing skills and apply it to different types of rhetoric as we progressed through the semester. The voiceover incorporates the “film” aspect of the course. Finally, the pie free-write is an example of a blog post we wrote incorporating all three aspects of the course title; it is also one of my more creative pieces. 

The pieces I chose are arranged from simple to complex: the first two are anecdotes dealing with culture and gender respectively; the third is an anecdote but with a twist: it is not only longer but also incorporates a quote from Proust’s famous madeleine passage; the fourth is written in a different genre: it is voiceover of the beginning scene from Eat Drink Man Woman; the fifth and final post incorporates many aspects of the course: inspiration from a film, feelings, food, creativity, and analysis. 

 - - Strange Skewers and Squid

 - - Confession of a Meat-Lover

 - - Proust free-write

 - - Eat Drink Man Woman voiceover

 - - Pie free-write


Writing blog posts was an effective way of starting off the semester with a lot of writing exercise to help us ease into the class as well as to get familiar with our own style of writing in the long run. They helped us develop strong critical thinking and writing skills because we were assigned blog posts after most lessons so we could concentrate on understanding the lesson shortly after we are introduced to it; this style of teaching helped root that knowledge inside us (for example, we had to write a blog post comparing genre and audience shortly after we learned about both key terms). We also developed our editing skills, and learned to apply them to different genres of writing, a technique I grew more adept with over the semester. 

We wrote in different genres, which allowed us to explore writing further than just a persuasive essay. For example, my voice over started off with “The fish has been gutted, the meat has been breaded, and the kitchen has come alive! Join us, as we witness Mr. Chu preparing his signature dish,” almost like a TV-show. This type of writing is not usually taught, but we were given the opportunity to experiment with it in this course, expanding our composition horizons. Another sentence, “We made promises to each other that night about the goals we wanted; we parted for our cars in the rainy parking lot as the clock struck ten, hoping that each of our promises would be kept. The night passed in an almost magical scene - the rain, the emotions, and the final goodbye,” is symbolic of the class because we learned to express emotion in our sentences, anecdotes, and arguments. Very few times are emotions conveyed in a regular persuasive paper. 

I believe the extent to which we diverted from persuasive English essays was what made this course unique. Even though it’s not labeled a creative writing course, many aspects of the class definitely help improve our understanding, critical thinking, and writing processes when it comes to expressing our thoughts liberally through composition. 

Blog Post 1 - Strange Skewers and Squid

Strange Skewers and Squid:

I knew the restaurant was different the moment I stepped inside. It smelled authentic; a draft of soy and sweet sesame wafted from the kitchen and for a moment, I felt like I was in another country.
The store owner’s wife, a plump lady from Beijing, greeted my friends and me as we took our seats. When the first dish, consisting of beef heart, tongue, and tripe, was brought to the table, my friends, who were foreign students from China and hadn’t eaten good Chinese food in two weeks, dove in like a pack of wolves. 
I stayed still. 
When the skewers came, I hungrily snatched the ones I recognized - beef and squid. But the sight of chicken liver skewers brought my insides to a grinding halt, even if they were sprinkled with the spices I loved.
  At one point in my childhood, I too would have grabbed for those skewers and gobbled them up without a second thought. Growing up in Wisconsin with my parents, both of whom immigrated from China, I was introduced to traditional Chinese cuisine at a young age. The maxim “Chinese people would eat anything under the sun” holds some truth to it; my favorite food at age six was pig feet. I loved everything from its robust, meaty taste to the bone marrow, which I would use a chopstick to pick out and slap onto my tongue. I used to enjoy chicken feet too, cleaning all the cooked skin and scraps from the bones with my teeth. Today, I wouldn’t touch any of them.
Times like these are the moments when I wonder what happened all those years, when a medium-rare steak and sautéed spinach replaced the food from my origins that I used to enjoy. Unlike many other Asian-American families, mine frequented western food chains quite often, Chili’s and Applebee’s for example, where the sight of dishes such as chicken or pig feet would have sent customers out the door. From going to school to eating with friends, I grew accustomed to the “refined” American cuisine - calamari, hamburgers, roasted turkey. Over time, the thought of another pig or chicken foot across my tongue left my mouth quivering rather than salivating. 
  My friends from China refer to me as an “ABC” - an American-Born Chinese. For a long time, I thought that the difference was only between languages. At the restaurant however, I realized that this gap in cultures was probably more significant than I had thought.
When more dishes rolled up to the table - chicken heart, mutton fat - I found myself reaching for the spicy noodles more and more. They were the only dish on the table that I actually recognized. As more and more unrecognizable skewers of meat came to our table, I grimaced. When my friends ordered another round, I told them to add five squid skewers just for me. It might have been bad manners, but I had no choice. 
Even through something as simple as the food we eat, I’ve realized that being an “ABC” has changed me in more ways than one. With that in mind, when the next round of food came, I munched away at the squid skewers, thankful that my taste for exotic seafood hadn’t left me yet. In the end, I ate until I was full. 

But the entire time, I left the chicken livers alone, knowing that my stomach could not handle them. As much as I wished I could enjoy the skewers with my friends, I knew the truth was we were standing on opposite sides of a cliff, joining hands, but not on the same ground anymore.

Blog Post 2 - Confession of a Meat-Lover

Confession of a Meat-Lover

Throughout history, the concept of a human male has been closely intertwined with the idea of “strength” or “raw power.” In my case, this vision directly translated over to my eating habits. In short, I love meat—all kinds of meat. Steak, fish, crab legs, chicken wings; I’m proud to call myself an avid “meat-a-tarian.”
Unfortunately, I was born into the wrong religion. My entire family and relatives are Buddhists. My uncle is a monk who lives in a Chinese temple, where a vegetarian diet is mandatory. Last year, when I travelled back to visit him with my family, I felt a sense of dread approach me. Already, my mother had warned me not to expect much for lunch as we were eating at the temple. I couldn’t help it. The idea of life without sirloins or steamed mussels disgusts me so much I could puke. A world without meat is a world without culinary pleasure…
  At least, that was what I thought before I arrived at Yan Tang Mountain. 
  High in the misty peaks of a mountain range in southern China, I climbed up a life’s worth of stairs and found myself surrounded by damp, red temples, the smell of incense fogging up my nose. Sacred statues stared back at me from the windows. My uncle greeted us warmly and gave us a brief tour of the temple. I thought to myself: I didn’t belong here. The people here were monks. They didn’t eat meat. 
Lunch was served in a prayer room with the Buddha watching over me. All the food was vegetarian. I sat before a soup made from vegetables and vermicelli. I could see the ugly mushrooms staring back at me, the hideous brussels sprouts, and the gloomy bottom of the bowl—clear and meatless. This was sure to be the worst meal of the trip, I thought. Then I tasted the soup. 
My tastebuds jumped a little when the liquid touched my tongue. It didn’t taste icky; it was salty, briny, and delicious. To my surprise, I found myself going up for seconds, thirds, and maybe even a fourth helping. Dumbfounded by the exotic taste composed of seemingly tasteless greens, I couldn’t stop eating until my stomach was round. My parents were probably surprised, but said nothing; they waited until I was finished. 
  I walked out of the temple that day wondering if I had made a mistake. Was meat the end-all, be-all of flavor? Previously, I would have believed so. That meal had challenged my belief however. Was the vegetarian life all as bad as I made it out to be? Perhaps vegans over the years have adopted dishes themselves that satisfied their tastes in ways meat never could. It was a world of food and flavor that I may never get the chance to discover in my entire life.

Today, I am still a Buddhist and a frequent visitor to Steak N’ Shake at the same time. However, the memory of that wonderful dish in the mountains has never faded from the memory of my tongue. 

Blog Post 3 - Proust Free Write - The Taste of Memory

On a rainy night at the racquet club, I had dinner with Jason. With only a few more days left until I boarded my plane for college, I was trying hard not to think about the inevitable transition. The full weight of the future hadn’t hit me yet; I hung on desperately to the glorious days of summer, trying to meet with as many of my friends as possible to keep that feeling of security alive. 
We had a fancy meal of steak and mashed potatoes. The pitter-patter of rain was barely audible outside as we talked under the candlelight, friend to friend, student to student, brother to brother. Our conversations took us outside when we were finished, and our words filled the air with stories and comments about the people we knew around us, the future we had planned for ourselves, and any remaining high school drama that still remained unspoken at the time. 
At one point, when we stood under the eaves of the building, listening to the dance of raindrops in the silent night, Jason leaned in and told me it was okay to change. I told him that wasn’t what others said, and he replied with, “Just be the best version of yourself.”
We made promises to each other that night about the goals we wanted; we parted for our cars in the rainy parking lot as the clock struck ten, hoping that each of our promises would be kept. The night passed in an almost magical scene - the rain, the emotions, and the final goodbye.

Fast forward a few months:

I found myself sitting in the corner of a restaurant by myself, two months into college. The time was 10:34 PM. I was alone as all my friends were out at an event. I scrolled through my text messages, reading through each conversation as if they were a movie. A monster truck hit me in the gut every time I read something fragile. 
Then my order came - steak and potatoes. 
Almost instantly, my mind was triggered back to that rainy night that seemed like years ago. That same feeling of nostalgia came rushing back and I wondered where the times had gone. Already, a few buckets of sweat and tireless hours studying for exams, a few parties, events, and a broken relationship had gone by, and with all the emotions I could feel palpitating somewhere inside me, I thought of Jason.
All the promises we promised each other suddenly hit me and I began to wonder if they were being kept. Two months seemed so long with the twists and turns of college life. Just thinking back to what had been so mesmerizing of a talk back at the racquet club was difficult; I  felt I was reaching into a forbidden past, a bucket of sand, trying to hold onto one scintillating moment that grounded me, and yet coming back empty-handed, or at least, with the sand falling through between my fingers. 
Only when I bit into that meal did I realize: “Undoubtedly what is thus palpitating in the depths of my being must be the image, the visual memory which, being linked to that taste, is trying to follow it into my conscious mind. But its struggles are too far off, too confused and chaotic; scarcely can I perceive the neutral glow into which the elusive whirling medley of stirred-up colours is fused, and I cannot distinguish its form, cannot invite it, as the one possible interpreter, to translate for me the evidence of its contemporary, its inseparable paramour, the taste, cannot ask it to inform me what special circumstance is in question, from what period in my past life.”
Although promises always feel so real when they are made, I wondered at that second if that feeling was only ephemeral, and if so, are promises like that as well? I could still picture that time under the eaves so clearly, with the rain falling and Jason standing next to me, and yet at the same time, it was like a dream.

Perhaps the human condition really is made of one thing—forgetfulness. I don’t define that word as simply losing something important in the mind. Its true meaning is a description of one forever struggling to hold onto the piece of themselves we call time. It is an ungraspable entity for which we chase after endlessly, even though it exists no longer because we are already someone else by the time we remember. 

Blog Post 4 - Eat Drink Man Woman voiceover

Eat Drink Man Woman Voiceover

The fish has been gutted, the meat has been breaded, and the kitchen has come alive!
Join us, as we witness Mr. Chu preparing his signature dish. With over twenty years of experience running his own restaurant, which he took over after his father, Chu is always busy. He is always meticulous and patient with his work. From seeing how quickly he prepares the fish, we can understand that every minute of his lifetime has been poured into such a delicate process as cooking, making sure that every red pepper, every spice, and every tasty ingredient is factored into the final product in their correct amounts, all in the blink of an eye!
He works diligently, without pausing to even take a drink of water. He is used to the heat; it has been his home for most of his life, even as he was a little boy scrubbing pots for his father. Today, he is a Master Chef with three beautiful daughters, each to whom he is preparing this glorious banquet for this day. 
Watch as he steps out of the kitchen now to prepare the next half of the meal. The chicken pen he is walking towards was made by his father over forty years ago and still stands to house chickens today. He grabs one to slaughter, for his greatest dish of the banquet, “Chu’s General Chicken”, must always use fresh meat for the full flavor to be savored. In addition, Chu’s restaurant garnered our attention first because of his commitment to sustainability, that is, raising his own livestock for his dishes. 
It does not take him long to prepare the rest of the meal. By now, the chicken has been prepared and so have all the other ingredients. He puts the buns in the cooker and waits while he puts the rest of his creations on the stove to heat. Squid, steamed buns, rice, and vegetables will soon be ready. At this time, most of the heavy work is over and he can proceed to another task. Although it seems like a long and heavy task has been completed, the day has only begun for Chef Chu...

Source: Eat Drink Man Woman

Blog Post 5 - Forgotten Feelings Pie

This pie is composed of many sweet ingredients. From its cotton candy insides to its frosted surface of M&Ms and sprinkles, the pie is everything one would expect from first dates and trips to the movie theater. But while the pie holds a beautiful exterior, what it hides beneath is less than appetizing. 

The Forgotten Feelings Pie symbolizes a broken love. Although its outside is made of treats and desserts shared on dates, times of bliss, when the pie leaves the oven, it is steaming and looks ready to burst. The sides of the pie are blackened and the skin looks like its about to crumble. The ingredients do not sit well. Decorate the top with large hearings of frosting and draw, using red frosting, a heart in half. Only then is it finished. 

Even though the pie’s ingredients are originally tasty and tantalizing, they have morphed into ashes, used to symbolize how happier times have now become moments of regret and anger. The pie itself bulges at the sides not only because the ingredients are so unorthodox, but because they symbolize all the feelings of repression of emotions one may undergo at the end of a relationship. 

The pie consists of:
4 small bags of Valentine’s Day M&Ms
a bag of popcorn
hunks of cotton candy
a few servings of ice cream sundaes
a cup of coffee
and dough to mix it all together

Yet by eating the pie, symbolically, one is swallowing his or her past feelings of regret along with the present feelings of fear and uncertainty; he or she is moving forward and looking ahead into the future. Just like the momentary happiness of eating a sweet, tangy pie, feelings of sadness and regret as one undergoes through a broken relationship, are also temporary. In the end, the consumption of the pie is significant because it means all forgotten feelings have been dealt with and the future is still full off opportunities and new adventures, more than just what lies on a single plate. 

Friday, November 25, 2016

Reflection on a piece

The post I’m writing a reflection on is titled “Confession of a Meat-Lover.” It is one of the earliest blog posts I made this semester when we discussed the theme of “gender and food.” Back then, I wrote mainly in the narrative (and I still do). 

This piece’s introduction could use more work. While it is satisfactorily clear, it is not the clearest it could be. The tie between masculinity and strength, along with raw food, is not a clear cut one and could be improved on with an extra paragraph, perhaps giving history and other sources of evidence that can further clarify the distinction. 

The narrative part is smooth and tells a nice story. More senses could be incorporated. 

The ending seems a little abrupt. It could be elaborated on once again with history and other sources of evidence that can draw out the shape of the passage. Evidence can help clarify the argument and strengthen it. 

Overall, the piece, while smooth and descriptive, lacks a degree of substance or well-developed argument that could help flesh it out.