“You Didn’t Eat the Heads!”

It never ceases to amaze me the depth that people will go to in order to NOT offend other people.  Keep in mind that when I was married, I was 24 years old.  I was only 5 months old when I left Vietnam.  So, I’ve pretty much been a Texan my entire life.  Still, there was much emphasis on preserving some of our culture while learning to adapt to a new one.  In the Asian culture, food is HUGE.  The preparation, the freshness, the taste all enhance the eating experience. 

Once I actually started taking friends out to eat Vietnamese food, it was fun because they would always ask me, “How do you eat this?”  I’ve always thought that was a funny question because in my mind, it was always the same answer:  “However you want to eat it.”  I know there are people who will say to you that there is a way to eat food to provide the best flavor and texture, but I was always of the assumption that people have different opinions.  What is soft and palatable to one person may not necessarily be that way to another.  But, still my friends always wanted to know the “best” way to eat a particular dish.  So, I obliged…mostly. 

So I went to lunch one day with my wife and mother at a Vietnamese restaurant.  We were still new in our marriage and my wife was still a little nervous around mom.  Most of the time, we order family style lunches or dinners.  This is where dishes are ordered but to no specific person.  This way, everyone can get a taste of a little bit of everything.  My mother proceeds to order fried shrimp. 

Image

Yes, the heads are still on them.  And, so are the outer shells.  Technically, you can eat everything.  It won’t kill you.  Being the voracious typical Asian eater that I am, I do eat EVERYTHING on the shrimp.  My wife knows that I do this.  She first noticed this when I ordered Amaebi at a sushi restaurant when we were dating.  For those who don’t know, this is basically sweet shrimp.  They give you the whole thing, but they do tempura fry the heads to make them edible.  And, ate them I did.  Her reaction was a little bit of between shock and confusion since she had never seen anyone eat shrimp heads before.  Hey, it’s Texas.  And, this was several years before sushi became so popular. 

So there I am scooping some shrimp into my bowl and eating ALL of it.  My wife has a look of hesitation on her face that she’s trying very hard to hide.  I notice it and whisper to her that she doesn’t HAVE to eat the heads.  Wanting to impress her new mother-in-law, she dives right in.  Like a champ she keeps a straight face while she’s crunching through the shell of the tail and then through the head.  She eats a few more shrimp this way, until my mom asked her if she enjoys the food.  My wife turns to nod her head when she noticed on my mother’s plate are the leftover fried shrimp heads.  “You didn’t eat the heads!?”  My mom replies, “No, I don’t do that.”  Right then and there, a smile runs across my mothers face as she realized that her white daughter-in-law did something she didn’t want to do in order to impress her.  Then of course, she busted out laughing.  That was the first moment I knew they would get along just fine. 

I think that experience was also helpful to allow my wife to actually try new things.  One thing I thoroughly enjoy doing is experimenting with different foods from around the world with her.  From Mediterranean to Ethiopian to Asian to Mexican to Texas BBQ, we love to try different foods.  Because of this, however, we have also tried very strange items as well.  After the shrimp head incident, she will try almost anything at least once to see if she likes it.  One of the strangest things I actually got her to try was Balut.  It’s basically a fertilized duck egg.  We will just leave it at that.  If you have a weak stomach, I urge you NOT to look it up.  She obviously didn’t like it, but she did try it.  She’s even tried blood cake (which she also didn’t like) and even used shrimp paste in her soup.  Now, one thing I can’t even handle that she did actually try is Durian fruit. 

Image

I can not get past the smell of this fruit.  It is horrid.  Even Andrew Zimmern of the TV show Bizarre Foods spit this out.  And, he eats everything!  But, my wife tried it.  She states that after you get past the smell, it’s actually very sweet.  To this day, I have still never even attempted it.  So for all of you in the AMWF community, what is the weirdest thing you have tried?  And is there anything you absolutely refuse to try?

Discovering the AMWF community

It wasn’t too long ago that I happened to stumble on an AMWF facebook page, which then allowed me to find several AMWF blogs.  To be honest, I didn’t know such a community existed.  I never saw my relationships any differently than anyone else.  But the more I read about other people’s experiences, the more I realized that there was indeed a blending of 2 different cultures.  I know, I know.  How could you not see 2 different cultures?  I mean I KNOW it has always been there.  I guess it’s just that maybe I’ve lived in the U.S. for so long, that EVERYTHING was an adaptation for me.    I started talking to my wife about what I was reading and we had a great time remembering the past 14 years of our lives.  So, I decided to start my own blog to share the experiences that we lived through.

So I’ll start with how I got to the U.S.  in order to meet the girl of my dreams.

VIETNAM EVACUATION

It was April 1975.  I was 5 months old and Saigon was falling.  My father was a Huey pilot for South Vietnam.  He and several other pilots took helicopters like the one above and got us out.  We flew out to sea looking for the U.S. ships.  The picture above was so important  because helicopters were pushed into the ocean to make space for the next helicopter with the pilot and his family to get out.  You land, you get out, you push that helicopter into the ocean to make room for the next helicopter to land.  We were all very low on fuel and if you didn’t do it fast enough, a watery grave was your future.  We were the first wave of refugees.  All of us had our own escape story.  Maybe one day I will go further in detail as to exactly what happened.  But, til this day, that remains family history.

Eventually, we ended up in Texas where sponsors agreed to take us in and help us learn the American system.  Growing up in Texas, I adopted a lot of American values in addition to what my parents taught us so as to not completely lose our culture.  Still, I grew up around mostly white kids.  I’m assuming that’s probably why I have more of an attraction to white girls.  Don’t get me wrong, I was attracted to girls of all races, but most of what I was around was white girls.  I was the typical shy Asian kid.  I had lots of little crushes in school, but never had the courage to follow through with anything.  I started playing basketball in the 7th grade which helped me to develop a little more confidence, but not enough to really make a difference.  I was friends with all the cute girls, including the cheerleaders, but feared rejection so badly that I still didn’t have the nerve to ask any of them out.  I was a mess.  In high school, the fact that I was an academic athlete became more evident.  I was in the top 1% of my class while playing a starter position on my basketball team.  (Jeremy Lin, Yao Ming….I was there before you guys).  Yes, my confidence was still growing, but it was still not enough.  I was great friends with even more cute girls in my class.  And yes, most of them were white.  It wasn’t a racial issue.  It’s just who was available.  Most of the academic students who were also athletes were white.  It’s just who I was hanging around, studying with, and eventually developed an attraction for.

In college, I said to myself that I had enough.  I was going to just jump right in to the dating scene and screw my fear of rejection.  I started dating an Italian girl who became my girlfriend for 3 years.  That was the plunge I needed.  Dating just seemed so much easier after that.  What the hell was I so afraid of?  Anyways, Italian girl introduced me to her best friend, who eventually became my wife.  Now, I know how it sounds.  But, Italian girl and I had been long over with.  I always thought her friend was cute and tried to convince her to date me after we broke up because I knew she felt the same way.  But, she said that she couldn’t date me because I was her best friend’s ex-boyfriend.  But we were really good friends.  We actually would go out to the bars, get tipsy, and fool around.  Next morning, she always said, “We shouldn’t have done that.”  I would respond with, “okay”.  Then, it happened again and again and again.  It became almost a weekly event, with the same ending.  “We shouldn’t have done that.”  And, me saying, “okay.”  Eventually, I started to date other people, which I think made her jealous.  So, she eventually agreed to be with me.  We were really good friends to begin with and it just felt right.  Eventually, we were married and now have 3 beautiful daughters.  Thus, began our almost 15 years of marriage now.  Here’s a picture of us back then.

wedding

For those of you in an AMWF relationship, hold on tight.  It’s going to be a ride.  Good….bad….it’s never boring.