Sunday, June 12, 2011


I’ve just seen a Chinese cooking show on PBS, I’ll call COOKING SONG: COOKING WITH ANDRES SONG, owner THREE STARS OF CHINA in Boston to save myself a lawsuit. I was in the world of my cartooning when the sexual vibe alerted me and I heard her voice talk to Andres Song on my tv. She ran five or six “RICEFLOUR” restaurants around Boston as one of the owners of Conners and Yang the flagship restaurant in the heart of a Boston under reconstruction.

She discovered her feel for the art of baking at an early age and worked in kitchens around the world before returning to Boston. She went to Harvard to please her family and graduated with honors. Andres Song went to Yale at the same time. They trade Harvard-Yale rivalry secrets. She named her first restaurant Riceflour to honor her past as a baker. Then opened another Riceflour, then another. And so on.

“Where did you get the name Andres,” she asks.

Electricity excites off of Song as he tells a story of his father the Chinese cook who wanted to play soulful classical Spanish guitar like Andres Segovia. “He named me Andres after the great classical guitarist Andres Segovia and I naturally grew up with a taste and a talent for Chinese cooking.” You could feel his volts crashing through the feel of her skin and tickling here and itching there, gradually oozing warm sugar all over her body. They were east coast Chinese-Americans who were uncomfortable with “Chinese-American” and would both bridle and fight over “Chinaman.” Alone in the kitchen they call each other Chinese and leave the “American” unsaid. Whatever they like to be called the references to Chinaman universals shared with reluctant Chinese-Americans – “I was going to say your Chinese is better than mine,” what’shername says in response to Song’s, “Pardon the pronunciation, Harvard. Your Chinese is better than mine.” Out of the blue what’s her name Yang says “Chinese swearing.” Her head is down and I see her lower teeth are in front of her upper teeth in the closed position, what dentist’s call an underbite. Her demeanor is tall, graceful, dignified.

The electricity zapping silently begins to burst crackles and flash in the air.

And Song bursts out laughing. I’m laughing too. TV has reached the state of Chinese-American art. At last I feel a void being filled with goodies, at least momentarily filling a specific Chinese empty in my life with touch of bitterness, from the outside at last; I was shown a fact. I wasn’t alone in my awareness of Chinatowns literary past. That was funny and tickled the Chinese blood trickling inside me as I imagine an episode of Redd Foxx’s SANFORD & SON tickles the Black sense in the trickle of Black blood. The Chinese were swapping the humor from their Chinese childhoods. But they were so old childhood was a lifetime ago.

Andres Song says, and he says a lot that sets what’shername Yang the very pretty woman who owns a world of Chinese restaraunts around town giving come ahead you naughty boy stop and go speaking. Finds a groove and everything he says stops her stutter in her professional all business grape seed oil and two egg yolks beat into a mayonnaise. Farlic chives, chopped, Dijon mustard and any kind of chili powder. Andres Song says something unintelligible and she blushes in the stutter. She likes Szechwan chili, and that’s the dip. The only difference between COOKING SONG and childish lowclass burlesque is the two cook with real food on real stoves. Prop theater food or real food and real cooking, the verbal fencing was real and the only recognizable Chinese-American behavior I’ve ever seen on the movie or tv screen. It has to be a fluke. I haven’t seen anything like this episode of COOKING SONG: COOKING WITH ANDRES SONG in the movies , or tv even other tv episodes of COOKING SONG, anywhere, not even the IRON CHEF. Nowhere till now.

It has to be a freak. An accident. American tv was never this real to Yellows like me. Attempts at Asian American channels were all comic and entertainment and no news. The Yellows of America was nothing happening, nothing doing, nothing cooking, no news, no art, no sports This episode of COOKING SONG is real cooks with Chinese Americans, people I know as Chinamen, at ease, joking and teasing trades of vintage Chinese Americana in pure American-bred accents on tv. It is sweet. It was delightful. It was beautiful. This is a strange August.

Andres Song says it all, or puts it all on the line, when he says, “It isn’t often that two Chinese cook together.” Ah now the size of his eyes make sense. He doesn’t flutter his lashes but the stutter in the timing of her recital of the recipe says SEX echoing all over the screen. He doesn’t have to do a thing. Just listen. The air is electric. Any girl cook in the kitchen says sex! A Chinese girl in Song’s kitchen is SEX! I am learning that’s a characteristic of watching out of a Yellows black eyes like mine.

“Do you cook with MSG?” Song asks. The dimples in his cheeks show attractively. She flicks her fingers at his face. No. I can’t lie. I cannot tell a lie, as Rev. Weem’s George Washington said in his myth of George Washington to honor George Washington’s honesty. Kwan Kung in the novel ROMANCE OF THE THREE KINGDOMS likewise cannot tell a lie but phrases it differently, in words designed to be taken personally, “You’d better not lie about me.” Song didn’t tease and she didn’t flick her fingers. I indulged my urge to fict everything up with a cartoon fiction to explore the nasty plot turns this story of an extraordinary Yellow boy meeting an extraordinary Yellow girl might take. All, of course, ridiculous and impossible from the start. The flagship is named Conners and Yang. It sounds like a marriage. Conners and Yang as a corporation own a Boston kingdom of restaurants named “Riceflour.” She’s an artist baker. Conners retired young from Wall Street is the husband and Yang is the artist chef who designs the menu and the casual atmosphere of RICEFLOUR and the wife. I expect them to fight off the universe side-by-side and back-to-back, and have children.

I categorically, absolutely, and truthfully say that my cartoon of COOKING WITH SONG is simply a cartoon. A crude parody. A harmless cartoooooon.

The Chinese-Americans who would have appreciated this moment most, didn’t notice, and my friend the tv, showed another show.

My cartoon IN THE KITCHEN OF CHUR FONG and his guest chef WARM ICE WHO MELTS LIKE ICE CREAM set in Boston is a cartoon. All names and places are fiction. Any resemblance to any person , plant or place living or dead is purely coincidental. All hanky panky is in my mind, in my dreams. Certainly not on my American friend the tv. The hanky panky I saw was a glitch, a fluke, a freak. And fine. Really fine.

I think of e-mailing Cookingsong No. I’m too old to make new friends and enemies.

Frank Chin