Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Call Me Maybe...What?

As you all probably know I did not enter the food scene the way typical writers, chefs and other industry personalities have done.  Rather I stumbled in by accident, much like the scene in the movie Blazing Saddles, where cowboy brawlers on a sound stage crash into the adjacent sound stage where a dance musical was being filmed.   Not having the traditional credentials has created an interesting dilemma of how I should be described online and in the press and has resulted in a wide variety monikers to describe me and the things I do.

The issue first arose when I retired after 45 years as a CPA and Attorney.  I had always carried a supply of business cards wherever I went and even though I was retired I didn't feel fully dressed without a business card.  But how would I describe myself?  Well this is what I came up with, with the "history" reference encompassing both my writings on Chinese-American historical topics in the 1970s and 1980s, as well as the integration of those topics into my articles on Chinese restaurants in America.

A completely different issue is how I would be described by others mentioning my name in food circles.  Of course, there is the ubiquitious term "blogger", and while I have been described on occasion as a Chinese food blogger, that's really not an accurate description.  Yes, you are reading my blog which talks about Chinese food.   But the fact is that this blog was not originally intended to be a food blog, and if you go back to its start a dozen years ago, only an occasional posting had anything to do with Chinese food.  The first move towards weighting this blog to more food content began when I did a Google search for "Cantonese Food Blog" and found my blog listed on the first page of results.  Shortly thereafter the Chinese food content increased further when I had my "Blazing Saddles" moment, stumbling into the food world via Clarissa Wei's article introducing me as the man who had eaten at over 6,000 Chinese restaurants.  It is true at that point I needed to make the lead posting on this blog being about Chinese restaurant food.  But the fact is while that article immediately led to a demand for me to write articles on Chinese food topics, these articles were published by third party websites like Menuism, and not my own blog.  If you look at my own blog, the topics are odds and ends, rather than major works, and I only post to this blog once or twice or month.  So clearly, I am not an active blogger. 

Personally, my favorite description is "Celebrity Diner" because it evokes the incredulous nature of the attention drawn to my dining adventures, while at the same time providing a highly accurate description.  When Clarissa's article was first released I appreciated the fact that my story might be newsworthy in the foodie world, but I was totally unprepared when days later it was briefly the lead story on People.com until replaced by an update on Britney Spears.  Quite telling is the website's categorization of the story as "Celebrity" news.  While a couple of people had gained notoriety for eating at Subway and McDonald's, this was the first time that the words "celebrity" and "diner" had been used in concert.  This was not a reflection of anything I had done differently but rather as an indication of how celebrity status had been extended to new categories of people.  Along the same lines are descriptions such as "Chinese Culinary Celebrity," "Social Media Celebrity" and "Unlikely Food Celebrity."

Otherwise there's been a whole range of descriptors used, which in itself demonstrates the difficulty in finding an apt characterization.  In no particular order they include legendary eater, food historian, Chinese food enthusiast,  roving diner, Chinese food aficionado, prolific Chinese restaurant chronicler, food historian, Chinese food expert, Chinese food hobbyist, iconic eater, Chinese restaurant obsessive, prominent Chinese food writer, Chinese food chronicler, Chinese food maven, and author.  But as the old saying goes, I don't care what you call me as long as you call me.