In a previous post, I mentioned a houseguest of mine, G, whose stay taught me a lot about deeply ingrained differences I have with my mother culture. Although G is my age and was raised much the same way I was, her reaction to her upbringing, and indeed, her entire approach to life, is much different than mine because of where we were raised.

I realized this while we were watching Cam watch Sesame Street videos, ubiquitous in the United States. The songs teach numbers and letters, to be sure, but they also teach individualism, creativity, positive thinking and so many other things that are, literally, totally foreign to G. The idea that you would encourage a child to think for himself and possibly even question his parents and direction in life is not one that ever seems to enter her mind.

G and I were both pushed by our parents into specific careers, but that is where the similarities end. While I, like many first generation Asian Americans, resent this pressure and blame all sort of psychological ills on it, she is fully accepting of her fate. She isn’t morosely resigned to it, either- rather, she seems to recognize that her parents chose a career for her based on what they felt would be best for her, and that even though she hates it, they were doing what was right for her. And so, she will continue down that path. There’s no resentment, no anger, and even the idea that you should be angry is perplexing to her. She hates her career, but she still loves and respects her parents, even though they were the ones who chose it for her.

M told me that in one of his management classes, they had a guest speaker – a director at a major luxury hotel brand. Each employee at the hotel is given a certain stipend which they are directed to use for the good of hotel guests. For example, a bellhop can use his stipend to send a piece of luggage accidentally left behind by a guest. The hotel found it incredibly hard to implement this policy when they opened in China. The people they hired were simply incapable of making decisions on their own and continually asked their managers for permission before each act.

For this particular meal, G had wanted to help, so I asked her to make the salad dressing. I am not a very good manager, and any other task would have required too much supervision and direction for me to handle!

Steamed mussels with fries & aioli

De-beard and scrub 500g (about 1 lb) of mussels into a bowl. Let them sit with cold  running water for 30 min to an hour, until they have disgorged their grit. In a pot, heat olive oil and add half an onion and 2-3 stalks of celery, chopped. When the onion is translucent (2-3 minutes), pour in half a cup or so of wine (I like lots of broth with my mussels) and a handful of cherry tomatoes, halved. Add a pinch of thyme, some salt, pepper, and the cleaned mussels. Steam until mussels have opened and the meat within is firm, usually less than 10 minutes.

Make fries, however you like to make them. Make some aioli – I honestly prefer a few cloves of roasted garlic blended with premade mayo to the aioli I make from scratch. Serve with a salad and lots of crusty bread to dip in the broth.

Simple Salad Dressing 

Blend olive oil and vinegar in a 2 to 1 ratio. Add salt, pepper, basil and oregano to taste.