A few weeks ago, while I waited for Robyn and LeeAnne to arrive at the Underground Lobster Pound in Brooklyn (more informally known as Ben‘s apartment) Ben and I got to talking about food bloggers. More specifically, Ben asked me why an overwhelming majority of food bloggers are: A. Asian and B. Female. Before I could give him an adequate answer, I had to think about it long and hard. Fitting both those categories, I have often thought to myself, why do I love food so much? Why, after completing a liberal arts degree in fine arts and marketing, was I compelled to pursue a food-related career?
I think a major reason can be attributed to my upbringing. Simply put, I am the spawn of two food-obsessed parents. Food has been an integral part of my life since I was old enough to chew. Whenever we went out to restaurants, my mom brought along a small pocket-sized pair of scissors with her to cut up whatever she was eating into smaller bite-size pieces for my sister and me. It wasn’t long before we had to pick out tiny fish bones and peel shrimp on our own. From the moment we were weaned from baby formula, we were introduced to “adult food”.
Being exposed to many different types of food at an early age, which I suspect is the case in many Asian families, could be another underlying reason why I have developed an adventurous palette and an appreciation for so many different cuisines. I still remember lunch time in elementary school: I enviously watched as my friends peeled open their Lunchables packs and stacked their circular ham and cheese slices between crackers. Meanwhile, my mom had the nerve to pack me beef tongue sandwiches or multi-compartment lunch boxes filled with the contents from last night’s dinner with a side of rice, kept warm in my insulated Japanese lunchbox. Many many beef tongue sandwiches later, I can now confidently say that my years of Lunchable-less elementary school meals were a blessing.
But for me, the real moment of truth came just before I was about to graduate. Thoughts and anxieties raced through my mind, and the biggest unanswered question looming over my head was: what am I going to do now? I milled through memories of past jobs and internships, trying to recall what I took from these work experiences. What I immediately realized was that I couldn’t keep the memories of lunch from flooding my head.
As a studio intern at Kayrock Screenprinting, I was not paid a salary but fed lunch instead. Hours of scrubbing down screens and performing other manual tasks would leave us all ravenous by lunchtime. I have to credit Kristin, whose duty was to prepare lunch for everyone, for first introducing me to Tuscan kale and quinoa. Many interns and employees were either vegan or vegetarian, which made the task of cooking lunch all the more challenging. Yet Kristin always managed to satiate everyone’s stomachs while staying within strict dietary restrictions. Her soba noodle salads were satisfying enough to put us all in a euphoric post-lunch haze.
When I was an archival intern at Joseph Kosuth‘s studio, the highlight of the day was also preparing lunch. Between flipping through old copies of exhibition catalogs, scanning boxes and boxes of slides, and consuming countless cups of tea, we would enthusiastically discuss what to cook for lunch. Sometimes it was spaghetti carbonara or Thai green curry. Other days, when we lacked inspiration, we resorted to making elaborate sandwiches and salads, sometimes even treating ourselves to nearby restaurants. As these vivid memories of lunches past reemerged, I saw that all signs clearly pointed towards the same direction: food.
Aside from cultural influence and family upbringing, there is also some empirical evidence that might explain why Asian females make up such a high percentage of the food blogging community. The term “supertaster” refers to a person who experiences the sense of taste with a greater intensity than the average person. How is this possible? A supertaster simply possesses an increased number of fungiform papillae, or taste buds, which thus enhances his or her sensitivity to taste — proof that biology can account for differences in taste. According to studies (and Wikipedia), women have more tastebuds than men, and within the female demographic, Asians and Africans are statistically more likely to have those extra taste buds that qualify them as supertasters.
Since I’ve never been actually tested, whether or not I’m a confirmed supertaster is uncertain. But I’ve always sort of suspected that I have a heightened sensitivity to smell and taste, which may be a contributing reason why I enjoy food — because I taste it more intensely. This leads me to ask a fundamental psychology question (a big one in “Intro to Psych”): Nature or nurture? Are Asian females more susceptible to becoming food bloggers due to environmental factors (nurture) or could this passion for food be traced back to genetics (nature)?
I’m curious to hear what people think about this phenomenon, and more specifically why others decided to take a similar path. To fellow Asian female bloggers: why did you choose to start a blog? What do you think influenced your love for food? What do you hope to achieve through writing a food blog? And to those who are neither Asian nor female, what are your thoughts on this matter? Is this all just some weird coincidence? What did your moms pack you for lunch?
A few fellow Asian Female Food Bloggers: A Passion for Food, A Tiger in the Kitchen, Amy Blogs Chow, Bionic Bites, Chez Pim, Luxirare, Grab Your Fork, Just Hungry, Spatula Queen, Steamy Kitchen, Tamarind and Thyme, The Girl Who Ate Everything, Viet World Kitchen, Wandering Chopsticks, Wandering Eater