San Francisco-based Vietnamese-American writer Andrew Lam observes cultural trends and socio-political movements. He’s an editor with New American Media, the first and largest collaboration of ethnic news organizations in America, and author of Perfume Dreams: Reflections on the Vietnamese Diaspora, a great collection of intimate, compelling essays on Vietnamese-American identity.
Whenever I read Andrew’s work and it includes his insights on food and culture, I’m extra tickled. This month, he’s written a piece on the diverse evolution of California cuisine.
When refugees like Andrew and I arrived in the U.S. over 30 years ago, there wasn’t a single bottle of fish sauce on mainstream grocery store shelves. Nowadays, it’s a regular item, thanks to the popularity of Thai cooking. Yesterday, bottles of nuoc mam were prominently displayed at a seafood market at the Ferry Plaza, the uber-foodie Mecca in San Francisco. People are loving rice paper for its healthfulness and tastiness. My local butcher shop, a nearly 70-year-old establishment, is lining its seafood case with fresh banana leaves. Asian markets are stocking tortillas too, so the multi-ethnic trends are multi-directional.
I can go on and on but Andrew sums things up nicely in a recent piece published in the UC Berkeley alumni magazine’s food and farming issue, California. (Yes, the university has such an issue; it is Berkeley!) You may have also seen Andrew’s piece on the Nation website and in San Jose Mercury News too. Don’t be surprised by his lead. After all, Andrew is Vietnamese!