Culture-balancing Act (anpan part 2)

I’ve been following the Olympics, and CNN posted an article about Manzano, a US runner who waved both the US and Mexican flags after he won silver. (Article here) The writer says that Manzano shouldn’t have taken both, that by wearing the US jersey, he’d clearly picked a country to represent and belong to.


Every time the Olympics roll around, you can see the divide in US-identifiers and non-US identifiers by which country people root for. I mean, we’re encouraged to embrace our heritage, display it proudly. But given all that, I can understand why some people don’t pick the US at the end of the day. (We can have a pretty icky reputation abroad, too.) Which leads me to wonder, is there a good way to be ethnic and American? It’s like trying to pick between divorced parents. It’s awkward to straddle the line, sometimes. I don’t know how I’d do it.


I don’t really have this dilemma. I was born and raised in the US, and I’ve only visited Shanghai, where my parents are from, twice. I’m clearly American, but I still have certain cultural values, and tastes that give me a broader world view. From my Chinese side comes my love for things like red bean buns.

Red bean desserts are very Asian. No Westerner would think to eat beans as a sweet. But red beans, or adzuki beans, are surprisingly good. And one of my favorite components in dessert. It’s cooked, then mashed to become a paste like in these buns, left whole in ice pops, or in-between for things like shaved ice.

Anpanman (from part 1) is a red bean bun that’s shaped like a person. But the more common shape is to flatten the bun shape and then make 8 cuts into the sides, like a flower.

When I made them (based off this recipe), I used all whole-wheat flour (that’s all I have), and store-bought red bean paste. Whole wheat flour is harder to make bread with, but adding about a tablespoon of water once you start kneading helps.

Surprisingly, when they came out, the outer dough wasn’t soft and porous, like the bun doughs usually are. It was harder on the outside, and more like bread on the inside. Similar to a dinner roll or something. It seems I can’t escape my Western side even when baking Asian pastries.


What do you think? What’s your heritage, and how do you balance them?


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