content warning: self-harm ideation (body horror), mental illness (depression, premenstrual dysphoric disorder), eating disorders, health issues related to being assigned female at birth
zine: Cooking With Baggage (& Verve): Lessons From An Ex-Vegan Ex-Chef by Cher Tan (find them on Twitter here. Check out their other zines here.
drink: The Matriarch New England India Pale Ale (NE IPA) (355mL can, 6.5% ABV) by CoConspirators Brewing Co.
music: Ghost Stories For Christmas by Aidan Moffat & RM Hubbert
I know I’ve been in worse situations before health-wise, but a fortnight ago (edit: mid-Aug 2019), some equally amazing professional stuff happened, and some pretty awful health and life stuff did too.
I don’t know what will happen with the life stuff and its resolution, but I need to learn to deal with that. I’m more worried about the health stuff. I’m officially in a depressive episode again (it’s been a while, so it’s okay, we’re old predictable mates), but the premenstrual dysphoric disorder treatment is just…it’s not killing me, but even when your shrink in absolute sympathy tells you it’s still a bloke’s world, what do you do? Oestrogen patches, epic nausea (again), and menstrual blood that’s not even supposed to exist. It makes me hate being assigned female at birth, why can’t I be saved from my own body?
I’ve been getting a bit more public about identifying as non-binary, and I’ve no intention of changing what I like to call the ‘sack’ I’ve come in…unless my PMDD symptoms are extreme. One recurring fantasy I have is of cutting off my breasts with an amazing Japanese culinary knife (because they’re known for their sharpness and quality, there’s no cultural misappropriation shit happening here), even though it’s the menstruation that brings on these gruesome desires.
Perhaps presumptuous, but I consider the zine author a good friend and colleague. We’re very similar in the kind of ‘Asian’ that we are…we don’t tell our immediate families everything, we’re kind of considered weirdoes by them, and Cher is also infinitely more talented than I am as a writer. Uni education can’t teach you some shit (don’t get me wrong, I’m really fucking grateful for spending my undergrad time reading books I fucking LOVED), and Cher is living proof of that. I wish the Australian writing would get over itself in terms of its love affair with academia wank and just…I dunno, adopt a rescue pet, maybe?
Cher and I also listen to a lot of music that is coded as that meant for white people. We don’t do this deliberately, we just listen to music that moves us?! Isn’t that what music is for? So yeah, they’re also in a punk/noise band, and can’t wait to see them perform in a few weeks. If you can’t already tell, I’m a pathetic fanperson for Cher.
An old joke, but I love dangerlam‘s drawing of me, Cher, and Sonia Nair here because we look like a badarse power metal trio. I was freaking terrified the first time I met Cher, and was having severe impostor syndrome about what the hell EWF was doing programming me with a critic like Son!
Sadly, upon reading Cher’s zine intro, I realise we have a lot of really shit things in common. Yeah, yeah, all Asians are supposed to love food! (sarcasm) Asian parents aren’t exactly the first to pick up on the fact that disordered eating can stem from:
- a. it feels like the only aspect of your life you have control in (if your family unit is controlling/strict)
- b. as an Asian child, you’re expected to be fucking perfect at fucking everything – this can bleed into the way you start to look at food; abstention from the ‘pollution’ of consumption looks like a way to emulate perfection, or reaching it?
For me, meals at my house as a child till I moved out of home were sheer hell. I can recall this even from my London childhood. Because there was no choice over what I ate or portions thereof, I somehow got really good at being a closet pseudo-anorexic: just restrictive enough to not register as having an issue. In Year 9 (when I had my first year-long major depressive episode), I got my arse kicked for hoarding sandwiches with SEVERAL layers of ham in them, rotting in my school bag. I got picked on so much for lunches I didn’t even want to eat. I was too scared to throw them out at school, and knew there was no way I could throw them out at home. I didn’t exactly have a lot of spatial freedom – till I started uni (thank god). As a teen, I also developed irritable bowel syndrome: just another way to piss off my mum because she didn’t exactly take well to the suggestion that it’s stress-related. To be honest, neither do I. I wanted to be tougher than that, so I ignored all my mental health issues because that was what strong people did. I would grow up strong.
Not that it mattered. My mother was too angry at me for x, y, z to register that I even had major psychological issues start early (anxiety, depression, possibly PMDD), and my father worked too much to notice…anything. For them as psychiatric nurses, mental illness didn’t hit people you weren’t treating. She isn’t big on empathy (she no longer calls as my health issues are worse than hers).
Also like Cher, I learnt to cook pretty late in life – maybe at 19, when I first moved out in second year uni, from Marie Claire cookbooks before Donna Hay got famous, authored by her! Yep, I’m that old. Sometimes, I’d return home to try and cook for my parents. My father once took a look at a chicken pilaf I’d made, shook his head and pursed his lips and said he wasn’t eating that. I was gutted, but not surprised. My parents are not people to pay me compliments.
Cher once cooked for me and it was fucking fantastic. Nothing fancy or major, but it was about the setting and experience: sitting on a balcony, drinking tinnies, sitting on milk crates. I scarfed down my serving of her dish.
A far cry from the human who didn’t learn to really enjoy food until I was put on an antipsychotic called quetiapine (Seroquel). In smaller doses, it’s great for chronic anxiety (which I now realised was the sort that came with PTSD) and hoo boy, did I gain weight taking that med! To the point where cholesterol levels were an issue. You will not have any control over what you crave. My main ones were rich fatty foods, meat, cheese, lots of beer. Decent cheeseburgers. Why didn’t anyone tell me food could taste this amazing?!?!
Mirtazapine, an antidepressant also great for chronic anxiety, can do the same thing. My main craving for that (which was also depression eating because I was in an abusive work environment for the first half of 2018) was matcha flavoured icecream. Hit me up with all the tubs.
I love that Cher isn’t into any of that ‘authentic’ bullshit and, like me, just embraces when something tastes damn good even if it’s not part of the recipe. Likeomg, you mean you can change or adapt recipes to your liking?! No fucking way!
I want to try making Hainanese chicken rice (no way can I pull that off, unfortunately), the palak chicken paneer on cauli mash (because I am the world’s worst South Asian Indian diaspora kid ever that actually wants to cook Indian cuisine. My brother, I’m sure, wouldn’t give a hoot about learning *wink*), and the Singaporean-Malaysian-style chicken curry because roti c(h)anai is the fucking flavour bomb.
Seriously, reading the zine, I’d forgotten about my beer, but I did make tasting notes before starting to read, so we’re all good. I constantly harp on about how I have no formal training when it comes to beer tasting because a lot of me does feel like a fraud in that respect. Having said that, I’d LOVE to take the cicerone (beer sommelier) exams now that they hold some sessions in Melb/Aus, but it’s just another dream. It’d be great to write more eloquently on something I love so much but would I stop writing in a way that communicates my love and wants to share that love with you readers (for which I am grateful – for every single one of you, don’t you dare forget it)?
Check out the above IG embed for the photo of The Matriarch and the full (!!!) beer glass next to it, mmm-hmm. I can’t move it. It’s stuck there (ie. it’s too tricky, soz!).
I love The Matriarch. It’s a beer I’ve demolished many a of tinnie of, expect to demolish more of, even on tap. It’s not going to kill your palate with bitterness so it’s a great intro to folks who say they hate beer but are willing to give something new a go because…they’re ace and not coeliac (I have a wonderful mate who is, and it breaks my heart that I can’t wax lyrical on amazeballs beers with him. Gluten-free options exist, but they’re slim). Clint aka. Pocketbeagles is an amazing designer and all-round fab human (he was once super-nice to me when I was crying in public at a Froth launch) but I don’t have the guts to suggest to him to maybe do a non-white CoCon character…I’m a coward. A burnt-out one.
*Patreon-only tasting notes appear here*
As a queer person of colour, however, there are a couple of things about the brewery that I try to ignore (seriously, this lot cannot put a foot wrong with the beer they make) or when I try to be vocal about, guess who isn’t listening? Um, only the entire cishet white beer industry. Why the fuck does no one ever talk about 2 Brothers?!?! No really, whitemansplain it to me! Is it ’cause they’re Azn bros? Their Kung Foo rice lager is a killer accompaniment to a wide variety of Asian cuisine.
Doctor’s Orders Brewing (on hiatus at present) do this thing where they don’t brew from a set, fixed location all the time and they refer to themselves as ‘cuckoo’ brewers. Cuckoos (cheeky bastards!) lay eggs in other birds’ nests!
CoConspirators Brewing Co. frequently refer to themselves as ‘gypsy’ brewers. Unfortunately, most of the Australian beer media industry doesn’t give a shit that this is considered pejorative. In parts of Europe, it’d be like saying the ‘n’ word to someone from the African diaspora, but Aussies love travelling! If they don’t see or live this, then is it really true? I had to block an Anglo-Aussie male on Twitter who got into this very discussion with me. Never mind that I was fucking born in Europe.
I’m tired of shutting up about these issues. I got emotionally flogged by various folks as a result of giving a speech at the launch of the Shifting The Balance report led by Diversity Arts Australia. This was one of the few times people were paying attention to this small feminine-presenting creative of colour and it wasn’t something to be forgotten after the event. So yeah, I know the (Anglo-)Australian beer industry don’t give a hoot for my opinion, but damn, it breaks my heart that I’ll never see a face like mine on the cute CoConspirator can labels or tap badges. I try to laugh it off, but it hurts.
I’m also going to assume you know my choosing a beer called The Matriarch isn’t unintentional. It stands for a lot of things that oppress me, in society, and culturally. My personal protest is to never become one. That’s all I can do with my brand of intersectional feminism.
The music choice? It’s because Christmas isn’t warm and fuzzy for everyone. I recently tried to explain this to a gorgeous woman I matched with on Tinder. She unmatched me when I told her that Christmas and family dynamics were stressful for me. I’m not surprised, but phwoah, it stung! White queers don’t really like me (or the ones I’ve been on first dates with like to pas-ag or neg on me).
I’m so sorry this was so long! If you got this far, thanks so much for reading (and you Patreon lot, I am bear hugging you in my mind’s eye). Corny but true: en route using a ridic expensive pool rideshare, I thought to myself “Gem, every second, minute, hour, day, week, year you survive is triumph. Try to focus on surviving second by second, then minute by minute. The rest might start to feel a bit more doable.”
P.S. oh okay, there was this one time a person of colour featured on a CoCon beer… and let’s face it: West Indian rum is pretty fucking special.
If there’s any breweries that want to make a beer called ‘The Poet’ and put my ugly yellow-brown mug on it, let me know! People of colour have dreams too, y’know.