What’s the latest beef about author and life-long foodie Calvin Trillin?
Apparently, it had better not be Szechuan…
So read headlines like these:
- BBC: “US poet defends Chinese food poem“
- Guardian: “Calvin Trillin defends his Chinese food poem in the New Yorker“
- New York Times: “Calvin Trillin’s Poem on Chinese Food Proves Unpalatable for Some“
- Chicago Tribune: “Calvin Trillin writes Chinese food poem, makes Internet mad“
- Washington Post: “Calvin Trillin and the New Yorker slammed for ‘casually racist’ poem about Chinese food“
- NPR: “For Some Asian-Americans, Calvin Trillin’s Chinese Food Poem Is Unappetizing“
Why the big stew?
A cheeky poem!
“Have They Run Out of Provinces Yet?” is a poem by Trillin that ran this month in the New Yorker magazine.
No matter than “Szechuanese was the song that we sung”: the Chinese were stomaching none of it.
Could it be this particular bit that is sticking in China’s craw?
So we sometimes do miss, I confess,
Simple days of chow mein but no stress,
When we never were faced with the threat
Of more provinces we hadn’t met.
Was Trillin alluding to recent Chinese imperialism — like expansion in the South China Sea and the new airbase China is building on one of the Spratly Islands?
Or was it just fond food memories by a master of pen and pan?
Alas! What various tastes in food,
Divide the human brotherhood!
He then declaimed in the next breath:
Birds in their little nests agree
With Chinamen, but not with me.
Trillin sounds far more tasteful, even if his verses dish out to China in artfully loving spoonfuls that cut like a knife.