Huang time coming
Is Orlando expatriate Eddie Huang the next Anthony Bourdain?
Published: February 27, 2013
"These guys figured something out … this sesame fried chicken was ethereal." (p.75)
Aside from his father's restaurants, Huang doesn't name-drop many Orlando eateries in Fresh off the Boat. Forbidden City is the exception; Huang says the sesame fried chicken from this takeout spot is the only food memory he has from seventh grade – although it's a backhanded compliment, as he continues, "There wasn't anything else worth eating there." However, he has kind words for a few O-town spots: "I still love Black Bean Deli for the pan con lechon. Tortilleria [la Mexicana, on Goldenrod Road] is amazing, and I like Cedar's in Dr. Phillips."
"When I told them I was going to Rollins College, they all started laughing." (p.163)
After a year at University of Pittsburgh, Huang returned to Orlando and transferred to Rollins College, which has a perhaps-not-totally-deserved rep for being the school of last resort for the cream of America: rich, white and thick. Within days he realized he could, ahem, make some money, so he "set up like Duane Reade on campus," dealing pharmaceuticals, Ecstasy and weed. (The book features pages of discussion of how and where to buy and deal drugs at Rollins, and just who was buying. You might think this would turn the Rollins PR department's hair white, but surprisingly enough, Huang is booked to give a lecture on campus March 19.) But he also got his mind opened at Rollins by gifted professors like Jennifer Henton, Jill Jones, Bill Boles and Maurice "Socky" O'Sullivan; Rollins' interdisciplinary approach allowed Huang to explore his intellectual appetites, and while in class, he says, he "saw a whole other life for himself."
"Cold steel on the back of my head. There's nothing that can prepare you for that feeling." (p.181)
There's brawling aplenty in the first half of the book; it feels like Huang's entire childhood/young adulthood was spent hitting or being hit (sometimes by his parents). Huang's predilection for fisticuffs racked him up two jail visits – once in high school for choking out a kid who had punched his brother in the face; the second time for general mayhem at a Rollins frat party. (The SWAT team showed up because the frat brothers believed Huang's crew's bluff about "going to get the gat.") "I was there [at the 33rd Street Jail] two days," says Huang. "Ate a lot of Beefaroni and Little Debbie's." That second arrest was the last straw for Huang's parents, but maybe the birth of the adult Eddie Huang. "The only trick they had left in their kung-fu manuals was to send the kid home to marinate" – home, in this case, being a semester in Taiwan. While in Taipei, Huang experienced food in a way he never had before, breaking down flavors and analyzing techniques. So, in a way, we have the 33rd Street Jail to thank for Baohaus.
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