Stories are all we are. I want to talk about people's lives and interests. I want to learn. Let's get to know one another.
Thank you to:
Quan Le for the music.
Confidante - Twin Attic
Patricia Roque and Daman Singh for the concept and idea of the logo.
Episode 5 – Lex
“People’s eyes would just light up. People felt so happy and excited, and they would open up to me and tell me what they ate, or what their grandma cooked, or what they knew about ancestral food connections between their family in South Carolina and the fact that they are African American. Or their family in China and the fact that they grew up in Vancouver. All of these things would just open up… If I am mixed and that got me to be who I am, then food is how I got to where I am.”
The stories of food and migration, and how the mixing of cultures are reflected in the food we eat, are fascinating. Food is about family, culture, identities, stories, and love.
That’s why I brought historian, food history expert, and friend Lex onto the podcast. Lex is in a Ph.D. program in history at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. Her current research is on indentured servitude in India during the time of the British Empire. But food was a part of her research for her Master’s degree at UofT, and her Ph.D. research often goes back to food.
Lex talked about being “mixed” between parents from two different cultures. She shared the story of the mixing of her two cultures in a truly unique dish: curry moose.
We talked about the census, and how the government categorizes people with unique and complex stories into checkboxes. Lex talked about how being “mixed” confused how she should answer the census – leaving the only option of “Other.”
We talked about Lex’s journey into studying food history. Lex shared the story of “dal puri” dish only found in Indo-Caribbean culture but with no similar dish in South Asia. We talked about the incredible story of the vanilla plant being brought by colonialism from Madagascar to Mexico and how it was a black enslaved man that figured out you had to hand pollinate the plant so it can flower.
This was a fun episode to record, and one of the most educative episodes I’ve done to date. Identity and the mixing of cultures – especially in food – is important to me and to this podcast. Thank you to Lex for coming onto the podcast. And I hope you all enjoy this episode.
Links that were referenced in the episode:
The film “Dal Puri Diaspora”http://www.richardfung.ca/index.php?/scv/dal-puri-diaspora/
The story of vanilla:https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2014/03/23/291525991/when-vanilla-was-brown-and-how-we-came-to-see-it-as-white
The book Australiana:https://www.hurstpublishers.com/book/australianama/
Episode 4 – Amy
"I showed her a photo on my phone of my mom and her siblings as little kids and she pointed to each individual child and said their Vietnamese names... and I just burst out crying."
Imagine travelling to your parents' old country that they used to call home. But that's not exactly the reason why you're there. It just so happens that you're visiting for other commitments. But while you're there, you decide to check out where your parent used to live. Everything's changed since they left - the war, modernization, urbanization has transformed everything where even the street names have changed. You guess where your parents used to live and hope that it's the right spot.
You suddenly meet a woman. She doesn't speak any English. You don't think much of it, but your boyfriend wants you to try and ask what happened. Next thing you know, you're meeting long lost relatives in the house your parent lived in. What emotions are you feeling? What are you thinking?
This incredible story is what happened to my friend Amy on her recent trip to Vietnam.
This episode was a special one. Along with the story of her trip, we talked about Asian-Canadian identity - including the contentious term "jungle Asian" and shout out the Facebook group "subtle asian traits". How do you deal with being mixed race? What counts are first-generation, second-generation, or immigrants?
We talked about our friendship with NRAC. She talked about her career and the obstacles along the way. And obviously we had to talk about Fall Out Boy. Shout out to Blake Murphy and Columbia House Party for their conversations about emo.
This episode is truly special to me. Amy is one of my best friends and her story blew me away. Thank you to Amy for coming onto the podcast. And I hope you all enjoy this episode.
Election Special – Final Thoughts
The 2019 Canadian Election Day is Monday. And I've been thinking a lot about my vote. I tried to have conversations with my local candidates and have them recorded for the Stories podcast. I met with the NDP and Conservative candidates for about an hour each. I was able to talk to the Liberal candidate after multiple failed attempts. And I'm still trying to meet with the Green Party candidate, who is still a student at University of Guelph and has midterms. Unfortunately, I was only able to get Salman Tariq from the NDP on my podcast. Hani Tawfilis from the Conservatives wanted to talk off the record first to make sure I didn't ask any "gotcha" questions, and then we didn't have time to record. Iqra Khalid's campaign manager made it difficult to meet with her, kept interrupting my conversation with her to rush her away, and implicitly made it clear - don't record your podcast with her.
Here are my thoughts. People might not like my "endorsement" and you might think it's a cop out. This election, the best choice is a progressive minority government - a government that will be forced to work together with other parties that will keep the government accountable. But I'm not endorsing for you to vote "strategically." You should vote for a candidate that shares your (hopefully progressive) values, that you can trust, and that you can feel proud of to represent you in Parliament.
I remember high school Civics class in grade 10. We were learning about Canadian politics, about Parliament, about electing Members of Parliament, about political parties, about who gets to be Prime Minister. We learnt about how we don't vote for Prime Ministers, or parties, but that we vote for Members of Parliament in our riding. We learnt about "minority governments" - when a political party wins the most seats in an election, but not 50+% of the seats in Parliament. We played the roles of the Prime Minister, Cabinet Ministers, the leaders of the other parties and the Leader of the Opposition, and other MPs. We then simulated an election, with an actual vote.
At the time, I was just getting interested in politics. I admired Jack Layton. But I felt closer to the Liberals. I got involved in Omar Alghabra's 2011 campaign. It was also a Harper Conservative minority government. It was also around the time that the Liberal, NDP, and Bloc Quebecois parties threatened to form a coalition, defeat the Harper government, and ask the Governor General if they can govern. I felt excited: I liked the Liberals, I liked the NDP, and they would form a super team like when the Power Rangers morphed into a Megazord. But Stephen Harper and the Conservatives demonized the idea of a coalition, saying it was illegitimate and undemocratic. Harper asked the Governor General to "prorogue" or pause Parliament for a few months, and the coalition fell apart.
This election, we're going to have to remember what we learnt in Civics classes. Polls are predicting that we will have either a Liberal or Conservative minority government. Our political system is that a leader must be able to have the "confidence" of the House of Commons - which means a majority of MPs - to be able to form government and become PM. Whoever "wins" the election will need to work together with the other parties to govern, make decisions, and pass laws. It's also a constitutional quirk of our system that the incumbent PM (Trudeau) has the right to test for confidence first and get the support of other parties, even if another party (in this case, the Conservatives) wins the most seats.
A smart, thoughtful guy who's become a friend to me recently - David Moscrop - wrote an article in the Washington Post giving his "endorsement" for the election:
"On election day, I hope to see Canadians return a minority Parliament in which progressive parties must cooperate to preserve a Liberal government. In another universe,
Election Special – NDP Salman Tariq
I’m following up on my promise to use my podcast as a platform to participate in democracy.
Every election, I try to meet with the candidates in my riding and talk to them directly about the policy issues. I want to get to know who they are and what their values are. This time, I’m asking them if they’re willing to be recorded for the podcast.
A couple of weeks ago, I had the chance to talk to the NDP candidate in my riding, Salman Tariq. I got to talk to him about his story and why he is running, climate change and the NDP’s policy promises, our role in Indigenous reconciliation, and racism in Canadian politics. He was very honest and was gracious in his time.
I also wanted to add that I had the chance to talk to the Conservative candidate, Hani Tawfilis. He actually gave me an hour of his time to talk about the issues. He wanted to talk off the record first before recording, but unfortunately, we talked too much that we ran out of time to record the podcast. He’s a principled person and I appreciate his honesty. However, I had my disagreements with him and that does affect my vote.
At this point, I am still unsure about my vote this election. I am still trying to talk to the Liberal candidate Iqra Khalid and Green candidate Remo Boscarino, but they’re both a little difficult to reach. Hopefully I’ll be able to get a chance to speak to them soon.
Thank you to Salman for coming onto my podcast and for both him and Hani for taking the time to speak to me. Election Day is Monday October 21st! Exercise your democratic right and vote!
Episode 3 – Ayla
"It is very difficult for us to feel as citizens that we have a space to fight for something... I don't feel like I can convince someone that this is worth fighting for and that is a horrible thing to have and I think that is really the root of the problem."
Today, I've got my friend Ayla on the Stories Podcast. This was recorded two weeks ago, when the writs were issued and the election officially started, and all before the Trudeau brownface/blackface incident. Unfortunately, I got busy with work so I didn't get the chance to edit the recording. We might have missed it, but I think our discussion is still important. We talked about racism in Canada, racism in our political culture, and the flaws of our party politics.
Ayla and I are friends from UofT, mostly through Demo Music Magazine, where we wrote articles, reviews, and essays about music. We knew each other and likely took the same classes in the political science/history sphere. Most of all, we bonded over our favourite band, Broken Social Scene.
This was a fun discussion because we just got to talk about music and politics. We started off right away talking about the Toronto music scene, concert venues in the city, and the challenges that the Toronto music culture is facing. Ayla argues that when we were at UofT - around 5 years ago - it was peak Toronto for music.
Ayla talked about growing up in the arts and slowly becoming more interested and involved in politics. She remembers watching Obama in the Iowa caucuses and his rise to the Presidency. She's a veteran campaigner, having helped in Hillary Clinton's, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez's, and Michael Chong's campaigns.
Most importantly for this particular moment, we talked about racism and party politics. Racism has and continues to be pervasive in Canada, and that includes our political culture. We talked about the difficulty in being involved with democracy because our political parties make it difficult. We need diversity in our politics and more representation from People of Colour, women, and Indigenous people.
But we definitely had to take some time to talk about music. We talked about how to feel about listening to Kanye and cancelling controversial artists, seeing the National live, Bon Iver's musical evolution, as well as newly released albums.
And of course, we had to talk about our all-time favourite band, Broken Social Scene. We shared our favourite songs and discussed what their music means to us: that their music represents Toronto as home.
I was glad to do this episode and I am happy and thankful to Ayla for taking the time to come onto the podcast.
Episode 2 – Louise
"Oh my gosh, Obama just said hi to me... but I still blame him for losing game 2. Thanks Obama!"
This week, I got the chance to catch up with my friend Louise. We recorded on the patio of a Mississauga Starbucks. Of course, I had to talk Raptors, so I had to bring on one of the most passionate fans I know - who actually works for the Raptors.
I asked Louise, "What is your story?" And she shared her experience of being a Filipino immigrant to Indonesia, and then eventually coming to Canada. We talked about that feeling of initially moving and feeling like "I'm a stranger in this country." We talked about balikbayan boxes and Filipino families.
We talked about how we first met through a mutual friend while we were in high school and reminiscing about watching Twilight in theatres. We talked about the Mississauga music scene and when "Sound of Change" hosted shows at the Masonic Lodge in Streetsville. We talked about Batman, Spiderman, and Superman.
And obviously we talked about the Raptors. Louise talked about how she was hired to be one of the Raptors "Interactive Squad - one of those people starting chants and throwing t-shirts in Scotiabank Arena. We name dropped random Raptors players, talked about what this season and this championship meant to us, Kyle Lowry's Hall of Fame case, and whether Vince Carter's jersey should be retired.
This was a fun episode and I was happy to bring on such a passionate, smart, wonderful friend. Thank you, Louise, for joining me and sharing your story with all of us.
Sorry for the audio quality this episode. Unfortunately, the recording didn't turn out as I wanted it to. I tried using a new software to block out background noise. But it just created gaps of silence and the audio would sound like it just cut off. I tried to fix it in post-production, and it might sound a little rushed, but that's the best I could do. I promise it will be better next episode!