The Latest

Jul 23, 2014 / 122 notes

Mash-Up Issues: When Standards Collide


The great thrill of being a Mash-Up is living as a bridge between cultures. But it can also mean living with clashing expectations of how you behave, how you speak, how you look — of how you live. Our Korean-American Mash-Up Joanne shares with us what it’s like to look Asian enough to be beautiful in America, and not American enough to be beautiful in Korea, and how she’s setting her own standards through the noise. 

From Joanne:

Like many girls, I believe there is no woman more beautiful than my own mother. My favorite compliment is “OMG, you look exactly like your mom!” Unfortunately, my mom is the archetypal tiny Asian woman: maybe 87 pounds sopping wet. I am not. My mom can eat three cream puffs and two bowls of rice for dinner and still worry that she’s losing weight. I eat a wedge salad with a tablespoon of low-fat yogurt and my “skinny jeans” are benched for a month. 

For my 19th birthday, my family took me to an American restaurant — the Baker’s Square just down the block. Even at 19, eating non-Korean food was still an activity reserved for special occasions. I planned on inhaling a slice of strawberry cream pie. The waitress came by to ask the table, “Did anyone save room for some pie?” Before I could raise my hand, my father said, “Don’t you think you should pass? You’re getting a little too fat, don’t you think?”

Perhaps he thought that couching the words “too fat” between the modest-sounding “Don’t you think”s would soften the blow, but I will never forget how his words sank like boulders to the pit of my stomach. I passed on my own birthday pie.

The pressure to look alluring is the birthright of all women. However, being Korean-American raises unique challenges. My body, my face, my jaw, even — they’re all being measured against disparate standards of beauty. My lessons in Asian beauty were dramatically accelerated when my sister-in-law moved to the states from South Korea. I have since been educated in skin whitening, the many-faceted functions of Botox, and jaw-shaving surgery, all in an effort to look more weh-gook, or Caucasian. When I told my sweet little sister-in-law that I was trying to lose weight, she reassured me with the following, “But, Unni, you are American. You are very skinny in America. If you were going to Korea, yes, you would need to diet, but you are in America!”

Recently divorced, my entre into singledom has inflamed all my insecurities like a heinous outbreak of herpes. For the first time in my life, I have started seeing non-Asian men. It’s upended my understanding of what is attractive to who, and whether or not I should care. Last week, when I asked my sister-in-law if I was sexy enough for my American date, she explained that I expertly blended my American-ness with my authentically “Asian” features — unlike some of my peers, I didn’t try and make my eyes look bigger with fake lashes or smoky eye shadow. “If you were white, maybe you need to be worried,” she said. “But you are Asian, so you don’t need to worry.”

Because Asian women are inherently sexy to American men? Oof. Swallowing my misgivings about post-colonial Asian fetishism and the contradiction — and probably profound truth — in my sweet dong-seng’s advice, I merely shook my head and put on my flip-flops as I got ready to meet my date. Somewhere, in the mess of skin whitening products and cardio sessions and low-fat yogurt, tucked in the folds of self doubt and budding confidence, is that slice of strawberry cream pie. I’ll eat it someday.

The pie is on us, Joanne. As many slices as you want. 

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*A Name is Just a Name is Just a Name, Until it is Everything

*The Mash-Up Americans Presents: Heidi Durrow

*The Mash-Up Americans Presents; Awkwafina

Jul 21, 2014 / 1 note

Mash-Up Round Up: DIY Korean BBQ AKA Not Mad at That

It’s been an awful week for the world. Here is a story that reminded us of the strength of the human spirit. Peace and love, family. Let’s dance.

How Cultures Around the World Think About Parenting

Co-founder Amy wrote a piece for TED about how different cultures parent. In Tokyo, 7-year-olds and 4-year-olds ride the subway alone and they LIVE! 

An Orthodox Brooklyn Clothing Company Shared a Photo of a Woman in a Hijab and Their Customers Flipped Out
Village Voice

Because sometimes we actually have more in common than not. These women are awesome and that neon maxi skirt is divine. 

A Food Has a Historic, Objectionable Name. Should We Change It?
National Geographic

Yes. Like how that football team in Washington had to change its name. We want the delicious. Let’s stop with the historical awfulness. 

How Ching Chong Became the Go-to Slur for Mocking East Asians

And speaking of historical awfulness (this is how we feel about it). It’s a fascinating history!

Filipino Laborers and the Politics of Partying

Damn! These Filipino laborers in the ’30s were like, “We are going to buy some fly suits and party with the white ladies.” Needless to say, there were critics.

Do We Choose Our Friends Because They Share Our Genes?

Apparently we share genes with our friends. Except we have different immune systems so that our spouses can take care of us when we are sick. This evolution thing is pretty amazing.


Accidental Racist: Wanda Sykes Has White Twins, and One of Them Loves Watermelon
The Ellen Show

Pick another fruit! Wanda’s white daughter loves watermelon and Wanda feels like maybe the kid is taunting her with it. 

Entertainment News!

New Comedy for Mash-Ups This Fall: Black-Ish
USA Today

For the first time, Tracie Ellis Ross is getting to play a mixed-race lady. Note: She IS a mixed-race lady.

Attention: There is Going to be a Live Action “Jungle Book
US Magazine

Maybe don’t read the original Rudyard Kipling. It’s a little, howdoyousay, racist. We do love Baloo though. 


Jul 18, 2014

Mash-Up Food: Soba Salad Will Not Make You Sad



Summer is about putting meat on open flames and eating outdoors and otherwise participating in this American activity called “barbecuing.” But if you’re anything like us, you’re already tired of hot dogs and hamburgers, inventive as those may be lately. So, Mash-Ups, we offer you this: Our All-American BBQ, Mash-Up Style.

This recipe comes to you from our Taiwanese-American Mash-Up Isadora, who turns to Asiany cold noodles when the weather gets hot. Serve alongside ourglorious recipe for Korean galbi and our not-overboiled Russian potato salad.


From Isadora:

There is something completely satisfying to me about a giant bowl of chilled noodles, and it’s probably one of the easiest and fastest meals to prepare. This is a recreation of a noodle dish that I had while on a yoga retreat in Maine, made by a wonderful natural foods chef named Ilia Regini.


Iz & Ilia’s Sesame Soba Noodles



1 package soba noodles. (Any noodles will do, but soba has a plethora of buckwheat-based health benefits and gluten-free appeal.)

2 sweet potatoes, boiled and chopped roughly

2 handfuls sliced shitake mushrooms, boiled (Fresh or dried are both fine. If using dried, soak briefly in water before boiling.)

½ head of Swiss chard or other leafy, crunchy green such as kale, sliced in ribbons

sesame oil and salt to taste

white sesame seeds and chopped scallions, for garnish



Boil the soba until al dente, then rinse with cold water. Toss in large bowl with remaining ingredients with a generous helping of sesame oil (I am partial to the Kadoya brand, as my family has been using it for as long as I can remember) and salt. Top with sesame seeds and chopped scallions. Serve with Sriracha/hot sauce/ hot peppers for those who are hot-inclined.



What is your Mash-Up BBQ staple? Share with us on FacebookTwitter, or email And to make sure you never miss anything from The Mash-Up Americans, sign up for our newsletter.



*Galbi Reigns Supreme

*Salat Olivye, aka Not-Overboiled Russian Potato Salad

*Making Oma’s Feijoada

Jul 16, 2014

Mash-Up Food: Salat Olivye, aka Not-Overboiled Potato Salad



Summer is about putting meat on open flames and eating outdoors and otherwise participating in this American activity called “barbecuing.” But if you’re anything like us, you’re already tired of hot dogs and hamburgers, inventive as those may be lately. So, Mash-Ups, we offer you this: Our All-American BBQ, Mash-Up Style.

This recipe comes to you from Russian-American Mash-Up Alisa, whose grandmothers have plenty to say about salat olivye, or Russian potato salad. This should go nicely with our glorious recipe for Korean galbi and not-sad soba salad.


From Alisa:


So, Russian potato salad is called salat olivye. That is a reference neither to olives nor potatoes. It’s a very orderly salad of chopped potatoes and other fixings. There are many important details, though there is some dispute between my grandmothers over the inclusion of pickles and carrots.

I don’t know if the dispute is regional or memory related. One grandma is Moldovan and the other is a Moscovite. The Moscovite grandma started practically crying when I asked her for this recipe, saying, “I barely remember my name let alone the salat olivye recipe!” She proceeded to remember the recipe and call me back several times to give more detailed instructions. But she ultimately took the position that “carrots are not involved, though it would not be terrible to add them.” My Moldovan grandma said yes carrots, and you boil them, but do not over boil them, or the salat will turn into kasha. [Editor’s note: More on this later.]

One grandma advised semi-salted pickles. The other did not.

Both grandmothers agree on this: DO NOT OVER BOIL THE POTATOES. Otherwise, as previously mentioned, the salat will turn into kasha. Russians like kasha, a sort of porridge, but it is not salat.

I spoke to both of my grandmothers about the recipe, which is as follows. There were no measurements provided, so I’m guessing. [Editor’s note: Does no mother or grandmother in the world measure?]


Moldovan and Muscovite Salat Olivye



3 cups Boiled potatoes, peeled and cut into perfect little cubes about a quarter of an inch

3 hard boiled eggs, cubed into the same size as the potatoes (they will crumble)

½ cup raw white onions, cubed

1 can peas, drained

1 cup mini pickles, cubed, maybe semi-salted, maybe not

1 cup of highly controversial boiled carrots, cubed

mayonnaise and salt to taste



Put the whole cubic/spherical pile of oddly chosen veggies in a large bowl and douse with mayonnaise and salt to desired creaminess and saltiness. Watch out for the pickles creating an over-salted sensation, cautions the grandma that did not advise semi-salted pickles. 



What is your Mash-Up BBQ staple? Share with us on FacebookTwitter, or email And to make sure you never miss anything from The Mash-Up Americans, sign up for our newsletter.



*Galbi Reigns Supreme

*Chinese Spaghetti: AKA, How Ohio Restauranteurs Got People In Ohio to Eat Ja-Jang-Myun

*Lime in Chicken Soup, or How I Mashed Up My Traditions

Jul 15, 2014 / 13 notes

Mash-Up Food: Galbi Reigns Supreme



Summer is about putting meat on open flames and eating outdoors and otherwise participating in this American activity called “barbecuing.” But if you’re anything like us, you’re already tired of hot dogs and hamburgers, inventive as those may be lately. So, Mash-Ups, we offer you this: Our All-American BBQ, Mash-Up Style.

Our first recipe comes to you from Korean-American Mash-Up Cindy, who has this to say about the supremacy of grilled Korean meat over all others. We think this will go nicely with our not-overboiled Russian potato salad and not-sad soba salad.


From Cindy:

Here’s the thing about Korean food:  When I was little, it was basically the only food I liked. I used to come in the house from playing with friends to take a potty break and smell galbi(short ribs) and doenjang chee-geh (a stew made from fermented soy paste) cooking and wouldn’t go back outside until I ate some. I’d climb onto the kitchen counter and sit there while my mom cooked, and that’s how I learned to make galbi. My parents actually claim I was a very picky eater and said they were so frustrated with my eating preferences, because I refused to eat McDonald’s hamburgers like all the other kids in my tiny Midwestern suburb. Can you imagine trying to force feed a kid McDonald’s? Times have changed!   

To this day, I have never eaten a Micky D’s burger and I’m proud of it! Here’s the recipe that won me over for life. Nothing is measured when my mom cooks, so I’m just guessing. [Editor’s note: Aren’t we all?]


Uhmma’s Galbi



galbi (not sure about weight….approx 20 long ribs sliced across the bone, three bones per slice)

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

10 garlic cloves

1 medium white onion

2 cups soy sauce

3/4 cup sesame oil

1 Asian pear, peeled (or you can substitute 2 kiwi)

1 bunch scallions, chopped

sesame seeds, more chopped scallions (for garnish)



Get the largest bowl you have and put a layer of galbi at the bottom. Sprinkle a generous amount of sugar. Layer more galbi and sprinkle more sugar. Continue layering and sugaring until you’ve run out of galbi. Let sit for a few hours until the galbi starts to soften and release juices.

Grind up the garlic and onions in a food processor or bullet mixer until it’s roughly pureed. (You can also chop it very very very finely with a knife, but that takes forever.)  

Then pour the sesame oil, soy sauce, and garlic/onion mixture all over the sugared galbi. Take a gloved hand and mix it all up so that everything is incorporated.

Grind the pear until thickly pureed and mix in. Finally, add the chopped scallions.

Cover and let sit a few hours or overnight in the fridge. Remove from fridge and let the meat rise to room temperature. Grill until well done. Galbi is best eaten well done — even a little crisp on the thinner edges.

Garnish with sesame seeds and more chopped scallions, and….



What is your Mash-Up BBQ staple? Share with us on FacebookTwitter, or email And to make sure you never miss anything from The Mash-Up Americans, sign up for our newsletter.



*Making Oma’s Feijoada

*Chinese Spaghetti: AKA, How Ohio Restauranteurs Got People In Ohio to Eat Ja-Jang-Myun

*Drink Amy’s Ginger Cinnamon Tea and Feel Better

Jul 14, 2014

Mash-Up Round Up: Getting a Good Coffee in Space


Giving Uzbek Food Some Beach Flair

NY Times

We are fantasizing about surfing and eating Uzbek food, mostly because it has tons of garlic and vinegar.

Recreating the World’s Food With Just 3 Spices 

Fine Dining Lovers

At The Mash-Up Americans we are interested in nuance, and the ingredients that make each of us so special. Sometimes, though, you really can distill it to the basics. Bengal is cumin, coriander and turmeric. East Africa is obviously fenugreek, clove and cinnamon.

We Are All Pawns: A Comedian’s Guide to Colonization, Thru Chess Metaphors

Hari Kondabolu

Comparing the Garden of Eden to the Jungle Book. Classic move.

A Muslim Girl Who Wears the Hijab Draws Herself as Comic Book Characters

Women You Should Know

If you don’t see yourself being reflected in the world, sometimes you have to do it yourself. Plus, she’s not wrong that Wonder Woman could use a little more armor to protect herself.

How is America Changing? Look at These Kindergartners


Latino children make up at least 20 percent of kindergartners in 17 states. This number has more than doubled since 2000. 

What Immigrants Do for the Land of Aloha

Civil Beat

Immigrants bring many monies to Hawaii, the mashiest state of all. 


Starbucks Thinks It’s “Friendly” for Korean Employees to Have English Nicknames


In Korea it seems that Starbucks employees choose English nicknames (“Candy”) to avoid being called by their title (“Manager”). Our Starbucks name is now Bean.

What It Takes to Make a Decent Cup of Coffee in Space


In other coffee news, Italian astronauts can now drink espresso in space because it’s important. We appreciate having your priorities straight. 

Jul 11, 2014 / 1 note

Mash-Up Books: The Mash-Up Americans Presents Heidi Durrow



Heidi Durrow, the New York Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Fell From The Sky and winner of the 2008 PEN/Bellwether Prize, is a proud Mash-Up of a black American father and Danish mother. She’s a citizen of the world, but especially the U.S. This year, she launched The Mixed Remixed Festival in Los Angeles, an art and media festival that celebrates all things mixed in America. We are down with Heidi Durrow. Check out her podcast, buy her book, and get to know this incredible woman, if only to learn how white Danish women make brown babies. (And it’s not how you think.)



First, our Mash-Up Speed Round Questions! Who are you?

I am a writer and a mixture and a festival producer and podcaster and wife daughter and sister and friend.


How do you mash up?

I’m mashed up in a lot of different ways: Racially, culturally and as a person with a professional corporate background who is also a creative.


You grew up all over the world. Where do you feel most at home?

I think I feel most at home wherever I have my creature comforts so that could be anywhere. I just need coffee with the bendy straw, my Moleskine, a good pen and ink, wine and radishes, books and people I love. And my favorite stuffed animal.


What is your comfort food?

Bread and cheese, and I mean fresh, good bread.


What do you call your grandma?

I was lucky enough to have three grandmothers: one was my step grandmother, Grandma Minnie, and we called her Grandma Minnie. One was my father’s mother, who passed just last year at the age of 96. We called her Grandma or sometimes Grandma Rose. And then there was my mother’s mother, who I lost many many years ago when I was very young. But I knew her very well.  We called her Mormor, which means grandma in Danish.


Speaking of grandmas, what is your bubbe miese [Editor’s note: See Korean Fan Death]?

Okay, this actually is true and serious. One old wives tale from Danish culture, at least as my mom tells me, is that if you sing at the dinner table you’ll have brown babies. And indeed, my mom sang at the table when she was growing up!


What’s the most absurd thing someone has said to you about your identity?

One of the funniest things that someone has said about my mom, who is from Denmark, was that they were surprised to learn what her background was. They always thought that her heavy accent meant that she was from the Bronx. I thought that was pretty funny.


That’s a perfect end to the speed round and segue to a more serious question. How do you think that Mash-Ups live in the imagination of current American culture?

I think we’re kind of like unicorns, in that people want to believe in us. They think that we’re magical in that our existence will eventually create racial harmony, and yet still they’re not totally ready to embrace the reality of what it would mean if American culture recognizes multicultural and the mixed experience fully. Because then they also have to recognize their own mixed-ness (good and bad) and their own lives and histories and families. I think that’s a complicated, difficult thing to do.


How does the Mixed Remixed Festival aim to change that?

The festival is meant to celebrate stories of the mixed experience racially culturally and to highlight the stories of racial and cultural connectedness. As we do that, through the arts in particular through films and books and performance, people learn a certain empathy and then they start to see themselves in what Barbara Kingsolver calls the “theoretical stranger.” Art may be the way that we will be most successful at actually changing the conversation about race and culture but also the conversation around mixed-race and mixed culture.


Is that the primary goal of the festival?

The goal of the festival is to celebrate these stories that haven’t necessarily been told in the past or didn’t have a forum in which to be told, and encourage emerging storytellers. When I was trying to publish my book, The Girl Who Fell from the Sky, it received some 48 different rejections from publishing houses mostly because people said to me that there was no market for a story about a half black half Danish girl — that there was no Afro Viking demographic to sell this book to. So the idea behind the festival is related to make sure that future storytellers also know that they have a place. The festival is also meant to be a kind of homecoming. So many of us who are in the mixed experience have felt isolated growing up wherever we are. The Internet has been a great place to bring people together but the festival is a community building event where people get to know each other personally. It’s called the Mixed Remixed Festival because I wanted to make sure that people knew it’s not just your past but also the way were mixing going forward.  


How did the festival go this year? 

Phenomenally well.  We had about 700 people come through during the course of the day and the refrain I kept hearing over and over from people was that it felt like they were coming home. I felt so happy to hear that from so many people: That this was a place where they felt like they belonged and of course they did. And no one was doing math on their families and trying to figure out how they all related to each other. The programs were amazing and I’ll be sharing videos in the coming weeks from the different programs. We had the largest public radio station in Southern California do a panel presentation. We had Power 106 with a mobile DJ truck, so we had people dancing outside and great music. And then we had the most amazing live performance ever! So I can’t wait to share that with you. Key & Peele were there, Cheerios came, and kind of stole the show. And we have these amazing amazing performers who shared their complex and complicated and funny and touching stories. All in all I would say it was a huge success and I think it’s only going to get bigger and bigger each year.


Before you wrote The Girl Who Fell From The Sky, did you feel like any characters in the literary canon or film or music reflected you?

Actually there was exactly one, and it was a character created by the Harlem Renaissance writer Nella Larsen, in a semi-autobiographical book called Quicksand. A character named Helga Crane, who was half black and half Danish. I remember reading that book and thinking how amazing it was that someone could write a story about this complicated identity in 1929. It gave me permission really to write the story again in my own generation. Learning about Nella Larsen changed my life and I consider her my literary mother. Because without knowing I had that historical backup, I’m not sure if I ever would’ve gotten around to writing the story I needed to write.


At Mash-Up, we talk about guilt and relationships and family and hair and all the things that can be challenging for us. What’s the most challenging aspect of being a Mash Up for you?

The hair thing is actually very major struggle because it such a big part of a woman’s identity! But I think the most difficult part is reconciling the fact that grief is a major piece of coming to terms with a mash-up identity.


We also talked about how awesome it is to be who we are. What is the most positive aspect of being mixed for you?

I feel lucky that I have two languages and two countries and two cultures.


What advice would you give to a Mash-Up American who feels lonely or misunderstood?

The first thing I would say is you don’t have to be lonely in this experience. There so many of us who have gone through it or who are going through it and people are there for you. And then I’d say come to the festival. You’ll realize that you are not alone and you have family. You have belonging and home.


Thank you for helping create those homes for us, Heidi.


How do YOU mash up? Share with us on FacebookTwitter, or email And to make sure you never miss anything from The Mash-Up Americans, sign up for our newsletter.



*Mash-Up Music: The Mash-Up Americans Present Awkwafina

*Mash-Up Kids: How We Feel on Mondays

*Mash-Up History: From Calabria to Cleveland

Jul 7, 2014 / 1 note

Mash-Up Round Up: K Pop is Coming

I Left the Hasidic World but Now My Son Wants to Keep Kosher


Ah, wanting our children to be more of who we are for fear of losing what we are, even though we aren’t wholly those things. We can relate.

Video: Obama Calls Tim Howard After US Loss

White House/YouTube

Obama being muy charmante. We call this “Operating Con Class”

Census Considers How to Measure a More Diverse America

NY Times

I’m all of these!” Yeah, us too. Sometimes it’s hard to just check a box.

The 5 Asian Love Languages: A Cultural Twist

Psychology Today

Families need quality time together? Nope. You should practice piano. THAT is love. Also, Lela Lee is the best.
The Story of Q-Tip

BBC Radio 1

Q-Tip is a Mash-Up! Incredible interview with this insightful, thoughtful, brilliant musician. Includes interviews with Pharrell, Nas and the Pharcyde. (Can you tell we love Tribe?)

What Happens When a Prep School’s Black Student President Mocks Her White Male Classmates 


We started going blind somewhere around the mention of confederate flags. 

Kimonos Shift From Runways to Music Festivals

NY Times

"The kimono’s mood of rich-hippie indolence seems to have contributed to its impressive staying power. ‘There’s nostalgia to it,’ said Sarah Easley, an owner of Kirna Zabête. ‘It represents a fantasy lifestyle.’" Yep, exactly, kimonos are about being a hippie (SIGH).

K-Pop Crazy: New Tours, Conventions Signal a Mainstream Crossover for K-Pop


Yessssssssssssssss. Dancing groups of boys and crying girls…we have so missed theBackstreet Boys

Jul 7, 2014 / 1 note

Mash-Up Kids: How We Feel On Mondays

Say hello to Roman, the Russian-Jewish-Korean-American Mash-Up Baby we celebrated with Turkish food on his 100-day birthday. He is growing, and he is pumped.

Is your Mash-Up kid beyond delicious? Share on FacebookTwitter, or email us And to make sure you never miss anything from The Mash-Up Americans, sign up for our newsletter.


*Mash-Up Kids: A Dol, A Taco, A Future

*Mash-Up Issues: When Half Leaves You Hungry

*How We Do: Eat Turkish at a Russian-Jewish-Korean Birthday Celebration

Jul 4, 2014