Review: Eddie Huang’s Double Cup Love is a disjointed narrative of food, family and love

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    Review: Eddie Huang’s Double Cup Love is a disjointed narrative of food, family and love


    What Eddie Huang craves most is to be understood. His first memoir, Fresh Off The Boat, was turned into a hit television show – but he hates the sanitized adaptation of his life story. He’s the celebrated chef of Baohaus in New York – but he worries about selling out his Taiwanese heritage to please Western palates. He has his own documentary television show on Viceland, where he travels the world in search of food and culture – but he bristles when critics can’t see past his loud-mouthed, pot-addled, hip-hop-inflected, self-proclaimed “human panda” persona.

    So with Huang’s second memoir, the continued quest for understanding is the common thread that attempts to weave together his disjointed narrative of food, family and love.

    Double Cup Love – a reference to the proper way an esteemed rapper such as Drake would drink his codeine syrup – might not have been named as such if Huang’s initial book pitch went as planned. Instead, a trip to China to see whether an American-born Taiwanese chef and his take on red pork could pass a sniff test in the motherland, to see what life would look like if the tides of Chinese migration hadn’t brought his parents to the United States, was derailed by the messy parts of life that can’t be planned as literary premises.

    What could have been a laser-focused rumination on food and authenticity, on culture and assimilation, becomes a muddled spit-take on that whole mouthful and more. There’s family: How thick does blood run when Huang has a falling out with his restaurant’s business partner – his brother Evan? Then there’s love: Can romance transcend hyphenated identities when he plans to propose to his Irish-Italian girlfriend Dena? (They first meet when Huang drunkenly offers her a sip of his double cup.)

    In interviews, Huang often refers to his work as a Trojan Horse: His status as a chef is why you would read his memoir about cooking Chinese food in China. But once you’re hooked, he will take the opportunity to drop knowledge on you.

    His bait-and-switch would prove more effective, however, if Huang’s revelations were truly revelatory and not, say, a rehash of his own television work. He offers a peek at the lives of young people he meets in Chengdu, who act as the window through which Huang sees his relative privilege of growing up American. They are the young, hungry creative class, passionate about their food, their hip hop and their pursuits. But their greater connection to the global culture outside China is coldly curated by government censors. A poignant moment to dwell on – if only I hadn’t watched his Chengdu episode from 2014, which featured the same cast of characters, getting the same lesson from Huang about skirting the Great Firewall to download the latest Dipset mixtape. I couldn’t help but absorb the majority of Double Cup Love, then, as raw outtakes and B-side material from a trip that piggybacked on a TV shoot.

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