Discover more from The Rhubarb Society
Vol.12 - 🥟 Happy Lunar New Year 🧧
today we're talking confidence, coconut buns, and traumatic reads 🤝
Before I start on today’s newsletter, it would be amiss of me not to mention that it was Rhubarb the Capricorn Queen’s third birthday this week. If you would like to see how she celebrated, you can watch this video. Should you want to prepare a gift for her next birthday, she was born on the 18th.
Happy Lunar New Year everybody!! If you are celebrating, I hope you are enjoying lots of delicious food and drink with loved ones; if you’re not celebrating, I hope you’re still enjoying lots of delicious food and drink regardless. By the time this newsletter goes out, Henry and I will be getting ready for our Lunar New Year lunch with all of my family and family friends (I think there are 30 of us in total this year??). When my grandparents came over from Hong Kong in the ’50s, they travelled with friends with whom they ended up setting up Chinese restaurants across different parts of the UK. Their children became friends, and now, nearly 60 years later, they all still find the time to come together to celebrate, despite the time and distance between them. My grandparents eventually settled in a rural (and very white) part of England, where my dad and his siblings were born and raised. There were few other Chinese families at that time, and naturally, they gravitated towards one another, sharing in their feelings of diaspora. I’ve heard so many stories about my dad’s experiences growing up as an ‘other’ in a very white community, English by nationality but not ethnicity. I can only imagine how difficult it must have been for him and all of the British-born Chinese community at that time, and I think there’s something so special about the friendships that were forged during those difficult moments that have lasted decades and spanned more than three generations.
On the flip side, I’ve also heard so many wonderful and amusing stories about my grandparents and how they attempted to integrate into the community. At yeh-yeh’s (my grandfather's) funeral, the priest spoke about his love for Guy Fawke’s night. Apparently, yeh-yeh would buy a shit ton of fireworks and set them off on the green every year, and the display was often bigger and better than anything the local council provided, so everyone would come and watch his one-man firework show instead (albeit *slightly* illegal). My grandparents were also accustomed to drying out various things on their washing line that definitely should not have been hung out (e.g. whole ducks and squids, just to name a few), much to their neighbour’s confusion. I always look forward to spending time with people who grew up with my grandparents and my dad. Not only to listen to them share stories and anecdotes about those who are no longer with us (or those who are reluctant to share certain stories with their children!) but also to listen and learn from those who forged the way for us and experienced the same struggles that many of us still feel today as individuals who are ethnically different to the country they were born and raised in. I hope one day I will be able to share their stories with future generations over a big lunch, with family and friends. On that note, (and in homage to my grandparents), let’s begin with the first topic of today’s newsletter…
Thanks to our parent’s choice of careers at the time of our childhood, both my father and I grew up in and around restaurants. I distinctly remember running around the kitchen of my father’s restaurant being a nuisance before opening, as well as being held down on a white-clothed table (by my weirdly small but strong grandmother) to have my eyedrops administered. The perk of growing up around restaurants is very simple; access to delicious and varied food. I was often bullied for taking savoury rice porridge and dumplings to school for lunch as a child, but now I’m grateful for having such a varied palette. As with anything new (food included), it can be daunting to try something new without the help or recommendation from someone who knows about the subject at hand. Chinese supermarkets, in particular, are rather overwhelming if you have no clue what you’re looking for. Therefore, I wanted to share a list of some of my favourite things to get from Chinese supermarkets, Chinese bakeries, and Amazon (should you not have easy access to the former).
Snow Pears - Light, crisp, crunchy, and SO juicy.
Dien Pomelo - This is one of my favourite fruits of all time; they look like grapefruits but are nowhere near as bitter, they are also satisfyingly firm and slightly crunchy, and I like to eat them in big slices.
White Rabbit Candy - This was our equivalent of a dessert as children! They are hard sweets that soften as you eat them; they taste almost like white fudge?
Sesame Snaps - Another lunchbox/sweet treat staple that felt like they were going to break your teeth but tasted SO good.
Dried and Shredded Squid - I need to warn you that this smells horrendous when you open the packet, but oh my god, it tastes so good. If you love jerky/biltong, this is the umami, salty equivalent.
Instant Ginger Honey Tea - Not only is this delicious and spicy, but it’s great for colds and flus. I used to keep a stash on my desk at my first job to give to my colleagues once flu season hit.
Nin Jiom Pei Pa Koa (Sore Throat Syrup) - On the above note, this is the shit when it comes to curing sore throats and coughs. It's a very thick, dark syrup with a honey-like consistency that coats your throat.
Sky Flakes - These were (and still are) considered a solid snack in our home…even though they look like humble crackers, they are really creamy with a little hint of salt, which makes them so annoyingly moreish.
Dan Tat (egg tarts) - I’m sorry, but these are superior to Portuguese natas!! You can pick them up in the supermarkets and bakeries in Ctown.
Coconut Buns/Cocktail Buns - These are the most delicious things everrrrr, the outside is light and fluffy like a brioche, and the middle is stuffed with butter and shredded coconut, making every bite the perfect combination of soft and sweet.
Peanut Butter Mochi - You can usually find these in packs in supermarkets, and they come in all different flavours, but these are my favourite! The outside is squishy mochi covered in coconut flakes, and the centre is stuffed with toasted peanut butter.
Pandan Cake/Pandan Swiss Roll - Whenever I gave these to friends/colleagues, they were always shocked by the bright green sponge in front of them. Pandan cakes and rolls are like a sweeter and lighter victoria sponge, slightly fragrant from the pandan leaf. The swiss roll is a great intro to Pandan as the cream helps break up the flavour with something more familiar.
Frozen Section - Don’t be scared of the frozen sections of Chinese supermarkets because there are so many gems to be found there. You can buy delicious dumplings like har gau (prawn), siu mai (pork and prawn) and char siu bao (fluffy white buns stuffed with bbq pork) that you can steam at home in 15 minutes. Also, don’t sleep on the Royal Gourmet whole frozen aromatic duck (already deboned!) as it’s so simple to cook at home, and it actually tastes good (tried and tested), so you can get your duck pancake fix without having to leave the house.
After nearly two months in our new place, our Vitsoe shelves finally arrived and were ready to be installed. A large chunk of my books had been hiding in a cupboard until this very moment, and as they were taken out of their hiding place to be basked by the glorious sunlight that was beaming through the window, I thought this would be a good chance to review a few in the collection for this newsletter. Some of these I’ve owned for years and have travelled with me from home to home. This list is going to be different to the one from ‘Vol.4 - Self Care Sundays’ as those were books that mainly provided escapism. You’ll soon realise that the ones mentioned below should never be used in the same sentence as ‘self-care’ (with the exception of a Little Life, as that is my fav book of all time). You’re going to get a mixed bag of reviews, from the good and the bad, to the straight up ugly. Should you still decide to purchase and read the bad ones, that’s entirely on you.
A Little Life - I have to start with my favourite book of all time. This book will ruin your life as well as every other book you read after because no matter how hard you try, you will always end up comparing every single thing you read to this.
Untamed - I received this book in the post from a dear friend who thought I might enjoy this, and she was right. I wasn’t really sure what it was about, but I remember devouring it on the plane. It’s part memoir, part self-help, but at its crux, it’s about bravery, it’s about trusting yourself, and, most importantly, it’s about honouring yourself. The only parts that lost me were when religion was involved, but that still didn’t stop me from fully enjoying its message and purpose.
Three Women - This book was incredibly moving and disturbing, mainly because these stories were from real women. I couldn’t put it down. I don’t know if it was because of sheer curiosity as to what would happen to each of these women? Maybe it was simply because it was crude about women’s lust in a way I hadn’t read before? Either way, it’s a book I will continue to return to.
Tampa - I’m not sure how I feel about including a book about a female paedophile who likes teenage boys, nor am I sure I really should; however, it is one from my shelf, so it would be insincere to pretend it wasn’t there. Of course, it is an extremely divisive and uncomfortable read. Celeste is a calculating, sociopathic monster and whilst the writing is laced with dark humour, it also raises a meaningful point of discussion about how female sexual predators are often ‘let off’ easily (especially if they are young and attractive), simply because of archaic, patriarchal views surrounding gender and sex, and how their victims are often not given the justice they deserve.
American Psycho - Speaking of absolute monsters, I do have to admit that American Psycho is another favourite of mine. I personally love Bret Easton Ellis (I know his writing isn’t for everyone), but I’m a sucker for satire, I’m a sucker for dark humour, and I’m a sucker for rich, insufferable characters. I do have to read his books on an empty stomach, though, because they are nausea-inducing.
Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men -This was another recommendation from the same friend who sent me ‘Untamed’. Admittedly, this took me a while to get into, as my brain switches off once I start reading about statistics and numbers. However, this book is worth persevering with, and I think it should be compulsory reading for everyone.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo - This is going to be an unpopular opinion, but I found this book pretty average. I was expecting to feel *something* whilst I read this, and I really wanted to, but I just didn’t. Maybe I let the social media mafia big this up too much, or perhaps I didn’t give enough time and attention to it whilst I was reading it. I did actually enjoy some parts of it, and it’s by no means bad, but it’s not something I would want to re-read again. However, when I look at some of the books mentioned prior to this that I did enjoy reading, it kind of explains my indifference because I clearly need to read something traumatising or disturbing to really enjoy it.
The Summer I Turned Pretty Trilogy - Firstly, the chokehold the Amazon series had on me??? Sickening. Obviously, I had to read all the books at once, and I thought the perfect time to do it would be during my friend’s bachelorette. The first book was cute, juvenile in its writing style but still bearable and enjoyable because I could picture all of the episodes as I was reading each chapter. The second and third books? Some of the worst things I’ve ever read. Whoever wrote and produced the Amazon adaptation needs a huge raise because I don’t know how they turned that steaming pile of teenage wattpaddery into a genuinely enjoyable watch (that I have admittedly rewatched because I liked it so much).
THE CLUB CORNER
a feature in which I take recurring topics and questions from my DM’s and try my best to answer them - on today’s menu, we have;
‘How can I be more confident? I often suffer from imposter syndrome, and I worry that others think I’m not good enough’
Ahhh, the topic that has launched a million self-help books, courses, think pieces, life coaches, viral videos, thoughtful debates amongst friends and family, and so on. Confidence is an elusive thing that it seems everyone else but you has and it has certainly been a fluctuating feature in my own life. When I was a child (I’m talking anything pre-thirteen), I had endless confidence. I believed I could do anything and be anything, and I would try anything because I never doubted for a second that I would fail. And, even if I did? Who cared? I had something else new and exciting to try after that. As an early teen, my confidence waned for various reasons before making a major league comeback between 17-22 when I had unbearable amounts of everything (confidence, arrogance, attitude, anger…the list goes on). As I’ve aged, a more steady self-confidence has appeared, one that comes with experience and belief in myself and my own skills and knowledge. That’s not to say I don’t have moments (or even periods) where this wavers, but at the end of the day, I know I can pick it back up again simply by faking it. I’m sorry if you thought you were going to get some nuanced and insightful perspective on confidence; but in my experience, pretending that I was confident in the moments when I felt anything but has been the only fix. I think a lot of self-doubt comes from A) our worry about what others might think or believe about us and B) us internalising these speculations by telling ourselves we have reasons to doubt ourselves. This is why as children, we tend to be boundless in our own confidence and abilities because nobody has told us otherwise, nor have we learned to think about ourselves as anything but. If you approach something with confidence, a meeting, a first date, a job interview etc., how would the people around you be any the wiser? No one knows how you feel, but you, all they can see is how you’re presenting yourself. Do you look at the people you’re interacting with day to day, who appear confident and self-assured and think that they are anything but that? Do you think they’re doing the same back to you? In reality, all of us are too self-absorbed, or rather, too self-aware, to deconstruct each other on such a granular level, so I promise you, they are not and will not be noticing all the flaws and doubts you have about yourself. I think any self-aware person has a degree of imposter syndrome, and, in my opinion, it’s a healthy thing to have in order to maintain being a bearable and balanced human being (coming from someone who went too far with convincing themselves that they were invincible from 17-22). Everybody has a little lingering bit of self-doubt, whether they want to admit it or not, and no one is going to be harder on you than you, so stop letting the annoying part of yourself get in the way of your true self. The more you fake confidence and tell yourself you are confident, the more people around you are going to respond to that confidence, and that feedback is going to make you believe in yourself and your own actual genuine confidence. Now go back and re-read this paragraph and take a shot for every time I use the word confidence.
A quick-fire round of recent impulse purchases. Pretty self-explanatory.
Crystal & Evil Eye Phone Charm (£10+) - I fell down an Etsy rabbit hole and ended up buying this, and I do not regret it.
Free Soul Vegan Protein Powder (£24.99) - My PT has told me to try and get more protein in my diet, and back in the day, when I used to eat protein powder, this was one of the only ones that I liked the taste of and didn’t make me feel sick.
Free Soul Apple Cider Vinegar Gummies (£8.99) - I saw these when I was looking for extra protein powder flavours and thought they looked fun. They actually taste really good and not at all vinegary.
Retainer Cleaner (£6.59) - This is entirely unsexy, but after seeing my dentist this week, I’ve decided I should probably start wearing my retainer again (after two years of pretending they don’t exist). If I could bleach them, I would, but as that isn’t possible, this is the next best thing.
Tan-Luxe Mousse (£36) - So, I love the colour of this tan (I bought shade medium); however, I have an issue with the fact that it applies clear. My first layer ended up slightly patchy because I couldn’t see where I’d applied it, but the second layer looked fab.
Dinner at The Maine - Okay, technically not an ‘add to cart’ purchase, but I had dinner here this week, and aside from having the best key lime pie ever, I loved that they had an in-house jazz band (that apparently plays every evening). Live music over dinner (that’s non-ticketed) is such a novelty in London, and it really made the evening.
And that’s all from the twelfth issue of The Rhubarb Society! If you’re keen to get ahead of next week’s segment of ‘The Club Corner’, please feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments below, via email or in my DMs. If there’s anyone you think would be an excellent fit for The Rhubarb Society, please do extend the invitation below.
Tamsin & Rhubarb