Contrary to what I’d hoped (especially given how tumultuous the previous month had been), March 2021 was another chaotic month. Because where do I even begin? First, there was processing the racially motivated, mass shooting of Asian Americans in Atlanta. Then, there was an intense standoff between the cops and an armed ex-felon neighbor (I kid you not!) in my neighborhood. And finally, at the end of the month, some light at the end of the tunnel—I received my first shot of the COVID vaccine!
But let’s dive in:
I probably don’t need to summarize the awful incident in Atlanta, in which a gunman drove to several spas in the Atlanta area to murder eight people (six of whom were Asian women). Similarly, I don’t think I need to lecture anybody about why they should care about this incident, and how, despite the authorities and press reports saying otherwise, it truly was racially motivated. Instead, I’ll just share my own growing unease as an Asian-American woman over the last year.
First, let’s rewind:
Although most of you just know me as Michelle or @hummingbirdhigh, my full name is Michelle Lopez. My last name confuses most people—often times, they assume I’m Hispanic. However, I identify as Filipino-American. Many Filipinos often have Hispanic surnames (“Lopez”, “Garcia”, “Reyes”, “Ramos”, and “Mendoza”). Why? For a long time, Spain colonized the Philippine islands and forced the indigenous people of the country to adopt their last names (many of which Filipinos kept to this very day). But that’s another story.
I was born in the Philippines, an island nation in Southeast Asia. I immigrated abroad—first to Europe, then the United States—at a young age. In the US, my parents settled in Houston, Texas. I attended high school there, before graduating and moving to Portland, Oregon for college. I still call Portland my home today. After I left Houston, my parents immediately moved abroad again (to London, this time—my dad worked a job that required him to move internationally every three years). They are now retired in the Philippines.
I’ve always been aware that being an Asian immigrant (even one from a privileged background like mine) is a status that some people actively hate and discriminate against in the United States. But never has that danger been more tangible and visible to me until this past year. It started with the first lockdown last March. In addition to the stories of pandemic hoarding and the worrisome news about flooded ICUs and piles of dead bodies stacking up in refrigerated trucks, local news reports started coming out of New York: an Asian woman attacked for wearing a mask on the subway, another Asian woman attacked with acid while taking out the trash, and so on. The news reports suggested that the incidents were occurring because of COVID. Since COVID-19 originated in China, many were taking out their fear and anger on Chinese (and other Asians, because all Asians apparently look alike) people.
I remember reading about the hate crimes, miffed that they were happening in such a diverse, cosmopolitan city—one that I loved and had resided in (and probably would have continued to do so had I not left my corporate job to work on Hummingbird High full-time) myself. It was around that time that Erlend, my very white and very blonde (lol) fiancé, gently suggested that he take over our errands until things calmed down. I waved him off. “Don’t be silly,” I told him. “These are freak incidents. People will calm down and realize that they’re being dumb and racist.”
But of course, they didn’t calm down. Instead, they escalated. Because, as the year went on, I saw more and more reports about similar, violent incidents. The cities were different, but the victims were always the same: Asian people, mostly elderly and/or Asian women. Slowly, I found myself subconsciously adjusting my behavior with every new incident. In the winter, I used bulky winter clothing like gloves, long sleeves, and beanies to hide my Asian skin tone and hair. In warmer weather, when I ran errands, I tucked my black hair under a baseball cap. I kept my big sunglasses on, even inside, relying on the combination of my mask and sunglasses to make me more ethnically ambiguous.
Nothing happened—I found myself wondering if I was being overly paranoid and protective. But then I would open my laptop, only to be met with awful news: an 84-year-old Thai man, dead after being assaulted by a teen; a 91-year-old Asian man violently pushed to the ground; a 61-year-old Filipino man slashed in the face with a boxcutter as he rode the subway; a 76-year-old Chinese grandmother with a beaten face violently crying in the street after defending herself against her attacker with a baseball bat. Finally, the incident in Atlanta.
The incident in Atlanta spurred a social media movement to raise awareness about the rise in Anti-Asian discrimination and hate crimes, similar to how George Floyd’s death brought Black Lives Matter and conversations about Anti-Black racism into the mainstream. Suddenly, I found @hummingbirdhigh being tagged in a flood of posts on Instagram. Many were made by true fans, long-time readers and followers of both my blog and Instagram, attempting to show their support by highlighting their favorite Asian American and Pacific Islander creators.
Others? Not so much. I found my work tagged by several
white people claiming to support @hummingbirdhigh… only for me to quickly discover that they didn’t even do the bare minimum of following any of my social media accounts. It got icky fast. But that wasn’t the worst of it—then I started to get white people DMing me and leaving accusatory comments, asking me why I wasn’t “using my platform” to raise awareness about the issues. Finally, I snapped and posted the following stories:
I appreciate everybody’s passion about the Anti-Asian discrimination issues, but surely, yelling at your favorite Asian creators and demanding that they educate you seems contradictory to the greater cause? Beyond that, I don’t really have much to say other than what I’ve already said before: It’s become really hard and really stressful to navigate the contradictory (and often times borderline rude and impossible) demands of social media.
Is My New Neighborhood Cursed?
Towards the end of the month, my neighborhood was the site of an almost 10-hour-long stand-off between the cops and an armed felon! He had barricaded himself into his house that was a few houses down from our backyard, threatening to harm himself and others. As it was happening, the cops instructed us to shelter-in-place, prepare to evacuate, and stay away from our doors and windows.
I spent much of that time pacing around in my living room with my cat howling in his emergency backpack, volleying frantic texts from neighbors, and updating Erlend on the situation (he was at work, so yes, I was dealing with this alone). All my nervous pacing was set to the backdrop of the police trying to negotiate with him over a megaphone, punctuated by the occasional loud bang that left me wondering if shots were being fired. Later, when the cops finally arrested him, they found several firearms and rounds of ammunition in his house!
Throughout the ordeal, my neighbor across the way and I joked about our intersection being cursed. We had both only moved to the area this past fall. Since then, we’d experienced nothing but, well, bad vibes: overly intense and low-key rude neighbors; the ice storm that resulted in downed live wires that eventually caught Erlend’s car on fire; she and her kids had been accosted by a man who eventually ended up throwing a brick through another one of our neighbors’ front doors; and now, this stand-off.
She asked me if it was the neighborhood. I hesitated before responding—my old house had actually only been on the next block over, and I’d lived there for seven years without any incidents! But that being said, I’m actually starting wonder if, well, our particular intersection attracted too much attention and traffic for its own good.
It’s a shame because when Erlend and I made the decision to leave my old house, we did so with the intention of moving into our “forever” home. We really thought that this new house would be it! It was still in the neighborhood we loved, needed no updates, had way more natural light, and lots of space that we could grow into. But the unending stream of “freak” incidents from the last few months alone really have us wondering if, well, we’d made the right decision.
I suppose that you could argue that everything bad we’ve experienced is just a symptom of a changing world. These are incidents caused by climate change, inequalities borne of the pandemic, and so on, all distilled to a personal level. Moving again won’t solve anything. Maybe things will calm down when the pandemic is over. Or maybe not. I don’t know, lol.
I got my first COVID vaccine!
There was some light at the end of the tunnel: I got my first shot of the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine! Barring signing up for the vaccine, I was impressed by how efficient and easy the entire process was. I was signed up at a drive-through mass vaccination site and didn’t even need to leave my car to get my shot! I suffered no side effects except for a sore arm.
I can’t even tell you how relieved I am. I’m counting down the days until my second shot, and then the two weeks after that (because it turns out you’re not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 until then). I’m already daydreaming of resuming my daily visits to the gym, throwing a housewarming party with some of my closest friends (some of whom I haven’t seen IRL for months), and even considering booking trips ABROAD.
I don’t want to say too much more about it because I’m worried I’ll jinx something. However, before I move on, I will say that I was impressed by how many folks were supportive when I shared the news on my Instagram account. Although there were a couple of eyerolly and obnoxious antivaxxers, everybody was excited for me. Many folks even shared their own experiences with the process. It brought me such joy since I firmly believe that the more people get vaccinated, the better for all of us.
At the end of the day, I am just so, so grateful that it really does seem like the end of the pandemonium is near.
In Case You Missed It: New Recipes on Hummingbird High
And in case you missed it, I published and updated a handful of new recipes on both Hummingbird High and other websites in the past month. Here’s a round-up of everything new:
- Small Batch Cranberry Orange Muffins
- 6 Inch German Chocolate Cake Recipe
- Small Batch Baileys Brownies
- Monkey Bread Recipe In A Loaf Pan
- My Best Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe
- Baileys Tres Leches Cake
- My Best Banana Bundt Cake Recipe
So many of my friends, acquaintances, and peers wrote amazing cookbooks that came out last month (or are about to)! Here are a few of my faves:
- Just Desserts: Good Things Come To Those Who Bake by Charlotte Ree
- My Shanghai: Recipes and Stories from a City on the Water by Betty Liu
- Wild Sweetness: Recipes Inspired By Nature by Thalia Ho
- Zoë Bakes Cakes: Everything You Need to Know to Make Your Favorite Layers, Bundts, Loaves, and More by Zoë François
Food For Thought
This past month, I also spent a LOT of time thinking and reading about food beyond the baking recipes you see on this blog. Here are the ideas and issues that resonated with me:
- “Can Small-Scale Subscriptions Change Food Media for the Better?” in Vice Magazine.
Speaking of Patreon, one of my favorite food journalists, Bettina Makalintal, interviewed me (and a bunch of ex-Bon Appetit stars like Carla Lalli Music and Molly Baz) about why we started Patreons and other paid subscription services for our content. It’s worth reading if you’re curious about why I run a Patreon account in addition to my blog!
- “When Did Following Recipes Become A Personal Failure?” in The Atlantic. Although this article is technically a review of Sam Sifton (of New York Times Cooking fame!) and his new “no-recipe” recipe cookbook, the author talks about the growing trend of people bristling against pesky recipe instructions, ingredients, and more. Oftentimes, people simply use the recipe as a guideline or suggestion instead of actual instructions. But what happens if you’re the kind of cook who relies on those details?
- “What Is The Dining Table Really For?” in Vox. Real Talk: do y’all actually dine at your dining table? In both our old house and new house, Erlend and I ate in our kitchen. Apparently, we’re not alone! This article talks about the disappearing prominence of dining rooms and dining tables in our households, all in favor of more casual settings.
- “The 30-Minute Meal Myth” in Taste Magazine. Yes, it’s true—most recipes lie about the amount of time it takes to make the recipe, lol.
- “How the Cookbooks of 2020 Tell the Stories of Our Pandemic Kitchens” in The New York Times. Turns out the most popular cookbooks of 2020 were written by celebrities (no surprises there!) and reflected quarantine cooking trends like beans, comfort cooking, and more.
Recipes and Resources To Save
And here are the recipes and cooking-related resources I saved these last few weeks:
- Y’all know I’m obsessed with all things ube! Maryanne’s beautiful purple ube sugar cookies look amazinnnng!
- Have you ever followed a baking recipe, followed it exactly, but been disappointed by its results? Well… it might not be your fault! Instead, consider your baking pan. This Washington Post article explains why metal baking pans are superior to glass ones.
- I have been stannin retro, elaborate cakes on Instagram like this one by @thepetitepudding and this one by @sweet.lionheart. According to Eater, these cake designs are back with a vengeance! I can’t wait to try making one—what flavors should I pick?
- Look how adorbs Adrianna’s lemon cake is! I love it.
Okay, whew! That’s all for now, folks. I hope you all are staying safe and healthy! Please let me know how you’re doing in the comments below, and feel free to share the ideas and issues that are floating around in your heads, too.