Lately when I chew on fish and chicken, I suddenly realize neither of them have bones. Yes, it’s a good reminder that I am in America, where bones are disliked. I’m afraid someday in the near future I will take boneless meat for granted. And I won’t enjoy authentic Chinese dishes as much as I should.

We Cantonese have an innate palate for bones. The boneless fish and chicken I have here in America would be considered tasteless in my hometown. The well-known dimsum dish—chicken feet—is a good example of delicacy. Not to mention pork ribs, fish heads, whole fish with heads and tails, even shrimps should come with heads. These peculiar choices of food are only available in Chinese or oriental supermarkets in America. But in my gastronomical hometown—Guangzhou, you will find it ten times more difficult to get fish fillet and boneless chicken.

I certainly don’t want to be regarded as a bone-gnawing monster. My parents used to say that the essence of eating is chewing bones because they consist of high nutrition. They are right. I find after eating boneless fish, the taste doesn’t stay. It’s like a new dish you learn to make yourself is always more delicious than if it is prepared by someone else. Without the challenge of fish bones, I find the process of eating meat comes too easy.

When it comes to food, I have no idea why Americans like boneless everything. However, this preference doesn’t apply to the women’s fashion world. It has been a long tradition in America, as well as China, that women models tend to be ultra-thin. Their bony figure adds to their likelihood of getting success. As a result, teenage models often have eating disorders. Keeping up with the size zero isn’t easy, and of course unhealthy.

In a recent spring issue, Vogue magazine finally took the health issue into account. Including the Chinese edition, all the five regional editions of the fashion glossies all follow the company’s new guidelines—too young and too thin is no longer in. Specifically, models under the age of 16 or who appear to have an eating disorder can’t work with this world’s top arbiter of style.

I have always thought Chinese women are too self-conscious about their figures. When I was in China, my girlfriends often complained to me they disliked their overweight arms or legs or face or belly. Under their influence, I may have complained too much about my body. When I got to America, I found people not only have different skin colors but also various sizes. The so-called obese women wear tight blouses and mini-skirts with pride. Shouldn’t my whiny Chinese girlfriends learn from these proud American women?

Now I understand why my husband said to me when we were in China, “Wait until you see the women in America — you aren’t fat at all.” I now know that it’s not important how others look at you but how you feel about yourself.

Filed under: Prose, Songyi Zhang's America