RECOMMENDED:

Chef Liu’s
5283 Buford Hwy., Doraville, GA 30340
770-936-0532

Good choices: You can easily make an entire meal of the city’s best Chinese dumplings and buns here and spend very little money. I like the lamb dumplings and those made with fennel and pork. You might want to mix up the juicy Shanghai soup dumplings with a plate of glossy fried pork dumplings. The leek pie is another dish not to miss. I prefer to eat entirely small plates here, but if you want to order entrees, the one to avoid is the cumin lamb. It’s mainly grilled onions with very small pieces of lamb.

As usual, Ralph ignored what Robert was saying, his eyes wandering the Chinese restaurant where they were eating, Chef Liu’s, in Chamblee. Although its cuisine took a dive for a while, it has mainly returned to favored status among the city’s foodies. It’s best known for its menu of dumplings.

As a professor, Robert was accustomed to younger gay men spouting clichés about gay culture. It was one of the effects of not having any education in gay history. Since Ralph was a friend, Robert decided to press him a little deeper.

“So, Ralph,” he began, “it sounds like you don’t want to be identified with so-called gay stereotypes, right?”

“That’s correct,” Ralph said.

“Okay,” Robert said, “don’t take offense, but you’re a hair stylist. You’re sitting here with a tribal tattoo that covers half your back and most of your arm. You’ve got a buzz cut and a 5 o’clock shadow – scruff. How are you not a stereotype yourself?”

Ralph leaned back in his chair as a server deposited a plate of 12 juicy, lamb-filled dumplings before him.  “My God,” he said, “this is my starter.”

“So, Ralph?” Robert pressed. “How are you not a stereotype?”

“The difference obviously is that I’m not inappropriately exhibiting my body parts,” he replied.

“Neither are 99 percent of the others at Pride, but you condemn the entire event on that basis.”

“Your sexuality is not something to be proud of,” Ralph replied somewhat heatedly. “There’s no heterosexual pride. I know the event is supposed to commemorate Stonewall, but it turned into a huge decadent party years ago. I’m not the only gay person who feels this way.”

Of closets and chopsticks

Ralph sighed. A plate of kung pao beef arrived at the table. Robert liked the dish, even though it was common in Chinese-American restaurants, but Chef Liu’s version is a remarkable blend of caramelized meat with pointy hot peppers.

“I think all the crap about Pride is part of the new closet into which gay men are attempting to scramble,” Robert said, waving his chopsticks at Ralph. “The oppression of gay people was about their sexuality and it’s appropriate that Pride celebrate that in somewhat explicit ways, although that has been disappearing over the years…”

“Thank God,” Ralph interrupted.

“Gay men are increasingly concerned with conforming to stereotypes of masculinity. It’s another effort to hide difference instead of celebrating it,” Robert ranted on.  He fished his iPhone out of his pocket and logged onto Manhunt.

“Look at this crap,” he said. “Here’s a guy calling himself  ‘a man’s man.’ What the hell does that mean? And a huge portion of these ads – on Manhunt, Scruff, Grindr, wherever – are from men who claim to be masc and only want sex with masc men.

Ralph was nodding, spearing dumplings and a plate of cumin lamb that had also come to the table.

“I don’t think you’re wrong,” he said, “but people are entitled to their preferences.”

‘Masc’ vs. masculine

“They aren’t preferences,” Robert shot back. “They are gender stereotypes that the culture imposes, and half the time it’s obvious gay men are delusional about themselves, anyway.

“Believe me ‘masc’ and ‘masculine’ are not the same thing. Years ago, on AOL, this supposedly masc guy kept hitting on me. His profile dripped with testosterone. He liked to shoot animals while drinking beer with his buds and wanted to wrestle for top.

“He wouldn’t leave me alone, no matter how much I told him I’m not that masc. Eventually, I agreed to meet in the old parking lot at Piedmont Park. The plan was to go for a walk. So, I’m waiting and up he roars in a big black pickup truck. He lowers the window. He’s got a flat top. He’s got on an open flannel shirt with chest hair spilling out. He kind of grunts hello.

“Suddenly, I hear this yippy yappy sound. And this tiny little white dog — a toy Poodle, I think — jumps into the guy’s lap. He starts snarling at me. And the man starts kissing the top of his head, saying, ‘Now hush, baby, be nice to the nice man, that’s a good girl.’ He looked at me and said, ‘I just picked her up at the beauty parlor.’

“I was speechless,” Robert said. “I started laughing hysterically. I guess the guy knew why. He rolled up his window and drove away.”

Ralph was laughing. “Yeah, that kind of thing happens a lot with online hookups.”

“Well,” Robert said, “his behavior exhibits what it means to be masc, instead of masculine in the conventional sense. But gay men don’t seem to get that. It’s not unlike the ‘70s with the clone look, but I think men understood then that, despite the jeans and flannel shirts, they were parodying masculinity, not replicating it.”

“I’m still not going to Pride,” Ralph said.

“Well, I forgot to tell you that I hope you had a good two weeks in P-town this year,” Robert replied, rolling his eyes.

 


Food Porn is a fictional series by longtime Atlanta food critic Cliff Bostock. Set in real Atlanta restaurants, it chronicles the adventures of Robert, a gay man in search of a husband — or at least a good meal. Read the whole series here.

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