When A.V. Club food editor Kevin Pang was growing up, he and his father, Jeffrey, did not always get along famously, to put it mildly. In many ways, their volcanic battles were rooted in a clash of cultures. The family had moved to the United States from Hong Kong, and the son took to such Western concepts as “sarcasm, irony, [and] recalcitrance,” much more than his tradition-bound parents. In a brazen show of defiance, the younger Pang even dyed his hair blond, which the father interpreted as a direct rejection of the family’s Chinese heritage. The father-son relationship had cooled into “cordial indifference” over the years, with perfunctory but regular cross-country phone calls between them. What changed this dynamic, ultimately, was a shared passion for Cantonese cuisine. Pang writes about his family’s relationship with food in a poignant New York Times piece called “My Father, The YouTube Star.” As that title indicates, the elder Pang has taken to the popular video-sharing site, where he has a thriving channel of his own, garnering nearly a million total views with videos like “How To Wrap A Dumpling,” “Chinese Turnip Cake,” and “Sticky Rice.”
“We Cantonese have a love of eating that borders on mania,” Pang explains. While working as a Chicago Tribune metro reporter, Pang transferred to the paper’s food writing, even though he had “zero experience” in writing about this topic. Unexpectedly, this career change proved crucial to the writer’s relationship with his father. Suddenly, these two men had much more to talk about than just weather and weekend plans. And the father’s videos, thanks to YouTube, have managed to reach viewers outside of the family as well. Pang writes with humor and affection about the cooking tutorials, pointing out the generic background music and the cheesy video effects. But there is no doubt that the clips are heartfelt and sincere. In fact, they were made for a very specific audience: Pang himself. The writer’s parents wanted to make sure that he could still enjoy the family’s favorite dishes, even when his parents were no longer around to prepare them.