Irvin Lin – Baker, Writer, Designer, and Pop Culture Guru

San Francisco, CA

I see more and more Taiwanese Americans embracing their culture and their identities. I see more Taiwanese Americans being less apologetic about their identity, and no longer having to explain the difference between Chinese and Taiwanese.

lin.irvin3Who are you?

I am second generation Taiwanese American. I am gay. I am a designer, a baker, a writer and a born & bred midwesterner – raised in St. Louis Missouri.

My current passion is cooking, baking and writing. I am staunch believer in eating local, organic and the slow food movement. I believe we need to shift our eating habits for both the health of ourselves, as well as the health of our planet. I believe that food is an integral part of our culture and of who we are.

I moved to San Francisco 12 years ago. I’ve been with my partner for 10 years now, a fellow midwesterner from Indiana. Together we throw dessert parties, photograph people and events (he’s a photographer, as well as a professor of chemistry), travel the world, and generally walk hand in hand through life.

What do you do?

As a graphic designer, the clients I’ve enjoyed working with most are non-profits, including the Center for Asian American Media (formerly NAATA), the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum, the San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival, and San Francisco Meals on Wheels. My current day job involves strategy, design and copywriting for national restaurant chains like Ben & Jerry’s and Baja Fresh.

Outside of work, I bake, photograph and blog constantly about my life. Baking is a way of sharing my love with my friends and those I care about. It’s a way of socializing and a way of connecting. Ultimately, it is a catalyst for storytelling in my life. Nearly all the pivotal events of my life can be traced back to food of some sort.

Why are you proud to be of Taiwanese heritage?

Born and raised in St. Louis, I had very little connection or realization of what it meant to be Taiwanese American until I got older – though my parents were always VERY specific in calling us Taiwanese Americans and not Chinese Americans. I have a distinct memory of asking the one other Asian classmate in my grade school if she spoke Taiwanese or Chinese, and she looked at me with scorn and said NO and stomped away (I later found out she was Korean).

It wasn’t until I visited Taiwan during one of the summers of college where I learned to appreciate what my heritage gave me. A democratic country that stands on defiantly on it’s own feet. A country rich with it’s own food and artwork and culture. It instilled in me a strength and independence to stand up and be who I am without apologizes.

However, ultimately what makes me proud of being Taiwanese American is my parents. The sacrifices they made to move to the United States to raise us. I love my family and I know that they love me. That’s makes me so proud.

What does the future of Taiwanese America look like to you?

I see more and more Taiwanese Americans embracing their culture and their identities. I see more Taiwanese Americans being less apologetic about their identity, and no longer having to explain the difference between Chinese and Taiwanese. I see Taiwanese Americans not only embracing themselves as who they are, but becoming comfortable with themselves as part of a large woven fabric of America’s cultures, one that includes Latinos, Hispanics, African Americans, Middle Eastern, other Asian Americans, various religious groups and the gay and lesbian communities.

Any additional information you would like to share?

My favorite Taiwanese cuisines are sticky rice wrapped in bamboo leaves (bah-zhang), beef noodle soup, street vendor boiled dumplings (shui jiao), scallion pancakes, wax apples/bell fruit (oh, how I wish I could find bell fruit here in the US), and (gasp) the steamed pork buns and tea eggs you can find in any 7-11 on any street corner in Taipei.

You can read stories about my life and baking exploits at http://www.eatthelove.com.

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