What do you want to be when you grow up?
When I was little, I didn't have so much trouble answering that question. I distinctly remember saying that I wanted to be an artist. Or a mailman. Artist-mailman. I could paint my mail truck, deliver letters by day, sketch by night. Where did such aspirations come from, I wonder? But, the older I grew and the closer I came to actually having to make that decision, things got foggier and foggier. I was seriously lost. It was no fun bouncing from major to major not knowing what I wanted to do and not having a clue as to where I was going. It was frustrating and discouraging and any motivation or sense of purpose was burned out of me, leaving only the cold ashes of apathy.
But by the grace of God, I feel like I've finally awakened. The fog has been pierced, my cold, dead heart of coal is beginning to glow. I have a pulse. While I still don't know where I'm going to end up, I'm at least starting to take baby steps towards things I think that I might want. Haha, hey! I said baby steps!
But anyways, back to the question at hand: What do you want to be when you grow up? Well, even though I've bought myself a little more time by delaying graduation for an additional year, I feel like the clock is really ticking in regards to making that decision. I'm on borrowed time. I started thinking about possible career options: things that I would want to do, things that are practical to do. What are my assets, what are my aspirations, and what are the market realities? It brought me to an interesting shower-thought: What are 3 jobs I could see myself doing, regardless of practicality or relation to my major? Just for fun, I would create additional versions of myself and send them down a hypothetical 3-pronged fork in the road.
Joshua-1, The Proprietor
I would open up my own cafe! Cooking, being my own boss, owning my own business. and (if successful) producing something that I can take pride in.
It would be a cafe/tea shop serving Taiwanese comfort food and boba tea. I really like restaurants that have small, compact menus but, for what they lack in variety, they make up for in quality. I like the places that do a few things very, very well. People will come to your restaurant and already know what they want to get. They will go to your restaurant specifically to get that thing that they can't quite get anywhere else. That, to me, makes a restaurant worthwhile.
Our tea menu will cover most of the basics while also including specialty drinks; I'm imagining some of the flavors... Vanilla Almond Milk Black Tea with Sea Salt, Grapefruit Green Tea with BIG aloe chunks, Caramel Coffee Milk Tea with pudding, Mango Oolong Tea with Amber Jelly. In the winter, Hot Honey Lemon Ginger Tea to soothe a sore throat, Warm Honeydew Latte to warm the body. Just like Half-and-Half (a tea shop in California) we'll have a big board featuring the top 10 most popular drinks (and staff picks) for the indecisive or uninitiated. We could also have seasonal flavors like, in the summer, FRESH Watermelon Mint Freeze made fresh daily with nothing but ice blended with fresh watermelon and fresh, chopped, homegrown mint. Did I mention fresh? Step inside from the hot summer sun, in and out, $1.50 a cup. Simple, cheap, incredibly refreshing.
We'll just have a handful of food items but we'll do them really well. Taiwanese home-cooked comfort food. Some possibilities:
- Braised Pork Belly Over Rice - Made with pork belly, served with a hard boiled egg, pickled mustard greens optional... my current go-to dish. Possibly a non-pork belly alternative as well, made with a leaner meat.
- Pork Belly Bun - Steamed bun with soy sauce braised pork belly, pickled mustard greens, peanut powder, sugar, and fresh cilantro. Drool...
- Beef Noodle Soup - Pho is catching on in the U.S. This should too. And maybe people will have the option of ordering just a bowl of the broth in the winter if they want to warm up but aren't that hungry
- Pan-fried Egg Pancake - Hot sauce recommended. :d
- Crispy Tofu - I <3 tofu. And maybe we can have an oven-baked variant.
- Baozi - Steamed buns filled with meat. A dessert variant also possible.
- Steamed Dumplings
- Turnip Cakes
- Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken
- Oyster Egg Crepe - Would love to have this on the menu but it might not be realistic. Oysters be expensive.
- Hot Pot - Once again, probably not realistic considering the scale of this establishment but this blog is for dreaming.
- Taiwanese-style sandwiches
- Zongzi - Like a Taiwanese tamale.
- Red Bean Soup
- Black Sesame Dumpling Soup
- Shaved Ice w/ Mango
Wow. In reality, probably only going to be able to get 5 or 6 of those things considering this is primarily a boba tea shop, but having some of the others as seasonal specials is a possibility. Oh and of course we're gonna use Chinese characters on the menu. Americans love Chinese characters. 滷肉飯 牛肉麵 蛋餅 蚵仔煎, etc. - super classy.
Decor: How does it look?
I was also thinking that it would be cool if the restaurant had sort of a homey feel to go along with the theme of home cooking. I mean, I do like the clean, modern, industrial aesthetic that many restaurants are going for these days. However, I think that design works better for chains. I'd like my restaurant to feel clean but also comfortable. I'd like people to feel at home. We could also have sort of a lounge area with my WiiU set up so people can play Smash 4 while slurping up their boba. On the walls, I'd like to display artwork made by local/university students. Who knows, maybe a customer will come in and want to buy one or hire someone based on the merit of their work. It'll be good exposure for students and a good confidence booster.
Name: What's it called?
I actually gave the name considerable thought which is a bit silly for such an imaginary restaurant. But I had fun thinking about it so I indulged myself. I needed a name that captured the idea of authenticity but wasn't too pretentious for our coziness. I wanted snug rather than smug. I also didn't want a name too generic or risk being associated with the likes of "No.1 Chinese" and such. I also wanted a name simple enough that people would remember, and unique enough that people could say, "Do you wanna hang out at XX after class?" and people would know exactly what "XX" was.
So I decided I wanted to incorporate Chinese into the name. That covers authenticity and uniqueness and possibly simplicity as well considering the high information density (more meaning per syllable) of the language.
I thought of Chinese words I might like to incorporate: happy (xing fu, gao xing, kuai le), shaved ice (bao bing), night market (ye shi), drink (yin liao), satisfied (man yi, qie yi, bao le). Then, I thought of English words that would fit and might sound good: watermelon, honeydew, boba. Honeydew Cafe. Honeydew is the prettiest, most succulent name for a fruit, ever. Plus I love the color and it would work well with our honeydew drink flavor. Honeydew Cafe. Not bad, but I could do better- it sounds a bit generic. That will be my backup.
I thought about puns. "Dumpling" in Chinese (shuǐ jiǎo) sounds very similar to "sleep" (shuì jiào) with only a difference in tone. So the name could be 水饺 睡觉 (shuǐ jiǎo shuì jiào) as the Chinese name and I would translate it to "Dumpling Dream Cafe" in English. We've successfully incorporated Chinese, a pun, alliteration, uniqueness, and, to top it all off, a core menu item is right there in the title. However, I have no idea if the Chinese title makes any sense whatsoever. And the pun would be lost on any non-Chinese speakers. Although, I think the English name is good enough to stand on it's own. We'll call this backup #2.
Back to those Chinese words. Which words characterize what I want my restaurant to be? Which words convey the idea of Taiwanese "comfort food?" MORE PUNS, I thought. So I came up with "Bao Bing Kuai Le". "Bao Bing" means "shaved ice" which advertises our delicious mango shaved ice dessert. "Bing Kuai" means "ice cube" which references our boba tea drink selection. "Kuai le" means "cheerful" or "happy". That's how you will feel after visiting my restaurant. ^_^ However, the problem once again is that the puns really don't translate to English. And "Bao Bing Kuai Le" might be hard for Americans to remember since they don't understand it. It might make them feel intimidated because it's too Chinese. What about "Bing Kuai Kuai Le"? This name has good symmetry with the two "Kuai"s (pronounced kwai) in the middle. I think that's not too bad, slightly easier to remember but still not great. I could translate it to the "Happy Ice Cube Cafe" but that doesn't work quite as well. Let's go back to that "Bao Bing Kuai Le". Specifically, the "Bao". I realized that "Bao" has a lot of meanings and many of those meanings happen to match really well with the words and themes that I would like my restaurant to convey. "Bǎo" means "full and satisfied". "Bāo" is a reference to "baozi", the steamed buns filled with meat. And, my favorite meaning of all, "Bào" means "hug" which perfectly conveys the idea of comfort. And "bao" also conveniently looks and sounds a lot like "boba" - boba tea is the main attraction of the restaurant. Bao Bao Boba. Wow. That's it. That's the name. Simple, easy to remember, alliterative, relevant, clever, fairly unique, punny, meaningful, and just a lot of fun to say. It rolls of the tongue. You can tell what we sell just by the name. It's easy to tell your friends to meet you at "Bao Bao Boba" or just "Bao Bao". It's easy to text too: cant w8 2 c u, meet me @ BBB?" Or tweet: WAOW THE DRINKS ARE SO GOOD AT BAOBAO #amazing #takeabao.
We have a winner. Joshua-1, owner and chef @ Bao Bao Boba Cafe and Tea Shop.
Joshua-2, The Firefighter
Haha this one is surprising. But, I thought about it, and I think I could actually see myself as a firefighter. It would be cool to have a physical type job; it would so different from all the schoolwork-type tasks that I've done in my life thus far. I think I could meet whatever physical requirements there are for the job. In addition, I feel like I'm pretty calm in dangerous situations and, while I would not enjoy running into a burning building (because, who would?), I think that I could do it. The only thing that gave me pause was imagining myself having to jump out of a multi-story building onto one of those trampoline things. But then I realized that I'm not actually that afraid of heights. It's the falling sensation that I have disdain for. But I could jump if I had to. Besides, how often does the typical firefighter actually have to run into burning buildings and jump out of them? My assumption is that most of the time would be spent hanging around at the fire station or else investigating pulled fire alarms and gas leaks. I'd get to slide down the pole. Plus I heard people think firefighters are hot (heh heh).
Joshua-3: The Film Editor
I love movies. One of the things I appreciate the most about movies is the editing. Good editing really makes a movie look and feel fantastic, often times without the viewer even being aware of it. And I like video editing. I do it for fun. Additionally, I think I do have good taste. I just need to develop the skill. And it would be amazing to be able to work with directors making some of the films that I enjoy so much. If I could start college over again, I would really take a serious look at studying to make this dream a reality.
Why not director? I don't think I could handle it. The director has his hands in too many pies. The director has to worry (to various degrees) about the writing, the script, pacing, editing, lighting, cinematography, camera angle, depth, perception, sound effects, graphical effects, props, how to incorporate the film score, mood, style - so many things that the average viewer doesn't even notice but are so important and take so much time and effort to make the film even just acceptable. He (or she) has to manage the cast and tell actors to re-do scenes. He has to decide when and where and in what order to shoot and he has to make the judgement call for re-shoots. He has to make the tough decision when something is good enough and he also has to know when to relent even if it's not all up to his standards. The director has all the pressure of keeping budget and meeting deadlines set by the studio. The director gets the majority of the praise (well-deserved, I think) but also the brunt of the blame for a flop even if so many of the factors were out of his control. Nah, I'll just stick to the editing.
So there you have it, three more lives, three very different career paths.