When you think about food, what comes to mind? The process of making it, the history behind the recipe, the evolution of a set of foods that are acquainted with a particular tribe, country, or race.
For centuries, food has been an additional source of identity for various groups of people and cultures, this is what makes food an art! The stories behind the food we eat, the fact that it in part acts as a gravitational pull for bringing people together, and the beauty of what goes into creating it.
When we saw that Lydia Pang, who oversees the Brand Narrative team for Nike Global in Portland, Oregon, launched a HAKKA Recipe Zine “Eat Bitter”, we just had to talk with her.
Related Feature – 12 Women Who Show Us That Food is a Creative Venture
Eat Bitter is a collection of short stories told through childhood recipes that are not for the faint-hearted. The zine is an ode to and celebration of the spirit of the Pang family and their Hakka heritage. A project that began as quiet introspection has grown into a conversation around protecting and celebrating Chinese culture and cuisine – a portion of the profits are donated to Welcome to Chinatown, an initiative that supports Chinese businesses affected due to increased xenophobia in the wake of covid-19.
The imagery for the Zine was created by creative director Lydia Pang and photographer Louise Hagger, 2 female, half-Chinese creatives. The stories, recipes, and memories were written by Lydia Pang, with help from her father and grandparents.
For Creative Girls: Being able to pass down and showcase your creative heritage through the medium of food is beautiful and essential. What eureka moment led to your creating Eat Bitter? And why that title?
There was no single moment where I thought THIS IS IT! It began quietly and simply, cooking with my family. I wanted to record the recipes for them so we could all remember them. Then upon putting it together, building a visual world around it, thinking about the narrative, my memories, its context in time, and the significance of food as a platform for politics and cultural dialogue it BECAME something different. And the sentiment of EAT BITTER was present throughout but it was actually my friend SOPHIA who rang me one day and was like ‘I was just speaking to my mum and she said this Chinese expression and it’s exactly what you were talking about!!!!”
Being able to birth this out of the Hakka Spirit is very grounding in time travel. How were you able to achieve that?
Hakka spirit has never been more relevant and modern, adaptability, resilience. The spirit always seems very punk to me, progressive, unrelenting, a return to simplicity and awareness of our responsibility. I researched and spoke to my family, but also was careful and particular about reinterpreting the qualities and features of Hakka that resonated most with me and my experience growing up, as well as my experience with deepening my connection to my Hakka roots in adulthood.
What does Creative Direction entail and mean for you? How do you start out on a Creative project/expression?
The story! How it feels, tastes, sounds, the impression it leaves on you. The best way to start is to go wide, grab images, inspiration, try things, test the edges of the concept visually and tonally then seek patterns in what you instinctively were drawn to and begin to piece together an experience that pulls others in.
In your experience, what elements of Storytelling are crucial in any compelling direction?
It’s about asking yourself, what is this story’s reason to be? Who is it for? And what message is most important if you can only capture it in one sentence? If you can capture the essence, in its most essential and concise form, that’s the hardest part done. Then you can really play with how you deliver it for the audience.
We love to understand how Creative Geniuses like you navigate productivity and every day. Can you tell us about your daily routine – what does a typical day in your life look like?
Dunno about genius! But one thing I do know is I SHOW UP for my beliefs and I have a consistent and tangible creative output that reflects them. On a typical day, I get up around 6.30, work out or walk my dog, I write a list of the things I need to achieve (I love TRELLO), and then right now because of lockdown I start up ZOOM and spend pretty much all day on meetings with my team, brainstorming, discussing, producing, concepting. I try to take a break and walk around, rest my brain. In the evenings, I usually have mentor sessions with emerging creatives, or I’ll do an hour on a personal project if I have any juice left! If not, I’ll walk to dinner with my husband or we’ll cook. I always end the day with a podcast in the bath and a CBD tea.
Tell us about 3 women you admire.
My mother, Sonia Pang, gallery owner, artist, curator. Exceptional creative mind, entrepreneur, and visionary. She’s an eternal inspiration for me.
My sister, Millie Pang, author, doctor, artist. The most unique and fearless person I know. Hands down.
My best mate, Abigail Bergstrom, author, book editor, agent. Strength personified and forever pushing me to be better and create with purpose.