Part of why I write about food is because I love the joy it spreads. Watching someone discover food you love so much really is validating and is way better than watching people talk shit to each other all day on the internet. A prime example: Mel found a TikTok user named Ty Jones who discovered Asian food for the first time, and is basking in the glow of trying new food he’d never had access to growing up and sharing them on his channel, “Redneck Foreign-Food Reviews.”
Jones, who is 26, grew up in rural Arkansas in a small community named Hicks (I’m not making this up), where comfort zones aren’t often breached. His father advised him to be careful eating California rolls, which is easily the most poisonous of all sushi varieties (if you can’t tell, I’m joking). But moving from a small town to a bigger one—Manhattan, the one in Kansas—changed his life, and gaining access to an Asian market just a mile away opened his culinary world up, big time.
I like watching people try kimchi for the first time (proud Korean-American reporting in), because most of the time, people are delighted to find out that the strongly-smelling jar of fermented cabbage in front of them is nothing to be afraid of. Jones digs into kimchi for the first time, and plows down half a jar in five minutes, which... isn’t my recommended way to eat it, but he’s clearly in love with it. (By the way, everyone, kimchi is to be eaten slowly with bites of sticky white rice, not an entire jar in one sitting.)
Jones’ plunge into Asian food includes a bevy of snacks like red bean mochi, garlic shrimp chips (nice pick!), and a ton of soft drinks, which is always a good gateway into a cuisine you’re not familiar with. After spending a lifetime of people telling me that Korean food was “too weird” for them, seeing the outright joy of his discoveries makes me glad to see that new things don’t have to be scary after all.