All photos courtesy of Evelyn Wang
An Interview with Evelyn Wang
Evelyn Wang is the type of person who loves breakfast for dinner and believes that one of the greatest joys in life is a cup of black coffee paired with a sweet pastry. She loves eating a greasy breakfast at a crappy diner and she has an admiration for food like no one I’ve ever met. (And my brother is a chef.) I knew she’d be perfect for The Breakfast Issue based on her Instagram handle alone. She uses @raw.egg.yolk to promote her work as a tattoo artist—which, naturally, includes a lot of food tattoos.
Below, Evelyn shares her favorite breakfast meal, how and why food connects people, and how tattoos (even the food ones) made her appreciate her body.
Natalie Zisa: How did you develop this niche of food tattoos?
Evelyn Wang: I feel like I could really wax poetic about this stuff, but when it comes down to it, I just think food is art. I’m literally looking at a page of food-related art things as we speak. My favorite movie is Tampopo, a Japanese movie from the 70s about ramen. And I have a love for vintage cookbooks because there was such a commitment to composition and an elaborate setup and I always found that really beautiful. Looking at art about food and nice photos of food is something that really gets my creative juices flowing.
There are emotional reasons as to why I love food, too. A big thing in Asian cultures—and I’m sure in most immigrant cultures—is that asking if you’ve eaten that day is kind of the same thing as saying, ‘how are you?’ My grandma’s first words are, ‘have you eaten yet? Let me make something for you.’ I’m not super familiar with the concept of love languages, but I would say that my love language is making food for people. It’s probably because I’m not great with expressing emotions directly, so take all these foods and nourish yourself. It’s a good way to say you love and care for someone. Also, eating is just one of life’s greatest pleasures. Even if it’s just a nice big piece of crusty bread.
NZ: I can relate to that. The first time my roommate and I shared a meal, I felt like I was at home.
EW: There are so many quirks to how families and households feel about food. As I’m sure a lot of Asian-American children of immigrants feel, you go through a phase when you’re young where you kind of hate yourself for being Chinese. You want to assimilate as much as possible. I went through a phase of trying to reject everything about being Chinese and trying to separate myself from it. And food was a big part of my getting past that, because I had such a strong love for it. Food is a great connection between people—sharing a meal is so intimate. So, loving Chinese food and immersing myself more with my family and our culture was just one of the few aspects that helped me feel more pride and get past that phase.
NZ: What’s your favorite breakfast meal?
EW: Whenever I go to a diner, I have to go with someone that would be down to share a pancake. I need to get a table pancake and then I need to get my own greasy meal. I love a greasy breakfast like hashbrowns —the shredded kind—a sunny-side up egg, lots of bacon, and then a cup of black coffee that’s almost grossly bitter to wash it down. That’s just a dream to me.
NZ: As someone whose brother has a tattoo of a fried egg on his chest, I’m curious, what are some of the more interesting requests that you’ve gotten?
EW: I do try to only do requests that I feel aligned with. I think a lot of tattoo artists feel this way, but if I’m not connected to it, I’m not going to do my best work. Something I’ve really enjoyed is people coming to me with a drawing that I’ve done and asking me to personalize it. For example, I’m doing a drawing of a butter knife on a plate with a pad of butter and the client asked if I could change the knife to be a specific one she owns. Another drawing I’ve done is a tea cup with someone pouring sugar and the client asked if I could change the tea cup to be one that their grandma made. So, that was really heartwarming to make something more intimate for someone.
NZ: Do you have any food tattoos?
EW: A lot of the tattoos I’ve done on myself are food tattoos. I have a mangosteen tattoo because it’s one of my favorite fruits. I have an egg tart tattoo. Oh, one of my favorite movies is an animated film called Night is Short, Walk on Girl and there’s a scene where the main character is drinking a cocktail, so I have that tattooed on me, too.
Even though tattooing myself is good practice, I actually don’t want my own tattoos on me. All bodies are a canvas and being able to have as many different artists and styles and topics on it is really cool. Do you have any tattoos?
NZ: It’s something I’ve thought about for a while, but I’m that person that wants to make sure it’s meaningful before I get it.
EW: For your first tattoo to be something personal and connect to yourself is so sweet. The thing that surprised me when I first started getting tattoos was that it made me appreciate and love my body more. My first one is on my leg and after I got it, I thought, ‘wow, I have really great legs.’ And I never had that thought before. It’s such an intimate experience with yourself and with your body.