This month, I talk culture, stereotypes and tea with the stunning Endo sisters, owners of Endo Squared.
What comes to my mind when I hear the word melting pot is a literal pot, filled with all kinds of delicacies all heftily mixed together forming a medley of everything that’s good in each of them. As I walked into this interview with the staggering Endo sisters, this is what I had in mind.
You may have encountered the Endo sisters in one way or another but I am here to present them to you in the capacity that I met them after years of fawning over their aesthetically pleasing brand Endo Squared. As a lover of all things coloured in crisp white and vibrant minimalist VSCO presets and a fan of the two, the nerves were there and the questions did not seem like they were enough but I managed to cheerfully greet my interviewees who breezed into the newly opened Blue Door comfortably dressed in t-shirts and jeans. We were slightly uncomfortably perched on cafeteria-style tables (those always take some getting used to especially if it’s been a while since you hunched over a plate of RnB on one of those tables) but we were off to the races!
We started off with the age-old question of what culture and roots mean. “The first thing I think of is home and where I’m from,” Yvonne stated simply as Patti nodded in agreement.
If you’re unfamiliar with their background, the two come from a multicultural home with a Kenyan father and Japanese mother who have brought them up surrounded by Japanese culture which they explain that their father enthusiastically adopted.
In the way that sisters talk fondly in unison then over each other correcting mistakes and filling in gaps they explain, “We have more Japanese influences in our life but one thing we did discover that is a Kenyan thing/habit is taking warm milk with everything like cereal or even on its own.”
This threw me off because until this interview I did not realise that my love for warm milk in cereal was something national (I might need to do a survey of this, warm milk drinkers unite!).
As with most people, our habits are a representation of our upbringing, good or bad. Patti considered this and shared her story of how they picked up a number of Japanese habits from their mother such as saying the phrases “Itadakimasu” and “Gochisosama” which can be roughly translated to “let’s eat” and “thank you for the delicious meal”.
Eventually, the conversation steered towards one of my least favourite topics: stereotypes. We know that every country’s citizens are associated with certain characteristics and the Endo sisters are no exceptions. “I was a good student but I was terrible at math which was strange because the assumption is all Asians are good at math,” Patti states as Yvonne chimes in. “We get mistaken for Chinese and Koreans as well! No one ever guesses that we’re half Japanese. On the other hand, Patti is great at bargaining.” At which point I enquire if the skill is transferrable for the purposes of thrifting which both girls enjoy.
The drinks were served up before the meals which got us talking about the dreaded Asian flush. “It’s like an allergic reaction to alcohol which turns me bright red (hence the term flush). It just looks terrible. Patti can only take two sips and then it hits her almost instantly. There’s a lot going on besides the flush, you’re also hot and uncomfortable which sucks because you haven’t even drunk a lot yet so it’s all this suffering before you get tipsy.” Yvonne explains.
We all have our drinking preferences and these two aren’t any different. Patti’s affinity for tea means that’s her drink of choice is herbal tea especially tea. Yvonne doesn’t mind drinking but her solution to drinking doing so in dim lighting. “In the dark after hours,” she adds with a chuckle.
We somehow ended up admiring each other’s tattoos and the two shared (after one of those moments of sibling banter including the phrases “no it isn’t” and “yes it is” thrown back and forth) that they have a matching tattoo much to my amusement. I haven’t encountered a pair of sisters that can share the same pair of shoes let alone a tattoo design and if their affectionate banter throughout this interview was a hint then this was the confirmation of the love they have for each other. Mix this in with little check-ins, switching of drinks because one was too sweet for the other to handle and I was ready to ask them if they were lying to us and maybe they were twins.
The conversation somehow jumped into what we all cherish and never throw out and Patti enthusiastically shared that she is inclined to keep pictures and never delete them. “It’s so bad that I back up the pictures on my laptop because I don’t want to lose any of them,” she added. After much thinking and a little back and forth we figured out that Yvonne was on the Marie Kondo wave before it was even a thing. However, she does have a collection of Britney Spears CDs which live in the dashboard of her car.
Speaking of music, where you hear the soothing sounds of Jorja Smith, Mahalia and Goldlink is where you will find Patti. Yvonne favours musician’s you’ll find in the expertly curated Apple Music playlist called The Wave but don’t count her out when Ethic’s music starts playing.
All in all, between chickpea falafel, shish taouk, chicken on flatbread with avocado, a flatbread with smoked bacon and smoked duck, burgers filled with potato and brie, I learned that stereotypes affect us all and there is no template when it comes to being Kenyan.