Written by Jaden Chee
This first appeared in the December 2020 issue of The Asian American Arts Zine
Food in Asian culture is more than just sustenance, especially during the holiday season. Many dishes are a taste of home. Sometimes a home you no longer live in, sometimes a home you’ve never been to… always a home you miss. First-generation-ers, immigrants, Dreamers, Adoptees; we’re all Asian, we’re all American.
Regardless, growing up with these staple dishes and then maybe moving out and missing them; not knowing how to make them yourself… it can feel like you’ve lost your sense of belonging. Growing up not knowing how to make a dish and then finding out it should be something you just know… it might make you feel like you’re missing something vital.
As a First-Generation American, I’ve had both. My sister and I are slowly absorbing the kitchen savvy of my mother, but it’s a slow process, and one day, I’ll be off to college with a significantly smaller mental cookbook than I’d like. When I was little, my sister and I would make dumplings with my dad. He’d make the filling and we’d all wrap them together. He doesn’t live with us anymore, so the last time I wanted to make dumplings, I had to look up a recipe on Pinterest.
Nothing has ever made me feel so…inauthentic.
Like a “Fake” Asian; like visiting family where everyone speaks the native language except you (or me, in this case, because that happened).
I had to do some soul searching, but I’m telling you now that it’s okay. When you Google Search that recipe for your favorite childhood dish, it’s okay that you don’t know the ingredients by heart; as an Asian, you know that you’ll be seasoning by taste (it’s just something you’ll feel in your soul).
You’ll find that perfect recipe;
maybe you’ll add something you just know your mom used to put in it; maybe you’ll take something out because you don’t like it. Regardles of how you found it; how you learn it; how you’ll remember it, it’s yours once you claim it. It’s part of you, just like those tastes from childhood, just like your American upbringing, just like your Asian heritage.