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I believe in food. I believe that it is not just something that we need to eat to stay alive, but that it is nourishment for our souls. I believe it is the fibers of our emotional and physical being, a connection to a different culture, an act of love.
There are very few commonalities between all the communities and humans on earth, but one of them is that we need food. It is the human bond between otherwise very different people. To sit down and eat together is an act of communion.
Last night, my dad asked me, what is happiness to you? I thought about it for a few minutes and I told him, it's when I spend time with my friends and family over food. What about you?
He said, it's when I get to have dinner with you and have small conversations like these with you too.
I believe that the best memories have food involved one way or the other.
One particular day, my friend was acting unlike herself. So on Saturday night, me and my friends took her along to Seattle to to-go some Taiwanese hotpot. There wasn't dine-in, so we shared the food from a hot plastic bowl in a cramped Toyota sedan. It wasn’t comfortable, but the food was good still. And we proceeded to talk and share and confess and laugh and cry and spill until we looked at the clock and it was already 2am, and the night sky was twinkling bright with city lights.
Sometimes food helps you venture out of your comfort zone in a way you’d never thought to. I was chilling at my friend’s house, when suddenly her Cambodian mom walked over to shove a balut (fertilized developing duck embryo) in her mouth. She also offered me one, and I hesitate- I don’t consider myself a picky eater, but the soulless duck eyes staring at me through the shell was a bit overwhelming. But my friend encourages me to try it. It’s really good, just like chicken! She says. I hate being a chicken, so I reluctantly take a bite. But it turns out that half-fertilized duck is really good! From then on I’ve become a self-proclaimed balut advocate/encourager, and for all foods seemingly distasteful at first sight.
The recent weekend, I went to a Kenyan friend’s graduation party. There was an abundance of food, and all I can say is that Kenyan goat roast is the best. And their pulao. And their chicken curry. And mashed potatoes. Just thinking about it makes my mouth water. But strangely, more than the immaculate deliciousness of the cuisine, the food made me feel at home with the people there. I don’t understand a word of Swahili, I didn’t grow up around Africans, but none of that mattered.
When you eat food from a culture that is not my own, there is an intangible but definite sense of connection. Food has a mysterious and wondrous ability to break down invisible walls and make us brothers. When I went to Pakistan, we went to the northern regions full of mountains, nature, and remote villages. A family invited us into their house, and cooked us one of their local foods- chapshoro. It’s like a shepherd meat pie, but you crack the top of the pie and scoop the insides with the crust pieces. Even though we came from vastly different backgrounds, life stories, religions, countries, and race, that chapshoro just blasted all those differences into oblivion. None of that mattered on the dinner table (floor) where we laughed and ate together, and they taught us how to eat it properly. It was made with genuine love. I will remember that family as long as I am alive. Beyond all language barriers, the stomach is truly the key to the heart.
Sometimes, when my mom slides into my room to leave a plate of cut apples when I’m busy with homework late at night, I feel so loved. That apple is not just a fruit, but it is a love language for, I’m sure, all Asian moms out there.
I believe in food- all its abilities to heal, nourish, connect, break barriers, create joy, and show love.