It all started with a brown paper bag lunch. The brown paper bag lunch is an American schoolkid staple where our parents lovingly packed homemade cuisines. I remember the kids in my class would look forward to trading their wares at lunchtime: an apple for chips or their PBJ for a Go-Gurt. Except, no one would want to trade with me. The reason? They said my food smelled weird or looked gross. One person even described the noodles I brought in as “they look like worms!” Kids are so accepting, right?
While people would’ve told me to brush off those words as “sticks and stones”, those words really stuck to me like white rice. After comparing my noodles to worms, I remember coming home to me telling my mother to give me more “American” lunches like Lunchables or PBJ sandwiches even though I never liked jelly. I grew conscious of the food I would bring to school. This insecurity led me to eventually buy school lunches until the day I graduated from high school.
Then my collegiate career began and my homesickness created a yearning for homemade, authentic Chinese food. I never really hated my Chinese culture – I just hated being judged for it. Whenever I went home for the weekends or holidays, my parents always made sure I was well-fed and supplied with lots of homemade goodies, such as my favorite childhood treats from Asia and the marinated meats I was craving. After years of rejecting my homemade meals, I realized it wasn’t only years of Chinese cuisine and culture I was missing out on during lunch time. I was also missing out on my parent’s love for me.
You see, typical Asian American households don’t verbally announce their love for each other. We’d much rather show our love for each other through loving and considerate gestures. And for my parents, it was making sure our fridge and pantry was stocked with mine and my brother’s favorite food. It was my dad cooking my favorite noodle dish: Dan Dan mein. It was my mom getting up at 5am to make both my brother and I a nice breakfast, along with a beautifully delicious brown paper bag lunch.
"ABC is Me" is a blog written from the perspective of an Asian American, a "Model Minority" juggling between two unique backgrounds (Asian and American). It documents a personal struggle of wanting to fit in with the American norm, but also keeping in touch with author's ethnic roots.