Each month we round up a series of delicious reads that made their ways into our inboxes, social feeds and minds. This month, Kalamata’s Kitchen Chef Imaginator and author Sarah Thomas shares stories from and about the Asian American experience and how food plays a part.
Food plays an important role in so many of our memories. We draw on scents of a soup recipe to recall a beloved grandmother, or a spice that whisks us away to the memory of a perfect vacation meal. Those memories can be havens, those scents a comfort. But as rosy and as nostalgic as that idea can be, we can also be driven to seek comfort in those foods and memories for the most painful and difficult reasons. This month we witnessed a horrific act of violence against Asian Americans, in a year that has brought increased violence and danger to Asians and Asian Americans everywhere due to xenophobic and racist ideology. The following are just a few of the incredible pieces I read written about the AAPI experience through the lens of food, memory, and comfort, as well as some resources so we can all continue to do the work of being actively anti-racist in our own lives. I would love to hear what you’ve been reading as well. Drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Miguel de Leon
In this essay, Miguel de Leon uses rice to connect the dots in his life, from his childhood in Manila to suburban California, to all around this country in some of the best restaurant kitchens around. It’s so fondly written, and such a tribute to his grandmother who gave him not just delicious food memories, but passed on her love through a skill that he took with him his entire life. The complexities of identity can never be boiled down to just one thing, but the metaphor (and reality) of rice and its omnipresence in the author’s life is a beautifully encompassing concept.
by Lisa Wong Macabasco
Regardless of nutritional value, I often think of my favorite foods as medicine simply because I feel better when I eat delicious things. Lo Foh Tong is something that makes Lisa Macabasco and many others of Cantonese diaspora feel better, and also happens to be good for you in a number of ways. But while the idea of food as medicine is a central tenet of Chinese medicine, the author also elevates the idea of nourishment through this dish-- that it isn’t just about a myriad of health benefits, it’s about being loved, cared for, and part of a tradition, and a familial unit.
by Victoria Ying
This short graphic story is such a rollercoaster. The idea of returning to foods for comfort is a sweet, nostalgic one-- but that comfort is invaded by outside forces, the ugliness faced by Asians in America today, and the fear that comes with it. The simplicity and safety of beloved childhood food memories proves to be not just a comfort, but a haven, and a balm.
LA Review of Books
By Karen Fang
I was so relieved when I found Dr. Li and the Crown Wearing Virus by *Francesca Cavallo online, earlier in the pandemic. The focus on the very real human impact of Covid-19 on Asians and Asian Americans was unique amongst a lot of the other works available for kids. It is so important for adults to learn about the context and history that has led to the current environment of anti-Asian racism so that they can teach the children in their lives how to recognize and prevent it from happening again and again. I appreciate the wealth of other titles mentioned in this article which have diversified my own bookshelves, and also resonate very strongly with this insight from a children’s librarian: “If it’s not in our kids’ books, then it’s not part of our cultural conversation.” (*Francesca Cavello is also one of the co-authors of Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls, an excellent addition to any bookshelf.)
A conversation with Audie Cornish, Nicole Chung, and Christine Koh
I think articles/interviews like this one are so critical right now, particularly for families who wonder whether their children are potentially too young to hear about racism. Remembering that children and parents of color are rarely given the choice of when they first learn about racism is a huge step in thinking empathetically, which the experts in this interview say can be a hugely effective entry point to introduce difficult topics even to very young children.
All imagery is sourced from and owned by the original publisher.