Friday, November 28, 2008

My lunches don't look and smell like sandwiches and fudge brownies

Something I wrote during Toronto Asian Arts Freedom School...

The writing prompt was "Write about a food that you love or hate, and why."


Kids are really mean in elementary school. That, or they're really honest. But I'm going to go with "mean" because they hurt my feelings and made me feel ashamed about myself, my family and my culture.

Lunchtime was always an exciting time for me because my mom would always pack the most kickass lunches for me. Having just immigrated to canada for not too long, she would send me off to school with food she knew - fried rice, rice balls filled with pork and pickled radish, dumplings, greasy Cantonese sausages...

It was also a great time because I always got to have a taste of my best friend's lunch. Mirai was Japanese and also brought equally kickass food - sweet fried egg, minced pork over rice...

I always felt a sense of pride, even at such a young age, that I ate food no one else had in their lunch boxes. I felt loved because my mom would wake up early to fix my little sister and I these wonderful lunches to fill our bellies with. Plus, I felt and still do, to a certain degree, a sort of cultural superiority over my classmates' juice boxes, lunchables and chocolate chip cookies. That is, until I started being made fun of.

If you've had Chinese dumplings before, you would know that they give off a strong odor. This smell was comforting to me. It brought me back to my parents, the safety of my home and to Taiwan. This was not, however, how my classmates felt...

"Ewww! What's that smell?? Sick!"

It was my dumplings, the dumplings my mom had laboriously folded with her two hands. Dumplings she boiled in the early morning because overnight dumplings are no good, she would always say.

Making fun of my food meant making fun of my immigrant family. I knew that even at the age of seven or eight. I don't really remember what happened after my classmate made me feel like an outcast. I am pretty sure I didn't say anything in response. I'm guessing that I just ate my dumplings in anger, shame and silence.

So even to this day, I am still traumatized. Don't comment on my food. Don't say anything about what I eat. Leave me and my food alone.

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