I Got It From My Mama!

A year ago, you wouldn’t want to be anywhere near me holding a knife. I seriously could not chop vegetables and had two of my friends teach me. Needless to say, they probably thought of me as a spoiled and sheltered child. It’s true. I totally relied on my mother and my university.

Now that I can decently cut things without harming myself and others, I’ve been sharing some of mama’s dishes with friends here. But the sharing goes both ways.

We all know that food is a huge part of a culture and as a result, one’s identity. But it wasn’t until I was here in Japan that I realized how my palate differed from my friends (even Americans within the JET community too). As a Vietnamese-American, I grew up having the best of both worlds, but there were many things I haven’t tried yet. In fact, as I was writing this, I stumbled across this. How many of them have you tried?!

As a foodie, I am a bit ashamed to say that I am not even close to finishing the list. If I haven’t finished a common aggregate list of American foods…don’t get me started on how much I am missing from the rest of the world. Luckily, throughout my time here I’ve been able to cross off some things like persimmon pudding, candied yams, apple butter, and chutney.

In return, we had pho, spring rolls (you’d be amazed by my students’ disbelief that we would eat raw vegetables in that way), lettuce wraps, and some of Mama’s bastardized cooking by yours truly. Now, one of my friends here, Elise, and I eat spring rolls monthly, and sometimes weekly!  You can check out this easy to do recipe here!


Okay, totally noted that the picture quality is shit and that I am adding carrots…but imagine how beautiful it looks after it’s wrapped…like this…


And just like that – through sharing some of these dishes – I totally understood how delighted mothers feel when they stuff their children AND their children’s friends. It’s not only about being proud of your own creation, but also sharing a piece of your culture.

You’d be surprised by the different ways to cut an onion, to crack an egg, to use your utensils, etc. Eating gives us a peek into one’s culture and an opportunity to learn about the nuanced taboos and manners.

So, if you can’t cook, look up a recipe and recruit a friend. If you’re craving something, try to make it yourself (check out iHerb!). Or if you hear your friend reminiscing about something…ask them if they’d like to make it for/with you one day!

Have you shared any dishes from home with your friends? Have you ever tried to explain something so delicious (like tacos/burritos/pho) to your students and have them look at you like you’re crazy because your mouth is probably watering and your fingers are falling off because you’re trying to do a rapid Google images search to bring the food justice?!

If yes, get up, prove to your students that you haven’t gone insane, and shock their sweet little mouths! (Phrasing. I am just going to leave it unedited because I cannot believe I composed such a closing sentence.)    

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