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Food for Thought: A Journey from China and Back Again

Joined: 1/10/2014
Posts: 10
As a teenager raised in a Chinese family, I am well aware that food is everything. But it has never included Fourth of July hamburgers or Thanksgiving pumpkin pie. Rather, Thanksgiving is a four-day break, passing through like any weekend. My excuse? Cranberry sauce is unhealthy, mashed potatoes are fattening, and stuffing is full of empty calories.

When I was younger, I struggled to understand the reason that my family never had Thanksgiving banquets, something so American that it was simply expected. I felt strange, having never enjoyed the Turkey bowl with a plate of freshly baked corn muffins beside me. But the grass is always greener on the other side and I've slowly learned to appreciate what I do have.

Wontons. Dumplings. Cold sesame noodles. Bao zhi. Bok choy and woodear mushrooms. These are cravings that people can only buy Americanized versions of, but were authentic dishes that I grew up eating on a nightly basis. Chinese cuisine is simple in private. When in doubt, my father would make fried rice or stir fry. There is nothing about marinating chicken for four hours in Italian Marsala or sprinkling three types of cheeses onto a piping hot tortilla. There is no recipe, as a matter of fact--solely imagination and food thrown together. It is the simplicity and the presence of comfort and homeyness that make my meals memorable.

Because both my parents work, our family finds itself at a restaurant every Friday night. We are all tired and spent, bored or too lazy to pull out a wok by the end of the week. I choose those days to indulge, because of the food and the closeness to my family. While my friends eat burritos at Chipotle, I sit in a high-end Italian restaurant, dipping my garlic rolls into extra virgin olive oil. Despite my partiality toward European cuisine, I always find that even after a satisfying meal, a part of me craves a little bit of a home taste.

But my true home is thousands of miles away and I needed to cross the entire Pacific Ocean to reach it. When I arrived in China this past year, I was treated to a delicious home-cooked dinner by my grandparents. It was everything I could have asked for and never had I seen so much food upon a table. Halfway through my meal, it occurred to me that the treatment of food in the United States and Chinese styles was identical. Despite the wide difference in taste preference, food was a bond. Liking it, discussing it, eating it, preparing it--they were cultural aspects that was universal. For me, Asian food was just a piece of home and a way to get closer to extended family. And I was lucky enough to have this, even though I sacrificed my desire to have eggnog on December 25th and my consumption of turkey on Thanksgiving.

After all, a real foodie knows what she likes and why, even if it isn't apple pie and tater tots.
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Comment by thiegsr

Joined: 11/6/2008
Posts: 702
On behalf of the entire editorial board, I would like to congratulate you for your Food for Thought essay being chosen as 1 of the 11 essays in the running for 1st place for our November 2014 teen writing competition. Be proud of your accomplishment. We had almost 200 essays submitted for November’s contest.

We are in the process of selecting our top three winners, and naming the 1st place winner from the narrowed field.

We will post all winning essay results by December 31st. You can check this page for the results after December 31st:

Thanks for adding your voice to our mission “Changing the World . . . One Story at a Time” and feel free to share your accomplishment.

Rebecca Thiegs Co-Founder and Education Consultant
Posted: Friday, December 5, 2014 12:52:55 PM
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Comment by thiegsr

Joined: 11/6/2008
Posts: 702
On behalf of the entire editorial board, I would like to congratulate you for your Food for Thought essay being selected as one of our Teen Essay runners up for November 2014.

To view all the results of our November 2014 contest, please check our winners page on or after December 31st:

Thanks for adding your voice to our mission “Changing the World . . . One Story at a Time” and feel free to share your accomplishment with the world.

Rebecca Thiegs Co-Founder and Education Consultant
Posted: Tuesday, December 16, 2014 5:03:25 PM
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