Connecting Through Food
White sandy beaches, tropical bright-colored fruits, and sunny days spent with family used to be my reality. My grandparents’ house in Cebu used to be my second home. Tan lines and sunburn used to be what I complained about — now they’re what I long for. After the Covid-19 virus hit, the distance that stood between me and the Philippines seemed to grow ten times bigger. I had been so close to my relatives in my home country that it hurt to feel so estranged from them in the midst of a global pandemic. With my only contact with them being through a small screen on our Amazon Alexa, I had to get creative with connecting back to my heritage. My aunt is a gifted cook, and I’m so blessed to have someone with so much knowledge about traditional Filipino dishes living with me. She cooks everything from Adobo to Sinigang, with me feeling closer and closer to home with every bite. Appreciating my background and culture through spoonfuls of my favorite foods is just one of the many ways I connect myself with my heritage.
Growing up, I remember those sweet Saturday mornings when the sun’s orange light squeezed through the window sills of my home, and I would awake to the divine aromas of sizzling onions, salami, and mashed plantains. Moments of such nature were when I felt one of the closest connections to my heritage. As a Dominican-American living in a bustling city- where everyone is obliged to prioritize financial entities rather than the pulchritude of life, it can be a strenuous task to feel a connection to one’s culture. With time, I have been able to find that spark within Dominican cuisine. It is truly a force of unity within my family … It is challenging though, especially in a society like the one I reside in where it feels like I never have time. For this exact reason, I love Dominican food immensely because despite my extremely busy life and multiple responsibilities, at the end of the day, I can come home to find a warm meal with its Hispanic flare, reminding me of who I am.
Sharing Family Memories and Stories
As I reflect upon my younger years of childhood, I can recall the few but special moments I shared with the hundreds of relatives during family reunions. Though these uplifting gatherings no longer occur as much, remembering those family moments comes easy. The crunch of the buttery cannolis filled with sweet cream still lingers between my taste buds. The popular Italian carol, That’s Amore, sung by my Uncle with his thick accent, still persists in my ear. I can even feel the grace of my Pappy’s wrinkly palm while he taught me the correct way to shake a hand. All these simple moments have stayed in one of the warmest parts of my heart. Although I am only partially Italian, I still love learning about my ancestors culture.
Coming from a big family and we are really close we would get a lot of story times when we were younger. It could be like scary stories or simply how life was when my parents were our age which I find very interesting. For example I know that my parents struggled as kids and they had to grow up quick because they didn’t really have another option but to grow up. I don’t feel disconnected from my roots because since it’s part of my parents roots it becomes part of me.
I would like to share with my own children the game called ‘La Loteria’. This is a very popular game in our culture and I want it to be part of my children as well. I want my children to know Spanish because it’s nice knowing that you could learn two languages … I want them to go to Mexico and get to know it as well like I did go every once in a while. The way I will connect future generations to past ones is by starting a conversation with someone from a different generation.
Staying in Touch With Language
As a child, I spent my Saturdays at Armenian school learning how to read, write, as well as learn the history. The language I always spoke to my two grandmothers in was Armenian. I associate with my roots by speaking the language because it makes me feel part of the community … When I have kids, I want to teach them to speak, read, and write in Armenian. I will most likely enroll them into an Armenian school just like I went so that they don’t feel excluded from the Armenian community. In addition, I will teach them the same recipes that I made with my mom when I was a kid. At parties, I will encourage them to dance and spend time with their relatives. I never want them to forget where they came from.
I try to keep in “contact” with my heritage, but sometimes it feels as though there has been an invisible divider placed in between me and trying to connect with my heritage. I know how to speak and read lots of different words and phrases from my family’s native language, but as Ms. Chang said just how “Mandarin is a lifelong commitment to maintain fluency” it applies to many other languages even if they aren’t the hardest to understand and decipher. I realized that not that many days ago when I went to see my grandparents after many weeks, we were watching a show that was in Turkish so it had subtitles that were translated into the language that I speak. I was trying so hard to say the words but they weren’t coming out as fluently as they should have been and I was astonished with myself in a bad way. Then it dawned on me that I really only speak and read my language whenever I’m around my grandparents. My grandparents are the people that show me and talk to me about my heritage, which I thank them for.