to a new culture
most Chinese immigrants, my family came here from Canton. My great-grandfather
came over in the 1860's, drawn to San Francisco by the gold rush. They
settled there and then drifted south to Monterey Park in Los Angeles which
developed a strong Chinese community.
say the Cantonese will eat anything with four legs but a chair. For survival
they used whatever they could get, so the Cantonese developed a cuisine
that is based on the alchemy of ingredients working together. Nothing
was ever cooked by itself, and a proper Chinese person of the old school
would eat each meal with three bowls of rice. In part this was due to
the lack of food, but it was also to keep the food subtle and not be overwhelmed
by taste.My family
was an example of adapting to a new culture. My grandmother cooked the
old way. Every Saturday she made soy sauce Chicken
and I went there every Saturday for fifteen years just to eat it.
I cook it myself now, but it just doesn't taste the same. My mom
did learn to adapt. She was the first in the family to use an English
language name. Today everyone does that. She'd make us 'burgers' but they
were pork burgers, derived from Chinese pork
pie, and she'd steam them. She'd cook two turkeys on Thanksgiving.
One would be American style complete with stuffing, the other would be
Chinese, cooked with soy and stuffed with glutinous rice and mushrooms.
On the side, she'd make turnip cakes,
which were always my favorite.For many
years my grandmother opposed Santa and Christmas trees. After a while,
though, she came to love the holiday and insist always on a fresh-cut
tree. One year my uncle didn't put up a tree. My tiny grandmother, complete
with accent, demanded to know 'what kind of American are you?' Christmas
was a wonderful hodgepodge. We'd make a ham and mom would make baked macaroni
as well as giant pots of fried rice.
JOHN: John is an interior designer
whose art emphasizes simplicity. He has promised to tell us more about
the Dragon Boat Festival and get the recipe for rice in bamboo leaves
when May of the coming year rolls around.
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