My family immigrated from Taiwan to the United States when I was three years old. My parents started a life from scratch, with hardly any English under their belts. I learned quickly, but really didn't converse fluently until the first grade. Moving to New Mexico furthered the culture shock. My parents did not have much use for tacos, pinto beans, and enchiladas. They were homesick for jiaozi, congee shops, and jian bing--an egg and flour savory pancake sprinkled with chopped green onions. It's more like a crepe, really. A savory breakfast crepe. Troy and I ate one hot off the griddle at the base of the Great Wall of China. (That may have been the most delicious thing I ate that entire summer. I digress.)
My parents have never made a trip back to Taiwan. The closest thing to jian bing was the making of a breakfast quesadilla with flour tortillas. Chinese folks in New Mexico -- they were resourceful. Cultures have common denominators in food and family. Different ingredients and flavors, but common vehicles and values around the table. Homesickness can be the start of new traditions; it's why I make breakfast quesadillas for my family today. My mom and dad wouldn't have added the shredded cheese or bits of ham. You may be the sort that adds swiss and mushrooms.
Reinventing themselves, their tastebuds, and dreaming new dreams for their future was not just resourceful; it was brave. I'm understanding that more and more, as we raise a family that chooses some of one culture and some of another. We are seeking to make a recipe for family that is uniquely our own. You've gotta make it your own before you can call it home.
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