Stories

The Lunch Box

I hated being the girl with the weird food.

My mother’s homemade Chinese cuisine is always the best, unless it was for lunch. Somehow, packing it in a lunch box and bringing it to school just diminishes it’s value and makes it weird. Yes, WEIRD, as my classmates would describe: the weird shaped dumplings that my mother would hand make from scratch, the weird colored noodles that she would stay up to prepare the night before, the weird smelling fried rice that she would carefully cook for just the right amount of time… While everyone else was enjoying their pepperoni pizza or cheese burger, talking happily amongst each other, I always sat in the corner, where no one would pay attention.

“Eww is that dog food?”

“No you can’t sit with us.”

I hated being the girl with the weird food. The more my classmates commented on my food, the worse it tasted, as if others’ glares on my lunch could transform the food from delicacy to trash. I begged my mom to pack me something else. I told her the food was horrible. I begged for her to sign me up for school lunch. She was confused, thinking that I disliked her cooking, but also seeing me gorge down dinner like it was the best thing on earth, which it was. She didn’t question me, but agreed to my request.

Finally, I got the same plates as everyone else. I got the same food as everyone else. And I got to sit at the same table with everyone else. School lunch was so much better! It looked better, it smelled better, and it tasted better. I could finally eat the burnt bread, the unevenly heated frozen pizza, the artificially flavored meatballs. I thought I was the luckiest kid on earth.

Until now…

Time flies and in a blink of an eye, I am not an elementary school kid anymore. I’ve set off to college, away from my family, to a new place where I would have to be on my own. Only now, do I realize that the most precious meal, is the lunch box that my mother would pack. Not only do I miss the delicious food, it is also the taste of home, of family.

I longed for my mother’s cooking, for the taste of home. I tried to replicate her dishes, but they will never be as half as good. I want to yell at my seven-year-old self, to make my younger self realize what a luxury it was to eat the “weird” food.

Sometimes my friends bring meals from their home to school after breaks or holidays, and we would all gather around to admire how delicious the food is. Despite not being a cuisine we’ve ever seen or even heard of before, the strong flavor and rich taste always leads to “MMMMs” and food dances. It’s different, not weird, it’s distinct and unique.

Instead of running away from what other’s may perceive as “weird”, we should all embrace our identity, our culture, our family traditions, before it’s too late. And as outsiders, we should stop judging what we may not understand. The world is a diverse place, and let’s all help keep it that way.

This post was inspired by the video created by NBC Asian America.

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