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Food Is a Symbol

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Erin Chang (Erin)

Rhet 106N, Section 3


Food is a symbol

(Essay 2, Draft 2)

         There are many ways to identify someone’s culture, such as food, tradition and appearance. People from different country have different cultural backgrounds and eat different food. The ways people cook or eat all represent their own culture. Immigrant people often use food as a mean of retaining their cultural identity. However, in Nora Okja Keller’s “ My Mother’s Food ”, she used her own example to explain how she against her mother’s Korean culture and want to be a real “American”. I agree that food is most significant because food is not only essential to our lives but also can symbolize culture.

        Keller, the author of  “My Mother’s Food”, was born in South Korea and grow up in the United States. Keller tells readers her memories about her mother fed her on kim chee when she was a baby and explains the process of how to make kim chee. Moreover, Keller discusses the relationship between her own culture and food. She went crazy for kim chee everyday and the smell of kim chee followed her to school. One day, a classmate mocked her by asking is she a Korean or not because she smell like a Korean. Then, this encounter with her classmate influences her so that she wants to be an American instead of Korean. Meanwhile, she starts to avoid eating kim chee and turns against Korean culture until she has her own children. As the author states,  “I recognize that identifying herself as Korean will be a choice for her” (p.137). We can through this sentence know that the author wants to identify as a Korean American woman. She does not feel any shame about being Korean after she has a baby. We can also through Keller’s experiences know that whenever where we are, we can not forget who we are and not forget the culture of our own country.

After reading Keller’s writing, the memories of my childhood are all coming to my mind.  For every Chinese New Year, which is the most commemorative holiday in China, my family goes back to the hometown and stays in my grandmother’s house to celebrate. Traditionally, my grandmother makes dumplings with all family members because dumpling is one of the most important foods in Chinese New Year. Dumplings are a representative Chinese food, with both shape and having cultural meaning. Since the shape of dumpling is similar to ancient gold and money, they symbolize wealth. That is the reason dumpling is essential for New Year and people express their hope for a better life and wishes for certain blessings. My grandmother would prepare the filling mixture for dumplings when we cook dumplings in home. She would put salt with soy sauce after hacked pork to pieces, mix green pepper, oil, chop chive, and pieces of vegetable until enough. After that, she would produce the wrappings of dumpling. In a bowl, put the water in to the flour, and knead it by hand to from the mixture into smooth dough. Then, cover the dough by a big pot and put it aside for half-hour. After that, roll the dough into a long roll and cut it in 50 pieces. Then, we would place one portion of filing in the center of wrapping. Use finger and thumb to bring the sides together. After all the steps, bring the water to a boil and as soon as the dumplings start to float to the top. It should be done after the water boil again. Furthermore, My grandmother usually hid a coin in one of the dumplings. The person who finds the coin will likely have a good fortune in the New Year. When I see the dumpling in the restaurant or the market that always brings me to think about my grandmother and my family members. The taste of the dumpling was very delicious; I think I can never forget the taste of the dumplings that my grandmother made, because it is special traditional dumplings for me and also for my family culture.



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