Family Style

I asked my husband what he thought was going to be seriously important to pass on to our daughter from the Chinese culture.

“Culture is fluid,” he said. “I don’t have too much attachment to culture, I feel like.”

It’s an answer he gives a lot–one I believe, in a way. He is exposed to so much raw humanity daily, that I think he thinks on deeper life-and-death terms than most of us generally do. But I also know that many aspects of his culture are rooted in his being. It’s who he is.

I let him go on…

“I like Chinese food. I like rice a lot. If we want to talk about culture, let’s talk about food,” he said, wiping down one of our daughter’s plastic dishes.

“On the [Lunar] New Year we eat dumplings. We never got our hair cut, or swept away the dirt before the New Year, so not of that really matters to me. But I like the Chinese food that my mom cooks. And my dad cooks, too.”

“What I love is eating family style. Sharing the dishes from a common bowl gives a nice sense of community. Not that yours is bad,” he adds quickly, as though he were letting me down gently. “The [American way] is probably more hygenic. Eating family style feels more like home. It feels a lot more informal than all the manners that are expected in the West. I think family shouldn’t have to be so strict. ”

“When we eat at [my parents] it feels like we’re more of a family unit, eating from the same bowl. Rather than the individual serving themselves, and having to parse it out.”

“Plus, fewer dishes,” he adds cheerily, turning back to the dishwasher he’s come to love. “Finish with that.”



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