My mom is Chinese. My dad is Norwegian, Hungarian, and Yugoslavian. Both first generation here in the States. When people find out that my mom is Chinese the first thing they say is ohhh it must have been such a treat to grow up having authentic Chinese food cooked at home.
Nope. That didn't happen.
First of all, no kid grows up appreciating the cuisine they have available to them, regardless of what that cuisine is. But second of all, I did not, in fact, have any Chinese cuisine available to me to rebelliously not appreciate.
I actually feel QUITE embarrassed to tell people that I did not eat Chinese food, or Asian of any kind, until I was in college. I was 19 years old. NINETEEN. I lived that long and never dipped a crispy spring roll into duck sauce. How did this happen???
Well, two things. First, my dad claimed that he hated rice because it was too crunchy to chew. Wow, grandma must have totally failed on that. Norwegian native that she is, I guess she gets a pass. Anyways, that cooking snafu, along with probably many many others set my dad up to basically dislike everything except for meatloaf and baked potatoes. My brother and I ate a lot of freakin meatloaf growing up.
Second, my mom is an enabler to this type of behavior. It always used to make me so so mad when I'd try to encourage my dad to eat more vegetables and salad, only to be cut off by my mom... He doesn't eat salad. Well, if you allow him not to, then of course he won't! She had 20 years to clue him in on the fact that rice is not crunchy but she obviously never did.
I find this all hysterical, by the way. Except for feeling sad for myself that I ate only tuna noodle casserole, meatloaf, hot dogs, kraft macaroni and cheese, and beef stew until I left for college. And, I also feel sad that my brother is still an extremely picky eater because of the way we were raised.
In the meantime, during my sophomore year of college, a friend of mine suggested we go to Sunrise House for the all you can eat buffet- on Tuesday nights it was only $5.99/person. I was too embarrassed to tell her that I'd never had Chinese food in my life. So, I acted like it was totally normal to eat Chinese buffet and 5 lbs of food later, I was addicted to MSG like any other normal teenager. I even used chopsticks like a pro. I figured it must be a genetic mutation, to be able to operate those things so naturally.
Come to think of it, I still don't think I ever told her that was my first time ever eating Chinese food.
These days, Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Malaysian, and Japanese are my absolute favorite cuisines to eat out and to cook. My love for fish sauce is biological. And just like doing the laundry is something I'm genetically predisposed to love, I also love cooking Asian food. You think it's environment, my witnessing my mom loving the laundry. But she never cooked Asian food. So it's not learned. It's just there.
I don't even dream of going to the MSG-ridden buffet anymore. I haven't spoken to either of my parents in many many years, but I'd bet serious money my dad still does not eat Chinese food. Or salad. And, I don't know if my heritage or genetics have anything to do with my ability to cook and love Asian cuisine or use chopsticks, but I am so grateful that my journey has brought me here.
ps. when you have a Chinese mom and a Norwegian/Eastern European dad, this is what the kids look like. My brother and I... twinsies. Circa 2007.