Larry Jin Lee and his friend, Giorgio, didn’t agree on much, except their love for the foods of their native lands.
“Have you eaten yet?”
It’s the customary way Chinese people greet each other. The intention is to extend hospitality, but also to connect over food, a comforting meal. As cliché as it sounds, food is a universal language. But it’s more than just going to the nearby Chinese or Italian restaurant. It’s about taking the time to sit down with someone from another culture to learn the story behind their culture’s comfort food. Memories of food are rich stories of grandmother’s kitchens, family gatherings and tradition. There are stories of multi-generational history, wisdom, survival, and resilience preserved as each culture adds their flavors to the culinary mélange in our country.
In my life, my dear neighbors Giorgio and Maria shared their Italian comfort food with me over the years. As we ate, I’d learn about how they preserved their recipes from the old country and about their journey to this country. How minestrone soup was eaten for breakfast and dinner almost every day, made from fresh tomatoes and vegetables from their own fields. I’d feel as if I were back in Italy with them.
Giorgio loved wonton soup because it reminded him of ravioli. I would bring him noodles that he liked from the Asian market and Maria would give me her homemade pasta.