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Everyone in this world all has their own cultural identity, the culture where they belong to. As a Vietnamese teenager, I have been wondering in my whole life asking myself tons of questions about my cultural identiy and where I actually belong to. Who am I? Do I really belong to Vietnamese culture as it is where I was born? What made up my cultural identity? Well, it is obvious that I have been struggling to define my culture. Luckily, after being inspired by the passage “Ethnic Hash” by Patricia J. Williams, I realized that food is the most important element which defined myself and my culture the most. The food I eat everyday, the meals I have on special ocassions and my eating habits all take part in making me who I am and all symbolize different unique parts in different cultures and not only Vietnamese culture.
The first and most important food’s elements that affects me is my mother’s cooking. Because she is orginated from the central part of Vietnam, she gets different taste from other people in other regions. The meals which she usually cooks for me are always rich, flavorful yet spicy and have everything that Vietnamese people value including meat, vegetables, rice and soup. Even though because of her Central cuisine, she tends to use lots of oil and flour in her dishes which is not very healthy for my family but she always fixes by adding more vegetables to the meal. Following by my mother’s Central cuisine is its last long traditions. On the last weekend every month, my family always invite my cousins, grandparents and my mother’s siblings to come to our house and we will cook our dinner together. We usually make the Central’s traditional food such as Banh Beo, Banh Bot Loc and Banh Nam which are made from rice flour and filled by shrimps and pork in the middle. These cakes are a part of the Central’s cuisine which also makes it part of my own cultural identity. During the preparation, my mother, my aunts and my grandma are in charge of cooking the food while my father and my uncles are in charge of buying the ingredients to cook and beverages. Kids like me and my cousins are told to organize the table and then go to other places in other to not disturb the adults. While we are away, me and my cousins often play games and share our expriences, stories and our school life. After the food is finished, everyone in my family will be gathered to the garden and have dinner together. These days are the reunions of my family which build up insightful memories for me. Overall, my mother’s Central cuisine has a very role in my cultural identity because it is the constant reminders of the time when I spend with my family.
Another key element which represents my cultural identity is my family’s cultural norms while eating. Because my father is from the Northern part of Vietnam, he is very strict on my eating habits. In my family, children like me and my sister have to reserve the table and there is also many rules in setting the table. Every pair of chopsticks must be equal, no chopsticks on the bowls and the sauce must be served in the middle of the meats and rice. Although these cultural norms may seems unneccessary to many people, it plays a key role in making who I am. In Vietnam, there are many social norms in behaviors and a unintenionnal action can be easily considered as impolite and rude. Therefore, my father’s rules help me not to make unintentional mistakes, to be more discipline, and also learn how to show respect to others people, especially elders. Thus, my father’s strict norms have contributed a lot in making who I am.
Apart from Vietnamese cuisines, there are food from others including French and Korean which also represents myself a lot. Even though these two cuisines seem absolutely contradicted, they contain the dishes I like the most based on my taste. On every Sunday, my family usually go to restaurants to have dinner and French and Korean restaurants are always our priority choices. My family loves Korean food for its spicy and the use of seasonings which enhance the taste. The dishes are also usually flavored with a combination of soy sauce, red pepper, green onion, bean paste, garlic, and ginger which make it is has a memorable flavor and have a unique taste. In contrast with conventional Asian cooking, French cuisine focus more on meats and sauce rather than seasonings. Food serves with sauce makes the dishes richer in flavor and create a perfect combination. Each cuisine has their own specialty and are influenced by its other cultural factors. The reasons I like French and Korean cuisines is not just because of their diversity of food but also because cooking French and Korean food is one of my talents. I usually cook Korean and French food for family special occasions such as my mother’s birthday and my father’s birthday. On my mother’s birthdays, I always cook seaweed soup for her because in Korea, women who eat soup on their birthdays will become healthier and beautiful. On the other hand, on my father’s birthday, I often serve him steak, mushroom sauce, smashed potato and use with red wine because it is his favorite.
Through food, it is incredible how people can tell about my unique lifestyle and not seem me as a normal Vietnamese girl that do things Vietnamese people do. My culture is represented through my mother’s cooking, my eating habits which I was influenced from my father and my talents in cooking French and Korean food.
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