Jornal 4: I never learned how to cook– Courtney Andrews

dinner was home-made

always experimental

she’d ask as we dug in

how is it?

                        would you eat it again?

                                    should I save the recipe?

dishing out some new concoction she had slaved over

It’s called “stroganoff”

we all liked it well enough

and so, it was added to the pile

of other dishes deemed tasty enough to make again



mother tried her best to cook at home

but I was too young to really learn

never helped in the kitchen

but I spent time in the garden

with my dad




the fruits and vegetables mom cooked with

chop, chop, chop

the aromatic basil

and crisp zucchini

from the garden

prepared for an appearance in the next from-scratch lasagna


I never lost sight of where my food came from

or how my meal made its way to my plate

while living in the rural country-side of Tennessee

for it was hard to

when every ingredient in every dish

went from farm to farmer’s market

or backyard soil to wicker basket

and immediately onto the kitchen countertop.


when life began moving too quickly

I began losing sight of how my meal made its way to my plate

I still went to the markets with dad

I still picked the ripe berries in my backyard brush

harvested the fresh vegetables from my soil garden

and cut the fresh herbs from my garden pot

and yet, I no longer watched my mother slave in the kitchen

ding. ding.

dinner was ready

fresh from the crockpot

and the rice cooker

yet I never learned the recipe

never watched the process


living in a countryside

always left me isolated

from my friends

my sports teams

my school

grocery stores

and pre-made foods

It’s peaceful out here ain’t it


but a move to the city-center

brought light to all of that

suddenly meals with my family were rare

meals on the go were common

dishes were served in Styrofoam boxes

and plastic containers

hi, I’d like to place a to-go order

any food I desired was mine

Chinese food, American fare Italian dishes

trout from Pickett’s Ranch

veggies from Sequatchie Cove Farm

breads from Niedlov’s

and pasta, of any shape or form, fresh from Tony’s Kitchen

            Just give us 15 or 20 minutes,

                         and we’ll have that ready for ya


sometimes we ate together

as a family

but never did we eat the same meal

even on noodle night

my mom had Italian pasta

every time a different sauce

my dad never settled for anything other than Pad Thai

level 3 spicy and always made with rice noodles

my brother would eat fresh from scratch ramen every day if he could

and he nearly did.

I ate zoodles or kelp noodles

or both together

drenched in spicy peanut sauce

sweet tangy tomato marinara

or creamy cashew cheese


all of us get what we want

dishes that accommodate our diets

our restrictions

our desires

dishes that are quick and easy

dishes from someone else’s local farm

to a disposable container

and eventually our dinner table

along-side the only home-prepared dish my family has mastered

the salad

complete the little gems grown on our porch

ripe cherry tomatoes

tender romaine lettuce

crunchy rainbow chard

aromatic herbs of every kind

everyone of them

alive and thriving

six stories above the earth


now that I am older and living in a different city away from home

I know that keeping track of where my food comes from is not always easy

I have settled for to-go food that may not be locally sourced

meals on the go

and snacks plucked from the shelves of the supermarket

rather than my own pots and garden beds


I never learned how to cook


but if you ask me what I miss most about home

about what always brings a smile to my face

I always think of family dinners in the condo

using silverware from my own home

to eat food from Styrofoam boxes

and plastic containers

from the kitchens of our favorite restaurants

vegetable hash from Daily Ration

shrimp curry from Bitter Alibi

spicy peanut kelp noodles from Southern Squeeze

creamy cheesy vegan zoodles from Cashew

avocado ceviche from State of Confusion

the time-tested dishes I have grown to love

from the chefs I have never meet

using the fresh ingredients

from the farmers I have always known

they remain steady

a part of my family

regardless of the creator


I chose to imitate “where food comes from”, one of the Saporoso poems by Jennifer Barone. I chose this piece because it almost spoke to me in that I felt as though my experience with food was exactly opposite the author’s in some respects, and closely aligned in others. It was striking for me to compare and contrast those experiences. I was able to witness the culture of the author, who presents a situation in which she watches her Italian relatives cook family recipes: all Italian, all passed down, all home-made. And yet, she herself never really learns how to cook from her family, or really bothers to learn where her food comes from while she is younger and living in New York. Then, when she grows older, she gets the chance to see food in its core, raw form: figs from the tree, fresh tomatoes from the vine, peppers, eggplants, herbs, etc. all from the garden. She was first able to gain these experiences in her neighbor’s tiny make-shift garden. As she journeys through life, and explores the world, she apparently learns the joy of knowing where her food comes from, and therefore develops the skill of cooking, and learns the recipes of her family. Italian heritage and home-cooked meals are part of her cultural DNA. She makes this clear through her rhetoric, for she states, “a meal has never been just a meal / it was our past time / the reason to get together” as well as “everyone would call to ask / so what are you making? / a month before they would arrive.” Through her diction, she illustrates the importance of meal-time in her family. Through mirroring her style, I realized the contrasts and similarities between her culture and my own.

I come from a very different background in terms of food, and yet I somehow relate to the writer. My mother cooked when I was young; she made home-made lasagna, shepard’s pie, beef stroganoff, hand-rolled sushi, you name it. She never made these meals based on some family recipe, as she never had any. This is in great contrast to the culture of the writer, who was apparently accustomed to family recipes. My mother’s mother is an American woman, who was raised in the 50’s, a decade marked as the age of consumerism and convenience. The convenience meals of the era were seen as the wave of the future. They were trendy, and for a single-mother who never worked less than three jobs in an attempt to make ends meet, they were essential. My mom never formed an attachment to food, because she couldn’t. Most of the time, it was not around. She never learned how to cook because quite literally, there was nothing to cook, and there wasn’t any time—she started babysitting at 12, and never stopped working.             When my brother and I came around decades later, and my mother finally had the opportunity to cook, she did, and she did it well, from what I am told. She bought cook-books and taught herself. She vowed that my brother and I would not grow up like she did—we would have home-cooked meals, together, as a family, every night. By the time I entered middle school, however, and my mom was driving us to different schools and different sports practices. Eating together, became a “most of the time” thing rather than a daily routine. My mother did not give up home cooking, but we apparently ate a lot of crock-pot meals, so that she did not have to allocate so much time to the process. At the same time, we lived deep in the country in Tennessee, so we also grew our own food at the time. We mostly had vegetables and fruits, but gardening was something my dad passed down to me. He always told me that there was nothing in this world that would allow for a stronger connection to food. He always encouraged me to be more in-tune with where my food comes from, for it is beneficial to both the mind and the body of the grower/harvester. Furthermore, growing food locally allowed us the opportunity to reap the full chemical benefits. With a personal garden, we were able to decide what chemicals and fertilizers went into our gardens, and therefore we could eat organic produce, without the harsh price-tag. My mom used these items in the food that she prepared, and we snacked on the others she could not use. Just as I entered high school, however, we moved to the city. At this point, time was limited, which was a major reason for the move. I had soccer and cheer practice, my brother had crew and soccer with a different league and we couldn’t afford to drive nearly an hour from our quaint country home to school, or sports leagues. My poor mother tried to cook, but with limited space, limited time, and a number of newly discovered food intolerances/ preferences, it became more and more difficult.

After the move, we began living in a condo in the middle of downtown Chattanooga, so we had more restaurants within a 2-mile radius than I could even begin to count. The food in my city is characteristically fresh, local, and “transparent”, meaning almost every ingredient in every dish served at the local restaurants can be traced back to their farm of origin: Crabtree Farms produce, White Oak Valley Beef, Fall Creek Farm’s goat milk and heirloom vegetables, Cloudcrest and Sequatchie Cove Farms’ dairy and eggs, 2 Angels’ mushrooms, Springer Mountain Farm’s chicken, Pickett’s Ranch trout, wild boar. Dietary restrictions, a lack of time and an abundance of fresh, local, prepared food just moments away lead to a shift in my family’s dining patterns. We instead opted for to-go food for almost every meal. We still make our own salads from the produce we grow on our porch, and we eat together most of the time when we can, but all of that aside I do not remember ever watching my mom cook. I vaguely remember the crock-pot meals, but all of that happened when I was too young to really remember. For the most part, since I turned 14, I learned how to prepare food, (throw together a salad, chop veggies for a snack, etc.) and I learned how to place a to-go order like a professional, but I never did learn how to cook.

Nonetheless, I never lost my passion for growing food, and ensuring I knew exactly where my food comes from. Yes, there was a time in my life when I indulged in Chick-fil-a, and sure I still have no clue where those chickens were from and how they lived. But for the most part, I know where my food comes from. I have visited the farms that I mentioned above, and more. I have met the farmers at the markets. I have held the fish. I have picked the veggies. I have volunteered my time to pull the delicious fruits directly from the branches. This is something I will never sacrifice, for harvesting my own food, and being mindful of its history, is more a part of my cultural DNA than knowing my own history. I do have the power to know where my food comes from. This is something that is, and always will be, integral to my eating patterns. Through writing this piece, I became more comfortable with this concept. My culture, the American culture, places nearly no importance on meal-time, and food awareness. The farming culture, my culture that comes from my dad’s side, makes it so that I am much more conscious about my eating patterns than most, despite the fact that I do not cook. I think about my food. I never randomly eat. I eat with full awareness of how that food nourishes my body, and how those ingredients came into existence. Writing about my eating patterns has made me realize that I do, in fact, have a unique food culture, despite never really cooking.


Journal #4: Under the Basque Sun by Simón A. Crespo Pérez

Journal #4: Under the Basque Sun by Simón A. Crespo Pérez

In the summer of 2018, I had the once in a lifetime opportunity to visit Spain with my extended family. It was a beautiful trip which center and main point was food; consequently, we went to different cities in different regions: Barcelona, Córdoba, Granada, Madrid, San Sebastián, Sevilla, and Toledo. Among the various destinations, food was especially extraordinary in San Sebastián, which is one of the major cities of the Basque Autonomous Region in Northern Spain.

According to our tour guide in San Sebastián, Basque cuisine is among the best in the world for two main reasons: its taste and its meaning. Regarding its taste, he explained to us that the city has one of the highest numbers of Michelin Stars per square meter, and that they have their own style of tapas, known as pintxos, for 1 to 3 euros each. Regarding its meaning, he explained to us that for them, eating is a way of socializing. Meeting with family or friends practically always means eating in a restaurant or cooking at home.

Pintxos consist of small slices of bread upon which an ingredient or a mixture of ingredients is placed and fit together with a toothpick, which gives the food its name (pintxo means toothpick). I will proceed to describe the ingredients of the very best pintxos I tried, which always go with a bread and toothpick.

Gilda: it is considered the first pintxo in the city, and it is made of olives, anchovies, and pickled pimento.

Txuleta: it is made of grilled steak made from aged, grass-fed beef.

Kokotxas: it is made of hake cheeks with pil-pil sauce (salt cod, garlic, and olive oil).

Foie Gras: it is made of fattened duck liver and marmalade.

Spider Crab: it is made of crab with tart (flour, butter, and sugar).

For this journal entry, I have decided to imitate Winter Kitchen Notes – Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes. The reason I chose that piece was because it mixes beautifully the first part, which describes the author’s emotions, with the second part, which are delicious food recipes. Principally, I learned, about the Tuscan culture and about my own culture, the importance of geography in the creation of food. Something that Tuscan, Basque, and Ecuadorean cuisine have in common is their dependence of their landscape, especially since they both are heavily inspired by both their access to water and access to vast land. Even though they are three completely different countries, they both have fish presented in different ways: in San Sebastián, they have kokotxas pintxos; in Italy, they have pici with quick-tomato-cream sauce (taken from Mayes’ text); and, in Ecuador, we have our classic fried fish. The style is completely different, but the key ingredient is the same.

I would say there is cultural DNA present in both the piece I read and the one I created because there are clear examples of the social characteristics of each group. In the Mayes’ reading, we can see the ingredients which are based on geography and the importance of order (antipasti, primi piatti, secondi piatti, contorni, and dolce). In my piece, we can also see the ingredients which are based on geography and the importance of Basque cuisine in differentiating their tapas from the rest of Spain. After all, they take their autonomy very importantly. In these little details, for those who analyze carefully, cultural DNA is present.

Vibrantly Spicy Noodles (Rohan Khatu)

Green are the wide bay leaves,

carefully selected from our grandmother’s garden, sent straight to the kitchen.

Fresh soft dough comes from the bustling market,

skilfully hand-mixed with the colourful spices and seasoned leaves.

They are delicately played into the tawa,

our mouths water at the aroma of traditional Indian spices.

The thick red liquid stains the boring coloured pot,

the finely cut vegetables marinate in the bubbling curry.

Sipping the wooden spoon, my eyes beam with excitement

I urge my cousin to taste, shoving the spoon in his mouth.

I wanted to pass the ladle on to everyone in the village,

so that everyone could listen to the symphony of flavours in my mouth.

I was well aware my family would chow down the dish if I left it out of my sight,

I gathered the silverware and bowls, and placed it perfectly on the table top.

In the midst of all the frenzy,

the richness of the creamy masala comforted our souls.

We were thousands of miles away from our village,

My family was closer than ever.

None of our worries were important right now,

As we softly chewed our grandmother’s original recipe in the company of our own.

The poem I chose to imitate was “Cold Noodle Soup with Sephora Leaves” by Du Fu. I found this poem particularly important as it resonates well with the emotions that I feel when I eat a dish made by my grandmother, and the warm comforting feeling of enjoying her hard work and love. One line in the poem that really stood out to me was, “I eat more, worrying that it will soon be gone”. Whenever my family gathers together for a big meal, I always have to battle it out with my cousins over the chicken kabobs, rajma, and spicy noodles, as these dishes are made specifically by my grandmother and are undoubtedly the best dishes I have ever eaten. The joy and happiness painted across my grandmother’s face as she watches us duel over who gets the biggest and juiciest portion is one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. While reading this poem, I enjoyed Du Fu’s use of both the objective (i.e. specific ingredients and locations), as well as the subjective (i.e. emotions and feelings) to neatly bring the whole recipe and noodle to life.

Throughout the poem, Du Fu emphasized and highlighted many important themes of Chinese food that we have discussed in-depth in class. One theme that I noticed was very much prevalent throughout the poem was this notion of balance. Each sentence was meticulously structured with this almost perfect balance of including a small detail followed by an explanation of what people are doing in relation to that small detail. Having lived in Asia (Singapore to be specific) for a majority of my life, I am well aware of the concept of yin and yang, and how important this balance, and harmony is in Chinese culture and society. Each sentence of this poem sheds light on the balance between flavors and aromas, mirroring the harmonious balance of Chinese communities. Furthermore, the importance of community building and sharing an experience with others is emphasized beautifully as Du Fu writes about wanting to share this beautiful dish with other people, regardless of how far away they physically are. Ever since the first class, we have spoken in great detail about how the Chinese view meals as an opportunity for communion and spending quality time with people they love and cherish. I have also learned a great deal about various types of noodles and how they are all perfectly connected and associated with various memories and events. Du Fu writes about eating a fresh refreshing cold noodle soup on a special occasion, and I tried my best to replicate this setting in my poem about an Indian dish my family loves to eat, especially in the comforts of each other’s company.

Each journal entry has given me the opportunity to learn more about my own multi-cultural background, albeit with my roots deep in India. Having grown up in a multi-cultural city, an attended an American international school for the majority of my childhood, I have never fully embraced my Indian culture, however I am fortunate that this class has enabled me to dig deeper into my Indian culture, and learn more about my family history. From reading Du Fu’s poem, and from sitting down and writing from my own unique perspective, I have come to understand that Indian culture very much revolves around family and creativity. When my grandmother was younger, she used to love to cook a lot for her parents, and many of the dishes she is famous for cooking are products of her just messing around in the kitchen, and using her culinary creativity to come up with her own unique twists on basic Indian food like chicken kabobs, paneer tikka masala, and spicy masala noodles. Also, it was not until these past few weeks in class have I truly come to value how close-knit Indian families are, and how much they value being together, regardless if it is for a special occasion or not.

From my observations over the past few weeks in class, and from these journal entries, it is very clear to me that there are a lot of commonalities between Chinese and Indian cultures and societies, especially when it comes to food. Like I mentioned above, one of the most common themes between the Chinese and Indian culture is the notion of community and wanting to share meals with one another. They both value meals and meal-time as an opportunity for family members and loved ones to catch up with each other and talk about what is going on in their lives. The most important aspect of meal time is just spending quality time with one another, focusing on just being present in the moment. This cultural DNA is very evident in most cultures around the world, and is not just specific to the Chinese and Indians. Throughout history, we have seen how glamorous banquets have been arranged for families and friends to get together and engage in important discussion. Another important aspect, which I wrote about in great detail in my last journal entry, as well as in my poem, is the notion of how highly versatile the noodle is. Throughout the course, we have read numerous articles and pieces highlighting various types of noodles. In China, there is quite literally a noodle preparation for every special occasion and celebration, and in Italy, we can clearly see how each region produces their own unique take on pasta, and how Italian pasta has been influenced over the years from neighbouring countries. Noodles can be prepared in an authentically Chinese and Italian way, but can also be prepared in a seemingly new, and unique way, as shown in my poem about my grandmother’s special spicy noodles. Noodles are far more than just a simple, bland, piece of dough. Each noodle dish carries with it memories and stories that have been passed on for generations, and serve as a reminder of the importance of family and friends in our lives.

Unfortunately, I could not find a picture of my grandmother’s spicy noodles, but I found this picture online that best represents her dish:

Picture credit:

“Date? No; Put Pasta on my Plate” — Madison Rousseau’s Journal 4

“Date? No; Put Pasta on my Plate”

I twirl the slender noodles around my fork
Deep red marinara
mixed with spicy herbs
My date talks on
I see his lips moving
but it’s the pasta that I focus on

My fork pierces my plump meatballs
into little chunks
Perfect bite-sized brownish chunks
They are
as I cut
My date asks me what I’m thinking
I mean to say, “nothing”
but “noodles” comes out

He grows upset that I hadn’t listened
He stands and prepares to leave
I panic and spout
“I skipped lunch for you
I exercised for you
I’ve been waiting for you
I’ve dreamt of you”
And just like a dream,
the date fades away
and I can let the words
meant for my pasta
sink into the gravy

I should
run and lie to him
that I listened
all along

But I can’t risk the waiter whisking my pasta away
The urge is strong but my hunger is stronger

I stay and twirl
I eat and think
I think I messed up a date
Just to satiate my palate

I chose pasta over a guy
easily ranking a number

I should have said “Here, have my pasta as a symbol
of my love”
But I reason, that’s
only something
a married couple does

But instead I eat and sip my drink
As I ponder my priorities
The date left me
with a growing cold pasta plate
My hunger subsides
I finished my plate
And then I think,
“It was worth
the date”
And think of my missed lunch,
“And the wait”

The particular poem of Jennifer Barone’s that is my favorite is “You’ve Ruined My Pasta” from her collection of poems in Saporoso. This poem is about a man/woman that grows angry at a person close to them for not cooking his/her dinner al dente, as Italians like to say. The narrator is angry with the loved one and yet, as the poem draws to a close, the narrator slowly realizes that he/she should not have lashed out at his/her loved one and feels regret for not having him/her there because despite the pasta being bad, his/her company would have made it better. Jennifer Barone’s poem is the muse for my own. In my poem, “Date? No; Put Pasta on my Plate,” I try to borrow a bit of the tone from Barone’s poem and add a twist at the end.

Poetry has the power to draw tears, thoughts, and laughs from people. The laughs Barone’s poem drew from me and the kinship to her that I felt are what ultimately drew me to her poem. Her piece does more than just make me laugh; it makes me relate. I share her passion and zest for noodles/pasta. I am so passionate about pasta that I often tell my friends, “The day I choose a guy over pasta is the day I’ll know I love him” because that means my passion for him rivals my passion for pasta, which says a lot. A list of my priorities should illustrate my love for pasta just perfectly: first would be family, and second would be either food/pasta or friends, but those two really war for second place if I’m being honest. I am like a child with ice-cream when I have a plate or bowl of pasta, especially if its lemon alfredo, pesto, cacio pepe, or spaghetti and meatballs—the quadruple threat to my heart. My overwhelming love for pasta is similar to Jennifer Barone’s narrator in that I sometimes make rash decisions based on food. Just as the narrator of her poem makes a fuss over messed up pasta, I too have fallen prey to my blinding love for pasta, forgetting how much more important maintaining relationships is to pasta. That poorly made pasta dish I am frustrated over will pass from my life just as it will pass through my digestive system, but family and friends however are not a fleeting matter. I sometimes think more with my stomach than I do my mind though, so at times I forget that. In my interpretation of Barone’s poem, the narrator lets his/her love for pasta overcome his/her love for the friend or partner. I, sadly and humorously, felt like I was reliving a memory with this poem—that anger and that passion all for pasta, and then that regret on how I behaved. Both Italians and French are widely known for their passion and quick tempers and though I am proud of my ancestry and culture, I unfortunately have both the Italian and French’s quick temper.An Italian and French person’s temper is like a hot flash on a stove—it burns, it sears, and as fast as it appears, it is gone. Combine an Italian and French person’s quick temper with a great love for food and you got a messy situation when a dish doesn’t come out right. Just as the narrator makes the mistake of prizing pasta over people, just as she/he does with his/her friend or partner, I have also made the same mistake. The narrator of Barone’s poem regrets seething at his/her friend or partner by the end of the poem, realizing an epiphany that his/her loved ones matter more than a messed-up pasta dish and they could have made it better by just being there as company. While Barone opted for her narrator to have this grand epiphany, I decided to end my poem on a twist. Rather than my narrator reaching this ultimate enlightenment, she continues to love her pasta and ultimately chooses food over a good-looking guy, ranking an eight on the zero-to-ten scale. Needless to say, my narrator shows some regret as evident with her constant “should have” statements, but she ultimately does not regret finishing her pasta and continues to be happy with the dish, not truly realizing her lesson—that people matter more than food. This twist was not just for comedic value. Another reason was because it was to show that, realistically, people don’t always realize their mistakes. Also, the spaghetti is just so good that she cannot bear to leave it—this really shows the strong pull food can have over people. It is no coincidence that people say food is the way to a man’s heart—it’s also the way to a woman’s heart, and can sometimes captivate it so much that the woman may realize she loves the food better than the man! Ironically, throughout the semester we have learned that pasta serves a social purpose by bringing people together, but in my poem, it tore the woman and the man apart.

Jennifer Barone is an Italian-American that grew up in Brooklyn, New York. Italians might have left Italy for hopes of a better life, as illustrated in Angelina Porcarelli’s Immigrant Story, but one thing they brought with them was pasta. It is hard to get settled and find a job in a foreign country, but pasta provides affordable food in a large quantity, making it the more economical choice as well as giving an Italian some comfort in reminding them of home when in a foreign land. This pasta was then passed down through generations often, hence the creation of Barone’s book which completely revolves around pasta.

Perhaps, partly, why I felt such a kinship with Jennifer Barone is that I, too, am an Italian-American and my family practically lives for pasta. We have a spaghetti and meatball recipe that has traveled through our family for generations since my ancestors moved to the United States, though they did not bring this recipe from Italy, needless to say.

Though DNA is microscopic and invisible to the human eye, some cultural DNA shows itself in Barone’s and my own poems. In stanza six of “You’ve Ruined My Pasta,” for instance, Barone writes, “What would my ancestors say? A tradition of pasta; Cooked with pride; Savored with loved ones; Ignored.” She illustrates how pasta is part of her heritage, being a long carried on tradition and the pride that Italians put into making pasta, just as Chef Locatelli remarked on how Italians put pride in something as routine as cooking in The Art of The Feast: Italy Unpacked. At the end of stanza one in my own poem, “Date? No; Put Pasta on my Plate,” I write “but it’s the pasta I focus on” when talking about the date—my veins are practically noodles because pasta is such a large part of my Italian DNA, making it terribly hard for myself to focus on anything else if pasta’s on the table. The main topic of DNA mainly revolves around genes, but I do think there is such a thing as cultural DNA–culture transferring from generation to generation in a family. Mine and Jennifer Barone’s carry some strong Italian cultural DNA it would seem, despite not being immersed in Italy.


 Works Cited

Barone, Jennifer, and Lam Khong. 2017. Saporoso: Poems of Italian Food & Love. Place of publication not identified: Feather Press.

KakaTonyLa. 2013. BBC – Italy Unpacked: The Art of the Feast. YouTube. YouTube., accessed July 30, 2019. Academy of American Poets., accessed July 29, 2019.

A Holi Day Full of Colours by Alisha Mody

On this holy day filled with gaiety and devotion,

We come to commemorate the enduring love saga of Ras Lila.

Malicious spirits are set to burn in a bonfire amidst merriment,

And riot of pastel colors paint the canvas of the sky.

With love and devotion overpowering evil,

We take up a mango blossoms and sandalwood paste as offerings from god,

And boil thin strands of vermicelli in fragrant sweet yellow milk,

With notes of cardamom and saffron,

Served in clay plots and decorated at the top with cashews and raisins.

As spring begins and the flowers bloom at the spirit of the nation,

The sound of the dholak with the crowds running lets no one rest.

Once trees are painted pink and the color runs out,

The traditional melodies wind down,

And homes are filled with an aroma of ecstasy.

Once the plates have been emptied,

Harmony is achieved in the nation,

As India and god witness the color of true peace.


  1. What piece did you choose to imitate?

I chose a piece that I found very intriguing, which was “Dong Huang Taiyi (Grand Unity, Spirit of the Eastern Sky)” written by Chu Ci by Qu Yuan. 

  1. Why did you choose this piece?

Coming from a religious Hindu family, I felt rather sentimental while reading “Dong Huang Taiyi” as this poem primarily revolves around an auspicious day. He describes the event in spiritual terms by using the food and singing served on this day. The scene painted through the poet’s words reminded me of the value that many dishes from India hold, which is that of spirituality. In India, many of the foods served on holidays serve as a link between the people eating it and god. Singing in “Dong Huang Taiyi” is also used to illustrate spirituality, just as how many of the ballads we sing on religious holidays in India are odes to the gods and serve to link the community. The title of the poem “Grand Unity, Spirit of the Eastern Sky” inspired me to choose a popular ancient festival in India called ‘Holi’.

Holi is known as the festival of colors or love, and marks the beginning of spring. It is celebrated to commemorate the love saga of radha and krishna, which are two gods of hinduism. The night before Holi, people gather and perform religious ceremonies in front of a bonfire where they pray to destroy and burn their internal evil the same way that Holika, sister of the demon king Hiranyakashipu, was killed in the fire. The next morning is Holi, and people throw and drench each other in colorful powders. Everyone participates in this festival, and everyone, including the rich and poor, finally mix during this celebration of love. Many groups carry drums, known as dholaks, and other musical instruments as they go from place to place singing and dancing. The spiritual day is also filled with ‘seasonal delicacies’ like those we read about in Chinese culture in the reading “Food and Drink Traditions” in Chinese Food by Liu Junru. The dish mentioned in my poem is called Kheer (photo attached below), which is a particular ‘seasonal delicacy’ that is eaten on this auspicious day. 

  1. What did you learn about the culture of the original author through imitating his or her style?

    Through “Dong Huang Taiyi”, it is evident that the Chinese link their food to the spiritual world, similar to practices in India. One line that really spoke to me was, “Take up the fragrant flower offerings, the meats cooked in melilotus, served on orchid mats, And libations of cinnamon wine and pepper sauces!” What I understand here is that food offerings and songs are used to please the holy spirits and deities, and are seen as ‘seasonal delicacies’. We studied this idea of ‘seasonal delicacy’ in class and particularly read about in “Food and Drink Traditions” in Chinese Food by Liu Junru, which demonstrated how by eating zongzi during the dragon festival you are in essence celebrating not only the life of Qi yuan but the loyalty and spirit that Chinese people take large pride in as a community. These actions and ‘seasonal delicacies’ really show how culture and traditions are deeply embedded into Chinese festivals, and that food surpasses its normal connotation of nutrition and extends to a symbolic spiritual meaning in China.

  2. What did you learn about your own culture while writing?

When researching about my own culture while writing this Journal Entry, I found that there are several ways the noodle, namely the vermicelli noodle, plays a role in popular dishes that are synonymous with certain auspicious festivals. I chose Holi, as I knew Kheer was a popular noodle-based dessert that is served during the festival. However, upon further research I was very surprised to find all the other roles the noodle plays in our Indian dishes! I never even noticed that the vermicelli noodle had such a big presence in our Indian spiritual dishes, and always thought of it to be more of a Southeast Asian staple. This peaked my curiosity, and I was further curious to learn about other festivals in India that have similar noodle-based dishes accompanying them. I found out that at Diwali, which is known as the Festival of Light, kheer is a popular dish that is also served then, in addition to dish called falooda. Falooda (shown below) is a cold dessert made by mixing rose syrup, vermicelli noodles, and sabja seeds (aka basil seeds) in sweet milk, and is often served with ice cream. Not only did I learn how certain food items have become synonymous with certain festivals and auspicious occasions, but I also learned that many of these ‘seasonal delicacies’ incorporate the noodle!

  1. Is there cultural DNA embedded in the piece you read and in your piece? How does this DNA manifest in the texts?

I have noticed a lot of similarities between auspicious festivals in China and India, primarily the methods of celebration. In India, festivals are loud, vibrant, and full of energy. This emotion and feeling is resonated in the poem as the author writes, “Flourish the drumsticks, beat the drum!…The singing begins softly to a slow solemn measure, malicious spirits are set ablaze in a bonfire”. This energy and singing inspired me to illustrate how music also plays a major role in Indian spirituality as depicted when I wrote “As spring begins and the flowers bloom at the spirit of the nation, The sound of the dholak with the crowds running lets no one rest.” Also, the concept of food and the preparation of food is very similar in both Indian and Chinese culture and society. Food is very important in many auspicious festivals, and the type of delicacy prepared is synonymous with the type of auspicious occasion. This can be seen when the poet writes, “Take up the fragrant flower offerings, The meats cooked in melilotus, served on orchid mats, And libations of cinnamon wine and pepper sauces”. I took this idea of offerings from god and ‘seasonal delicacies’ and translated it “With love and devotion overpowering evil, We take up a mango blossoms and sandalwood paste as offerings from god, And boil thin strands of vermicelli in fragrant sweet yellow milk, With notes of cardamom and saffron, Served in clay plots and decorated at the top with cashews and raisins.” Furthermore, the idea of pleasing the gods and harmony that is mentioned in the poem reminded me of the idea of harmonizing flavors from the “Food and Drink Traditions” in Chinese Food by Liu Junru. As mentioned in the reading, if food is harmonized, it is guaranteed that the bodies of the people will also be balanced and harmonized. The outcome of this is whole communities living in harmony as well, which is a very Daoist approach. I believe Indians also follow this approach in their foods and I translated this concept in my poem as “Once the plates have been emptied, Harmony is achieved in the nation, As India and god witness the color of true peace.

Works Cited- Images:

crawfish and pasta-cydni holloway

Crawfish and Pasta


Pasta sits upon the shelf

Crawfish crawls on the ocean floor

One has a shelf life

One lives a shelled life

And Yet

Both foods bring enormous

Amounts of Joy

Pasta and Crawfish represent something

They stand for something bigger

Pasta is Italy

Crawfish is Acadia

how is it so?

Pasta is kneaded and rolled

Crawfish crawls until it is caught

And then, both are boiled

One is inanimate

Lifeless, motionless, inert

The other is animate

Conscious, breathing, alive

And yet

Both foods bring enormous

Amounts of Joy

Pasta is the food of Italy

The people of Sicily, Tuscany, Calabria, and Umbria

Crawfish is the food of Louisiana

New Orleans, Plaquemines, and Bogalusa

Italian pasta evolved from Chinese noodles

Crawfish evolved from its biological predecessor

Crawfish is to Louisiana


Pasta is to Italy

Paranephrops planifrons







Pasta traveled from China to Italy

From Merchants who exchanged cultures

Centuries ago

Crawfish traveled from

The different crevices of the ocean

Both embody





I chose to imitate “the poetry of pasta” in my poem. I chose this piece because I enjoyed the way the poet described how pasta was the result of cultural exchanges by visualizing the journey that pasta made. When the poet wrote that pasta “swam all the way across the Atlantic to America,” he or she personified pasta and brought the food to life. This writing technique is effective because it helps readers connect to pasta on a deeper level. By giving pasta human qualities, readers are able to appreciate, be compassionate towards, and form relationships with the food. I also enjoyed how the poet was able to mention numerous types of pasta towards the end of this poem. I thought this was the perfect poem to imitate, because I would be able to compare and contrast pasta and crawfish. Like pasta, crawfish is delicacy in Louisiana. Families gather during crawfish season for what is known as “crawfish boils”. The men of the family usually buy live crawfish by the pound and boil the crawfish with spices, lemons, oranges, celery, onion, garlic, potatoes, corn, and sausage. The process of boiling crawfish is almost as complex and hectic as a kitchen full of Italian Nonas making Sunday dinner. The bright red crawfish are washed off with a water hose to get the extra mud off of the “mudbugs”. This usually draws the attention of the kids, who stop their games of hide and seek, to see if they can pick a live crawfish up without getting pinched. As the crawfish cook, tables and chairs are set up, and old newspapers are placed on top of the tables to absorb the juice from the boiled crawfish. Teenagers are usually in charge of filling coolers with ice and sodas, or “cold drinks,” as they are called in Louisiana. Before I Let Go by Maze plays in the background as the hot crawfish and fixings are poured on the newspaper. As the steam rises and then disappears, the smiles on faces become evident. Conversations begin to die off as everyone picks up a crawfish, takes the head off and sucks it, peels the tail, and pinches the meat. Like the chefs that are described in the Rhapsody of Pasta, the men responsible for boiling crawfish are quickly put back to work as “additional requests suddenly arrive” (Xi 455). The chefs hurry back to the boiling pot, making sure to be receptive to criticism by making the next batches of crawfish spicier or putting more corn in the batch.  This scene is common across Louisiana, and speaks to the power of Crawfish.

I learned that pasta is a living part of Italian culture. I always thought that pasta was an inanimate object that has stayed the same for many years. The poet made it apparent to me that pasta is ever evolving and it runs through the veins of Italian people. The poet describes pasta as being “strong”, and in many ways, it is. Pasta, like the Italian people, is strong. For a food to survive for centuries and be able to retain its integrity, it has to be strong. Through my writing, I was able to realize that crawfish is no less important than pasta. Pasta is eaten year-round by people all over the world- far more than crawfish. In contrast, Crawfish is a seasonal food that is eaten in very specific parts of the world.  Because of that, I felt that crawfish was less significant than noodles. Through writing this poem, I was able to realize that both foods make people feel a warmth that travels through their bodies and makes their hearts smile. Eating both crawfish and pasta symbolizes ritual and tradition. Crawfish boils have been a tradition in Louisiana for multiples decades, and methods of preparation have changed very little. Crawfish boils happen on special occasions like Easter Sunday and during family reunions. My grandmother ate crawfish on Easter Sunday. My mother ate crawfish on Easter Sunday. I eat crawfish on Easter Sunday, and my children will do the same. While “pasta may have a much older pedigree, going back hundred-if not thousands-of years,” (Demetri) it is no more important of significant than the less recognized food traditions in Louisiana.

The piece that I read has cultural DNA throughout. The poet strategically used Italian words throughout the poem to embody Italian culture more effectively. The poet also mentioned many types of pasta and their English translation. For example, the poet mentioned vermicelli, which translates to “little worms.” By doing this, the reader is able to develop a deeper understanding of Italian culture through noodles. I attempted to embed cultural DNA in my project by mentioning cities in Louisiana, such as Baton Rouge, Shreveport, Opelousas, Plaquemines, and Bogalusa.  Most of these cities are not well known, but crawfish is extremely important in these cultures. Many of these cultures thrive on the crawfish and seafood industries and make most of their money from crawfish. I thought it was important to mention these cities, because they are an integral part of my relationship with crawfish.

Overall, my poem attempted to compare and contrast crawfish and pasta. Through this project I was able to learn that both crawfish and pasta hold a special place in people’s heart, and symbolize life, love, and family, tradition, memory, and ritual.

I due cuscini by Thomas Nguyen

For Jen Lu


this morning

I was wondering

How much of our

Expressions of love

Revolve around food

Two sitting pillows

And a desk between us


For you

I will show you new things

We argue with our chopsticks

Both wanting the other

To quickly get the first bite

I say, no, try first

I’ll feed you a piece

Or I’ll eat the rest of it


Over a bowl of fried rice

I suggested

We eat it with our forks

It tasted much better

I licked soy sauce

Off the prongs


Last night we ordered

Chocolate tiramisu cake

After Chinese food

I moved jokingly

For you to lick the wrapper

Its crumbs waiting for us

We watched both sides

And sneak our last licks


You order for me

In broken Vietnamese

To surprise me with a dish

And pretend not to notice me

Fumbling with my

Fork over noodles

I refused to use chopsticks

Even though it would be easier

I like to entertain you

As noodles plummet to the floor


You ask me to tell you a story

I asked to hear one of yours

We tried hard to speak and listen

Over the loudness of chatter

and parents calling to ask

if we were alright or not


Of course we are


We are connecting and eating

We are happy


I steal a flower

From a bouquet in the hall

And bring it back to you

You open all its petals

You’re in my arms now

When we are at home


This is why I love you


  1. What piece did you choose to imitate?

Jennifer Barone’s “Le due sedie” in Saporoso

  1. Why did you choose this piece?

The Italian title drew my attention at first, but after translating it into English, the title fascinated me even more. I wondered why the poet would pick such an odd title of “The two chairs” in a collection of poems about pasta, but after reading it, I began to realize the true meaning of the poem.

When reading the poem, I related to the poet’s relationship with her boyfriend to my own relationship with my girlfriend. When the two shared a meal of noodles, I thought of times when I had shared a meal with my girlfriend too. It was a way for them to bond as a couple, and the further I read into the poem, the more I saw a part of myself with my own girlfriend too.

  1. What did you learn about the culture of the original author through imitating his or her style?

The poet references the two chairs as a reference of her and her boyfriend’s usual “displays of affection” that commonly occur while sharing a meal together. Her reflection highlights the small moments during the meal that reinforces her love for her boyfriend. In her culture, love is shown through gestures and seemingly unimportant moments. For instance, despite the poet not being able to use chopsticks proficiently, she continues to use them to eat her noodles not only to entertain her boyfriend, but also to show that she cares about his Vietnamese culture to try his eating customs. Her culture also appreciates the time spent when sharing a meal with a person. Even though the poet and her boyfriend did not have the most standard meal (“argue with our forks,” “lick the plate,” and “noodles dribble down my chin”), she is still incredibly grateful of the meal and him when she declares that “we are happy” and “this is why I love you.”

  1. What did you learn about your own culture while writing?

When reading this poem, it resonated with me more than usual because I had also shared similar thoughts with the poet. I had realized that my own culture emphasizes sharing meals together as a bonding experience. Whenever I am at home, I would always share a meal with my parents and sister as a way to reconnect with them. I would love the little moments such as my dad cracking a clever joke or my sister struggling to eat her dribbling noodles like the poet. Whenever I am away from home, I would also share a meal with my girlfriend during our free time as a way to reconnect with her. Similar to the poet, our little interactions with food warm my heart. She constantly amuses me with her desperate struggling with chopsticks, feeding me a tasty bite from her food, and smiling brightly with a quick and cute nod to indicate that the food is indeed delicious. These small moments during my meals, despite being seemingly insignificant, make me love my family and girlfriend even more. In my culture, when we share our food with someone we love, we can be fully comfortable and vulnerable with the other person. It reminds us of how special we are as individuals, and ultimately, how much we love each other when together.

  1. Is there cultural DNA embedded in the piece you read and in your piece? How does this DNA manifest in the texts?

There are multitudes of cultural DNA in the original poem indicated by the food from different cultures she eats. The poet is aware of going against Western customs by suggesting that she and her boyfriend eat the pasta with her bare hands. She also eats Japanese food and Vietnamese food that her boyfriend orders for them. Her struggle with chopsticks shows her appreciation of her boyfriend’s Vietnamese culture.

In my piece, I also show the cultural DNA of me and my girlfriend. We sit on pillows on a low desk to eat as sometimes done in our culture. We “argue with chopsticks” rather than “with forks” as in the original to reflect our preference for chopsticks when eating. For our meal, we also eat Chinese food and Italian tiramisu. Most importantly, our “parents calling to ask” shows our continuing connection to our family as they check on the well-being of me and my girlfriend. Just as having meals with my family connects me with them, having meals with my girlfriend connects me with her even more, makes us happy, and reminds me of why I love her.

Alex Shen Journal #4

The bowl of noodles engraved in my soul


Noodles of Suzhou, please don’t seize to shine in my heart!

All the wanderers have come back to your bosom, and all the ingredients are ready to serve.

Fresh flour made of wheat mixed with egg and water;

Fish, chicken, pig bones and beef stewed thoroughly to make the soup, with a touch of black peppers to better the seasoning;

A table spoon of Shaoxin wine, with Chinese five spices that enrich the flavor;

Bamboo shoots, fried fish, pan fried eel, pork cutlet; all the toppings that goes upon the thin and long noodles, with a sprinkle of green onions.

Noodles with hot Biluochun tea, cold green bean soup, and sweet and sour plum juice that make my summer a dream come true.


1.I chose The Summons of the Soul from Chu Ci by Qu Yuan.

2.The title, summons of the soul, and the content shows that it is a poet that reflects the writer thinking about food of his hometown, which reminds me of my own experience when I am studying abroad.

3.Through reading and imitating this piece, I learned that Qu Yuan is from a place with rich produce of agriculture. His hometown must be rich and that people don’t really worry about food. Through his poet, it’s obvious that people of his hometown are considering about the beauty and that only happens when food is plenty. Also, I think people of Qu Yuan’s hometown must have lived a peaceful life before, but is now experiencing trouble.

4.Through my own writing, I now have a better understanding of the noodle tradition of Suzhou, and the whole process of making it. It becomes more obvious that the noodles mean much more than a dish to the people of Suzhou, but a bond that keeps the people close to our deepest food culture. In the hot summer days, we like to have a bowl of noodles for breakfast, along with sweet and sour plum juice to cool us down. Noodles came to Suzhou after the economic center of Chine moved to the south east, so this dish being so popular now is also a sign of the prosperity of Suzhou. People of my city don’t have such a rapid life pace like that of Shanghai or Beijing, and they have time to enjoy the noodles in the morning.

5.I think in the piece that I imitated shows the deepest love from Qu Yuan to his home, and the love is expressed through food. It feels like that his hometown is no longer what it was like in the poetry, but he has the strongest belief that things will be just like before, and his strong faith moves me with his expression of the food of his hometown. As for my piece, my DNA is that no matter how tough life becomes, or how far away I am from my hometown, the food of my hometown will calm me down and give me hope. Through food, my family and my hometown give me the strength I need to overcome any barrier. My love for noodles of Suzhou is in my soul, and the hope and strength is in my DNA, to make me stronger and be ready for all the challenges.

Dan Dan Noodles Creative Piece- Francesca Cabada

White is the thinly sifted flour,

water is then poured little by little in the bowl.

The flour, egg, salt, and water are combined,

fresh dough comes from the stirring of our hands.

From the dough ball a sharp dry knife quickly cuts,

Chinese homemade noodles ready to boil.

Greens of the choy sum peak through the pale noodles,

bathed in the red pepper chili oil.

Slurped through my puckered lips,

the heat grazing and greeting my taste buds.

The warmth of the noodle lighting,

a fire within me to pass along the message.

I am afraid to venture on only to be stopped,

but the need still persists.

A warming gift for the soul,

wrapped in gold and bronze pork bits.

On an iron throne she too,

awaits the flavors of the dan dan noodles.

I chose to imitate the Cold Noodle Soup with Sophora Leaves by Du Fu (712-770). I chose this piece in particular because it was written so beautifully. Although I have never tried cold noodle soup, I was able to visualize the flavors of this dish. I could relate it to a similar experience of me eating other noodles in a fire Ramen shop in Kyoto, Japan. The noodles were actually spicy and extremely hot because they are cooked using fire but the depiction of the green leaves, vegetables, and temperature/textures of the noodles in the poem took me back to my experience in Kyoto.

From the reading I was able to understand the deep-rooted history of the noodle in China. I can see that as early as the 700s AD the noodle has been enjoyed by many people. Moreover, being that there was a method to preparing cold noodle soup indicates that the tradition of eating noodles was already so advanced that there were many variations of preparation at such an early time period. The authors metaphors described the noodle dish as something elegant and honorable. Such as when Du Fu wrote that the noodles were “offer[ed] … like pearls” signifying that there is great pride in the China’s history with the permeation and consumption of the noodle.

While writing this peace I learned that my family too gives meaning to the dishes they make. Peru has a very large culinary scene and many of the people pride themselves in the beauty that the dishes carry. For me the poem highlighted that the noodle was more than just a meal of nourishment but actually a meal that fits any occasion, deserves to be shared, and should withstand the test of time. Similarly, in my cultural heritage food is not thought of as just a means of nourishment but they all carry their own messages. A hot noodle soup in the winter or when I am sick, is for warming and healing the body. A large plate of tallarines verdes (pesto like pasta) after an argument with my mother, is to remind me that I am loved and that she is sorry. While writing I was reminded of the impact food could have beyond just daily physical needs.

The cultural DNA embedded in the text is the notion that the noodle can be shared by all people from all over regardless of status. The poem describes this eagerness of showing off the noodles and that even thousands of miles away in “Cold Dew Palace” the ruler is also in need of the noodles. Indicating that this noodle dish was so great that it could transcend between class systems in ancient China, highlighting the importance, the noodle had in uniting people through the common cultural identity that is food.

Young Cho: Early Days of a South Korean Immigrant to the United States

As a first-generation South Korean immigrant to the United States, I was constantly made aware of my heritage. My family was originally from the South Gyeongsang Province of South Korea, born and raised in farming communities near the cities of Gimhae and Busan. My family, consisting of me, my mom, my dad, and my little brother, initially arrived in Athens, Georgia, where my dad had gotten a position to work as a chemist for the University of Georgia.

My family had to leave most of our beloved relatives when we left, as we had little to no connections within the United States.  My dad, a chemist, received his masters from the prominent Seoul University, the highest ranking college in South Korea. According to my mom, after graduation, my dad had been offered high positions in many Korean pharmacies, but had turned them all down when he was accepted to work in the United States. Whether it was the allure of working in one of the most economically prosperous countries in the world or just wanting to experience life in a new country, in the year 2004, when I was just five years old, my family packed our bags and left the land of my birth into unfamiliar territory.

When we arrived at our apartment in Athens, Georgia, like many minority groups immigrating to the United States, my parents deemed it a priority to keep me and my little brother tethered to South Korean culture. My mom, a former math tutor, used her teaching skills to teach me and my little brother not only multiplication tables using handwritten worksheets but also Korean using paperback workbooks she requested my aunt to send us at the start of every month. We also exclusively spoke Korean at home which provided extra practice and kept us fluent.

Additionally, instead of going to an American church on Sundays, we went to a Korean one, which brought with it a sizable South Korean community that helped show us the ropes of being a Korean family in America. Therefore, it was not too long before we knew where the best Korean restaurants to eat at were and the locations of Korean grocery stores that provided goods imported straight from our homeland, from boxes of napa cabbage to Korean snacks such as tteok (rice cakes). Due to this, my mom, who brought my grandmother’s recipes with her, made sure that our family had a Korean-style meal at least once per day, and preferred that we eat at home than eat out. To this day, I deeply associate my childhood with my mother’s cooking, from hearty fermented soybean paste soup (doenjang jjigae) to pan-fried yellow croaker. A majority of the meals I had involved vegetables, such as beans sprouts and spinach, with seafood also being common in dishes such as boiled clam soup. This preference for vegetables stems from my mom growing up on a farm, helping my grandparents tend to the fields with my uncle and two aunts. The preference for fish is due to Busan, the city close to where my grandparents’ farm was located, is the largest port city in South Korea. My mom used to tell me of her visits to Jagalchi market, one of the most famous fish markets in Busan, where my grandmother often demonstrated her skill of haggling to get lower prices for mackerel and hairtail fish.

However, the most memorable dish my mom made was a noodle dish called janchi guksu. Translating to “festivity noodles” in Korean, these noodles were originally eaten in during weddings and 60th birthday parties. In line with tradition we usually had them on birthdays, as the long noodles symbolized long life. Consisting of long, thin wheat flour-based noodles in a pale-yellow anchovy-kelp soup base, topped with carrots, Korean zucchini (hobak), strips of egg, and a little bit of soy sauce, these noodles were and still is my mother’s favorite dish to make. On days my mom decided to make janchi guksu, the air of our small apartment would become humid and fill up with a salty, fishy smell. My mom made sure to boil enough noodles so everyone had at least a second helping, which was almost always the case. The distinctive umami flavor that came from the anchovy-kelp broth as well as the salty kick from the soy sauce complemented the plain noodles well, leaving me with a warm, cozy feeling and wanting more until I was, as Koreans say, “ready to roll around.”

Today, South Korea is well-known for being a prominent distributor of electronics with companies such as Samsung and LG, as well as car brands such as KIA and Hyundai. Also, thanks to the surge in popularity of Kpop (Korean pop) music worldwide, South Korean culture has reached new levels of global awareness. Although modern Korea is widely known for electronics and popular culture, when I think of South Korea and my relatives, I cannot help but think about green mountaintops too many to count, my grandpa toiling away in the fields, and my grandma haggling for a decent price on mackerel in the local seafood markets.

As of now, it is thanks to my parents who kept me tied to my culture that shaped who I am. Through associating with Korean communities early on, my parents were able to preserve south Korean culture in a country over 7,000 miles away. I am the first in my family to attain citizenship to the United States, and also the first to attend college outside of Korea. However, even though my nationality has changed, deep inside my roots are still embedded in the mountainous rolling hills of Korea. After all, I do have the blood of two proud South Koreans running through my veins.

My goal now is to lead a life that embraces both my identity as an American and as a South Korean. I believe that living in a nation called the “melting pot” of cultures requires those with dual identities, especially immigrants, to pass on important aspects of their culture to future generations. As an American born in South Korea, I hope to one day teach my children and even grandchildren how to speak Korean, eat Korean foods, and most of all, come to love to identify as Korean-Americans, just as my parents have made me.


The piece I chose to imitate was Dr. Christine Ristaino’s “Immigrant Story.” Given that I recently became a citizen of the United States this past May, this story particularly inspired me to look back into my early days in America to see how Korean culture has become an integral part of me for all these years. While my story is centered on my life with my two parents and my little brother, as we were the first in our family line to have settled down in a foreign country, Dr. Ristaino’s story of the struggles and hard work her great-grandparents had to go through as immigrants remined me of how hard my parents, especially my mother, worked to preserve Korean culture for me and my brother.

Through Dr. Ristaino’s piece, I learned that economic conditions were a major cultural influence on the people of Campania. The second and third paragraphs of the piece describe how Dr. Ristaino’s family had a “marquis story,” a story passed down the family line that claimed that Dr. Ristaino’s family was originally “direct descendants” of an Italian marquis, or nobility, that gave away every dollar they had to eventually become poor. She states that every Italian immigrant family supposedly had a story of this nature. This legend allows the family to be prideful of their lineage while at the same time justify the poor conditions in Campania. As shown in class discussions and the group projects, southern regions of Italy like Campania and Calabria were poorer compared to the rest of the peninsula, and as a result, many immigrants left the region, such as Dr. Ristaino’s ancestors. Their cuisine also reflected this, as people in the poor regions of Calabria had noodles that were simple and usually had barely any sauce. Similarly, one example Dr. Ristaino gives indicating her ancestor’s poor status was her great-grandfather Carlo Ristaino working as a stone and cement mason building the Hoover Dam for Franklin D. Roosevelt’s WPA program, which was aimed at giving poor Americans a means to work.

Through writing my version of the “Immigrant Story,” I learned that my culture was influenced by geographical location. For instance, I realized that my mother’s insistence on using mostly vegetables and seafood stemmed from her familiarity with crops as the daughter of two farmers, and the preference of seafood most likely stems from the fact that Busan is the largest port city in South Korea, with Jagalchi market in downtown Busan being a prominent seafood market in Korea. In writing about janchi guksu noodles specifically, I learned that Korean culture shares values with other cultures as well, namely China. The noodles of janchi guksu representing long life and being eaten on 60th birthdays are strikingly similar to that of the long-life noodles of China, as they also represent long life (specifically through length) and was shown to be served at the narrator’s grandfather’s 60th birthday in Terry Durack’s short story, “Long-Life Noodles” in his book, Noodles. This shows that cultural values can be exchanged and incorporated into different cultures. Given the close proximity of China and Korea, it is likely that this idea stemmed from one country and, through cross-cultural exchanges such as trade, made its way into the other.

Both Dr. Ristaino’s piece and my piece are embedded with cultural DNA. In Dr. Ristaino’s piece, she constantly refers to the poor conditions of Campania, the region of Italy her family came from, a condition which shaped her ancestor’s cultural values. The poor conditions of the immigrants from Campania can be seen through her great-grandfather Carlo Ristaino working in the WPA program that was part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. The New Deal was specifically aimed at poor Americans and give them a way to gain prosperity during the Great Depression. Also, while great-grandfather Carlo was off working in the WPA, Dr. Ristaino’s great-grandmother Carolina Peppucci raised fifteen children to help work on the farm, an indication of poverty as children are seen as an extra pair of hands rather than needed to be educated. Another indication of the poverty seen in Italian immigrants can be seen in the low literacy rate in the Italian immigrant community of Milford where Dr. Ristaino’s great-grandfather Bernardino Lombardi served as a letter composer and reader. A low literacy rate is often indicative of a poor economy. As described in Juliana Della Croce’s Classic Italian Cookbook, and based on class discussions, there was an “exodus of emigrants” from Campania and other parts of poor southern Italy, as Italians left the peninsula to find better prospects overseas. However, as Dr. Ristaino describes in her story, “most Italians left poverty for more poverty,” referring to the Great Depression (1929-1939)  in the United States that occurred shortly after the mass Italian diaspora during the late 1800s. Therefore, this illiteracy as well as a need for children for farmhands can be attributed to being part of a culture that prioritizes work over education for children to maximize income for the family.

In my piece, cultural DNA manifests through my mom’s efforts in education and her cooking. As a former math tutor, my mom busied herself with teaching us multiplication tables and Korean as soon as we moved to America. This represents South Korean culture placing a high value on education, as unlike the United States, where extracurriculars are just as important, grades make or break one’s acceptance into a good college. This led to an intensive education system, where students are required to take extra tutoring classes late into the night, with even elementary school students returning home from studying past 11 PM. Additionally, the food my mom prepared for the family consisted of included mostly vegetables and fish. The use of vegetables reflected her coming from a farming culture and constantly helping my grandfather and grandmother out in the field with her siblings, which led to a familiarity with certain crops, as well as how to cook and pair them with other ingredients. My mom acquiring recipes from my grandmother also reflects South Korea’s patriarchal society, where women usually tend to housework such as laundry and cooking, while the men are the breadwinners. The symbolic significance of janchi guksu, being served at one’s 60th birthday and  the noodles representing long life also highlight the traditional cultural value of respect for the elderly, a value also reflected in China’s long-life noodles.