I interviewed my friend Christine Leung, who is a Chinese. I met her sophomore year at my high school in Tacoma, Washington. My high school was a boarding school with the proportion of international students from all over the world. Among those students from different parts of the globe, I always thought Christine was the most multicultural and special person because she recognizes and embraces different cultures because she lived in various places such as Chengdu, Hong Kong, Tacoma, and now in California. Also, she is particularly interested in food. She used to cook at night before studying, and we would eat noodles together after school in my room. She is currently a rising sophomore studying nutrition science at UC Davis. In that regard, I thought she would be the best fit for my interview since she has multicultural perspective and passion for food. The goal of this interview is to show the importance of noodle in her culture and family.
Christine was born in Hong Kong and raised in Hong Kong. She also moved to Chengdu, China. Later, Christine decided to study in the United States for her high school education, so she moved to Tacoma, Washington in her sophomore year. Counting a year at UC Davis, she has been living in the United States for four years. She spends most of the year in California but goes back to China during winter break and summer break to spend time with her family. Though she spent her childhood in different places, Christine defines herself and culture as Chinese, and especially collectivistic culture of China is strongly associated with her. From her experience, she stated that her culture is different from western culture, which, in her words, is more individualistic. For instance, in China, families including grandparents, parents, and siblings will often all live together in a house or the same community, but in western culture, the form of family is often a nuclear family.
As we discussed during class and read from the reading assignment, regarding Christine’s culture, noodle represents longevity. Typically, on birthday, a person would get a bowl of one strand of noodle, which its length is a symbol of how long the person would live. Also, noodle reflects the diversity in China. As China has many ethnic groups, every noodle has different flavors. Among the types of noddle she explained, the sweet noodle was interesting to me because usually sweetness is related to desert and noodle is the main dish. I was fascinated that two different elements would harmoniously merge to create one dish.
Christine did not like noodles as much as rice when she was young because her first impression of noodle was spicy. As long as she remembers, the first noodle she had was in elementary school years with her grandparents. The first noodle she had was called Su Jiao Jia Jiang Mian, noodles with spicy pepper and spicy pork. Since her grandparents are from Chengdu, a city known for spiciness and numbing flavor, the noodle she tried was too spicy that she could not enjoy as a child. However, after studying abroad, she often misses the spiciness and the noodle because the noodle reminds her of home.
The diverse culture of China is represented through Christine’s dinner table. Since Christine’s family is from both Chengdu and China, she would have both Cantonese style light dishes and Szechuan style spicy dish at the same time. Also, when her family eats noodle, her parents will have chewy and hard noodle while Christine will have soft noodles. Her family thinks the texture of the noodle is an essential part of experiencing and tasting noodles. Therefore, though they share the same soup and sauce, her mom will boil Christine’s noodle for a longer time.
Moreover, the diverse culture of China is displayed in Hong Kong. Hong Kong is a special place with a combination of both traditional Chinese culture and western culture, and such aspects are reflected on the noodle. In Hong Kong, breakfast called pasta with spam and egg is favorite menu today. This dish is an Italian pasta cooked in Chinese style. As a student who studies both Italian and Chinese noodle, I found it interesting because they are two different styles of noodle but merged into one dish.
Not only in China, but Chinese food and noodle are also popular all around the world, so I asked her opinion about Chinese dish sold in other counties. She thinks that Cantonese restaurants in the United States usually taste similar to the one in Hong Kong, but the Szechuan dish sold in the United States tastes different from the ones in Chengdu. She thinks that the Szechuan food is too spicy that it is adjusted to the local people’s palate. Moreover, I asked her opinion about the modified version of Chinese food such as Orange Chicken and Black noodles in Korea. She does not consider them Chinese food. Though they are called Chinese food, she thinks Black noodles and Orange Chicken is part of the United States and Korean culture.
Christine believes that the crucial value in food and noodles is health and unforgettable memories. The main reason why she is studying nutrition science at UC Davis is her firm belief in a healthy diet. She thinks that balanced diet can cure disease such as cancer. She also mentioned that the time she misses her family and home the most is during Chinese New Year and the moment shared food with her family to celebrate. Though she cannot celebrate Chinese holidays such as Chinese New Year with her family at home since it is during a school year, she would still go to Chinese restaurant in the United States with her friends to celebrate. The food during such holiday is a comfort for her.
At the end of the interview, I asked her to define noodles in three words. She answered that noodle means culture, family, and diversity to her. I also think the way she feels and this is why I wanted to interview her. As international students and who lived far away from family for a significant time, the food is a memory of love, myself and variety. Through this interview, I wanted to show how meaningful and representative of one’s culture and life.