in the space of a question

You ask about where I came from


You ponder which nation

from near or far

if I was loved

looked over with care

of the people it took to bring me to you

how long I had taken to grow


You think about the sustenance that touched my heart

the same dishes that now touch yours

that make everything grow

nourish everyone


You think about the threads I grew up with

how many connections have come

from that undying strand

how many connections will arise again


of grandmother who spends nights

boiling bone broth for the rice threads of phở

to fulfill my longing for our motherland


of neighbor who spends weekends

teaching me the buckwheat threads of crozets de Savoie

to fulfill my knowledge of a European culture far west


of dear friends who spend all-nighters

ordering the greasy threads of lo mein

to fulfill our midnight hunger for food and knowledge


of [host] mother who spent every sunrise

stir-frying the glass threads of 잡채, japchae

to fulfill my love of hosts-turned-family


of loved ones who spend their time

lighting the stove, lighting our hearts, from sunrise to sunset

to fulfill our connections


so much effort








in this moment

between you and

this soulful of me


What piece did you choose to imitate?

Jennifer Barone’s “zucchini” in Saporoso.

Why did you choose this piece?

The poem’s distinct title drew me in at first—who wouldn’t be, if the bold-faced letters spelled out an under-appreciated vegetable?

But the more I read, the more I was drawn to the poem’s synchronous simplicity and complexity. The author’s ability to at first question “Why?” allows the reader to embark on the discovery journey with her; her “I wonder”s and “I think”s reflect the depths of her curiosity. The humble zucchini was used to describe something more than an ingredient, and the piece began unravelling its layers before my eyes. I had started the poem because of the vegetable; I stayed because of the fruit of its message.

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

The author used the forgotten zucchini as a metaphor of a culture, forgotten to her. Her reflection brings about the realization that the zucchini is more than an ingredient for her, but an abstract piece that makes up her identity.

She connects the zucchini with the sun, the earth, the soil—things that nourish and bring life to the earth and to life on earth. The way her curiosity approaches the zucchini makes me think of her culture not in the sense of traditions, but a culture where discovery and enlightenment are encouraged. The zucchini is used to illustrate her appreciation of the people who cooked for her, highlighting a culture of profound respect for the relatives, families, the hard-workers who took part in raising her nature. Thus, the zucchini, grown by her people in the soil of her culture, becomes the soil in which she plants the seeds of realization and gratitude for them in return.

What did you learn about your own culture while writing?

A Vietnamese-born who spends her nights with Chinese-American takeout studying French culture after having left all of her heart in South Korea.

Somewhat of a peculiar amalgamation of cultures, no?

So peculiar some find it hard to attribute me to more than one culture, resorting to outline neatly labeled circles: “Vietnamese southerner.” “Americanized.” “Francophile.” The ever-so-cutting “Koreaboo.” Circles that never touch, a Venn diagram without intersections.

In writing, I am reminded again of those tags—of what I am solely not. Like so many others, my “culture” is not one fabric of neat stitches, but a patchwork of tattered threads.

And one of those threads that has consistently wove through every patch is the noodle. The thread shifts colors and ingredients, and reshapes with different thinness and thickness; each a variation of the noodles of my life.

Threads of , bún, and bánh bind together the patches of my childhood; the mornings that find streets drenched in rain, while my grandma warms the house with her vermicelli steeped in bone broth.

Threads of nouille and pâte bind my “method-learning”; evening finds my French neighbor showing me how to cook the pasta of his native city, a pasta tradition overshadowed by the prominence of his motherland’s peninsular neighbor.

Threads of lo mein and ramen bind my late night studying with friends; the midnights that find us huddled together, enjoying the last of the leftovers (and the last of our sanity before an exam).

Threads of 국수 (guksu) and 면 (myeon) bind the nostalgia of a short life abroad; the early dawn that finds my [host] mother humming in the kitchen, cooking my favorite glass noodles every single day before school, and the little brothers I never had, two sleepyheads yawning at the table.

A collection of cultures, a multitude of experiences and lives led, united by the stitch of the noodle thread. Thus, I do not believe in assigning labels to categorize ever-changing, ever-growing things such as ourselves—for we are not defined by words, but are created by our memories, our experiences, and our connections.

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

“You” and “I.”

Probably two of the most powerful words in the English language. They establish the entire perspective, the relationship between audience and author. They reflect the exchanges between every person, every culture, every connection.

In the original “zucchini,” “you” and “I” are used to emphasize the intimate relationship between the zucchini and author, one that eventually extends to her identity and her culture, establishing her cultural identity and DNA.

Upon closer inspection, you might notice “you” and “I” had been turned on its head in my interpretation; this version of “zucchini” reverses every “you”s and “I”s in the original.

Thus shifts the entire perspective, from the original’s first person point-of-view to this second person view—the reader’s. I wanted to alter the course a bit from first person; after all, my personal relationship with the noodle, my own cultural DNA, has already been established in past written compositions. I wanted to extend my realization of the noodles and its role in my life to you, the audience from my past, present, and future. The ones who ask(ed) me “Who are you? Where are you from? What do you identify as?”; the ones who themselves the same questions. My cultural DNA is not enclosed within one culture; it is shared, inextricably linked between many. This connection was something that I wanted to portray through a connection between “you” and “I,” myself and the reader—the ‘u’ and ‘i’ in “zucchini.”

(And hopefully, that explains the somewhat funky-looking title)

Macarrão: A Perfeita Combinação do Passado e do Futuro

Macarrão: A Perfeita Combinação do Passado e do Futuro
Pasta: The Perfect Combination of the Past and the Future

In the glum kitchen table on a weeknight
I seldom thought about your reason

I assumed–carelessly, naively, mistakenly
from the beginning, I had you at will
every other evening, “ugh, not again,”
I would murmur to myself,
as my mom brought over a hearty plate
of course, macarrão
“Ninguem merece,” I would passive aggressively comment

Now, I wholeheartedly regret the resentment
Now, I understand your worth
The same God that made you, made me
Yet, I was too blind to see it–to see your worth

I think about your roots, your origin
How you came to be
How you will always come
Beautiful, astonishing, perplexing

I was fortunate to have you so early
I must apologize for my ignorance
I never want to leave you, because
Now, I understand your purpose

The farmers who cultivated you
Who made it all possible
Who made me know you, and now,
Absolutely, love you

Obrigado, macarrão

So much diligence
And, ultimately,
In this very moment,
Between me and
My biteful of macarrão

  1. I chose this piece because it resonated with me greatly. In Saporoso, Jennifer Barone characterizes her relationship with zucchini so splendidly, while also coming to realize the importance of the roots of zucchini and how her connection with the ingredient was made possible. She concludes by citing a few attributes that describe her relationship with zucchini in a powerful, intriguing manner.
  2. Thus, throughout this class, I’ve had a couple of “lightbulb moments:” One of them happened to be the fact that I never consciously realized how much pasta has been part of my life journey. Throughout my upbringing, I would consistently have pasta be part of my everyday meal, but I never understood its values, its roots and ultimately, its effects on my happiness. As my love for pasta grew bigger and bigger throughout undergrad, I was prompted to take this course. It was just recently, as I was studying for my oral midterm that it all came together inside my head. Pasta connects me to some of my most fascinating moments of growing up in a Brazilian household. Now, when consuming pasta, I instantly feel the palpable connection with my past, and most importantly, I stop to think about how pasta came to be, how its creation manifested in my life, and how it will always have a piece of my heart moving forward.
  3. The culture of the original author is inquisitive, its intentional, and its quite mesmerizing. The deep layers of her words go beyond the physical and allows one to create their own picture of the story. The reflective attitude of the author also conveys a “lightbulb moment,” similar to mine, and it translates a certain, unique connection with the food item. Moreover, her ending portion illustrating her relationship with the food item conveys just how much power there is between humans and their food, especially when they stop to think about why that is.
  4. Through my own writing, I learned that I have tendency to describe certain things I find most salient in the most thoughtful way possible. Instead of just using one or two adjectives, I search for a combination of words that work in parallel to convey a critical point to the audience. For instance, together, I use the words “beautiful, astonishing, [and] perplexing.” The combination of these three words emphatically bring about light and spark a genuine interest–that is exactly how I feel when voicing my thoughts about pasta. Lastly, I learned how to use my linguistic abilities to better highlight my connection with the ingredient and with my own culture. When speaking about my family and my roots, I cannot help but utilize the words in the language they were spoken in.  In parallel with the author, I too, love to write poems with a reflective attitude embedded across each line. In my opinion, reflection is one of the most sincere ways to throw your thoughts into a captivating piece.
  5. Yes! The cultural DNA that is threaded across my piece is my Brazilian roots–through language, I (hopefully) convey the potent, powerful effects of pasta in my childhood. Additionally, I hypothesize that there is an element of culture tied into this poem. Her thought-provoking analysis leads me to conclude that there were many “why?” moments from her past that inspired her creation. Perhaps, it was a cultural tradition with zucchini in her life, or instead, it could be a family recipe that calls for zucchini. Uncovering what is under the hood would help readers recognize that culture is a broad concept that incorporates many everyday practices under one umbrella term. Hence, I decided to channel my “why?” moments and put them on paper, which correlated with my cultural identity, as a Brazilian, who never understood the meaning of pasta in my early days up until now. Lastly, I made it one of my goals to be as authentic as possible in conveying my message of enlightenment by utilizing concrete diction to characterize pasta, while also putting my Portuguese language to good use.

Thank you for reading and sharing a piece of my realization alongside me.