In Mandarin, “Lee” means “we came for the food.”
Okay, so it doesn’t really mean that. But in my childhood home, that was certainly a plausible translation. It has been ingrained in my DNA to have a genuine appreciation for all things home cooked, a large portion of second-helpings, and an openness for new food. From a very young age, I can remember my dad always saying, “try it at least once. If you don’t like it, then you don’t like it. But at least you were open enough to at least say you’ve tried it.” Thankfully, I had a very gracious palette and to this day, I like almost any food I try.
Yes, I’m a Foodie, I know it, and I love it.
Being a foodie means more than liking what your taste buds are savoring. It’s not just about the combination of the perfect ingredients or discovering the newest hipster restaurant in town. It’s not even about how many food pictures I can post on Insta or the corresponding likes. Unfortunately, it’s not even about how much food you can eat at a single sitting (because if it were a contest, I’d definitely win at that.)
Being a Foodie means connecting across the table and appreciating the culture behind the deliciousness. Food is simply a doorway into someone’s home. The appreciation and the connection are the true elements that constitute an authentic Foodie.
Recently, I had the opportunity to cook a traditional Chinese New Year meal (Gong hay fat choy!) for my friends here in Tulsa. Taylor (the other one), Allie (see pictured) and I prepped and cooked for the majority of an afternoon to present an authentic Chinese meal. I made sure to cover all the basics: fried rice, bok choy, steamed fish, roast pork, steamed dumplings, egg rolls—the whole 9 yards and then some. By the time we were ready to eat, I finally had a moment to stop and take it in. The kitchen aroma brought me back to an 8-year old Taylor in her grandmother’s kitchen—tears instantly welled in my eyes. I blinked them away before anyone could see such a vulnerable side of me, but it was then that I realized how strong of a connection I had with this food, Chinese culture, and my family. I often shy away from the fact that I am Asian American and stigmas that go along with being Chinese, but that night, I embraced the longevity of my culture in full force.
As 5 of my good friends and I sat down to partake in some authentic and delicious dishes, there was a peace that settled in the room. In such a turbulent time of racism and political conflicts, there was something beautiful about friends of all different races and diverse backgrounds sitting at a unified table and honoring a long-standing tradition in Chinese culture. Despite busy schedules and governmental issues of the week, we could laugh, reminisce, and bond over a well-prepared authentic home-cooked meal. The food may have brought a Mexican, Cuban, Puerto Rican, German, Irish, and an Asian together, but it was that connection that kept us sitting around that table with full bellies and genuine smiles long after the last crumb.
And that is the essence of sobremesa. It’s the time we spend laughing, digesting, enjoying, smiling, loving, appreciating, and simply being with each other over a meal. And it’s in those moments, I appreciate that I’m a foodie, and I love it.
Go eat something delicious this week.
“People who love to eat are the best kind of people.” – Julia Child