(This is part 2 of 7 sharing how we try to #celebratecultures in our family’s daily life. Check here to see all posts in the series!)
One of the first questions my future in-laws asked me when we first met was “what kind of food do you like? What are your favorite vegetables?” They wanted to get to know me and my family through understanding our food. (Funny story: at that same first dinner, I was so proud of myself when I used chopsticks and successfully picked up a salted peanut in the middle of the table. Unfortunately, the second time I flung a peanut onto another table!)
I used to think that food was just one part of the puzzle to understand a culture. But the importance that my husband’s culture places on food goes deeper than just a part of their culture, food is a priority! It was really one of the biggest misunderstandings we had in the early part of our marriage. I’ve learned through some funny moments in our first year of marriage how important mealtimes are in the life of a Chinese family.
So I try to focus on being a good xifu/媳婦 daughter in law and learn new Chinese and Taiwanese dishes. I am thankful that it goes both ways too and my husband is an incredible cook! When I commuted into the city for work, my husband made most of the meals. Now that I’m at home with the kids, I’ve taken over most of the cooking on the weekdays.
Ways we Celebrate Mealtimes:
- Hot meals 3x a day if possible: For the most part, it’s important to our family to have warm meals. There are definitely times when takeout and drive thrus are necessary! I am nowhere near my mother in law’s cooking as she used to cook short ribs for her children to take in their school lunches. And often “hot meal” is defined by leftovers from the day before. But we still want to prioritize mealtimes as important times during the day to gather together and not just rush past them.
- Kids are involved in making the food: I try to include my 4 year daughter in cooking during most meals. Right now that includes cleaning vegetables or peeling garlic cloves. It’s a win win because it keeps her busy while I cook! The best part is that when sit down to eat, she is so proud of the food she helped make and it helps her try new foods.
- Dumpling Date Nights: Since my family loves dumplings, I have a mini-goal of making a huge batch of homemade dumplings every month so we have a steady supply in our freezer. It’s pretty time intensive to fold each one but the excitement on all the faces of my husband, my 4-year-old daughter and even my 11-month-old son makes it worth it! My husband joined me on last Saturday night after the kids went to sleep and we made about 150 dumplings. We watched a show and laughed together — it actually turned into a really fun date night in! When we were done, my hubby said he just realized that his parents used to do the same thing. He has memories of his parents watching a Chinese drama while folding dumplings late into the night. So special to accidentally fall into this same tradition!
- Learning through Food: Our family loves lots of other cultures’ cuisines (favs right now include: Vietnamese, Korean, Mexican, Indian and Thai) so we try to talk a little bit about each culture with our daughter when we are eating. If we’re at home we look on a map to find the country. We are learning a couple of words in each language so when we go to a restaurant we can say at least hello and thank you in the language. So far we have 2/5 down…3 more to go!
What about your family? How do you celebrate your family’s culture(s) during mealtimes? Would love to hear more in the comments or over on Instagram!