The Battle of the Dinner Table

By Emma Yang

Sometimes I feel like I’m chopped up into pieces, like a celery stick, and dipped into many different sauces. If you met my family, you’d know what I mean. If you looked at parts of our daily lives, you’d see how diverse we are.

My paternal great-grandmother comes from China, while my paternal great-grandfather comes from Indonesia. Both of my paternal grandparents come from Indonesia but were brought up in China. My dad and paternal uncle were born in China but lived in Hong Kong. My maternal great-grandparents both come from the FuJian province of China and speak a Chinese dialect. My maternal grandparents both come from China, but my grandfather comes from Hong Kong. My maternal uncles and aunts all come from Vietnam but immigrated to the United States. I was born in Hong Kong, and it is the only place where I’ve lived. I think that’s as complicated as things can get.

A few years ago, around Christmas, we decided to have a family reunion as we had all been scattered for so long. We all gave our dining suggestions. Some of us said that we should go for pizza, some for Chinese, some for a roast dinner, some for dim sum. We had no idea what to do, so we decided that we would have dinner at my grandfather’s home and then buy all of the suggested foods and eat them together.

When the day came, we all sat down together: my cousins, my parents, my aunts and uncles, my grandparents, and I. We found all different types of food on the table. The Asian-food lovers frowned at the Western food, and the Western lovers frowned at the Asian food. But then someone suggested we should all try to eat the food we didn’t like. Some of the passionate ones hesitated, but we all tried. We all took a bite, and we all smiled. There were grins and nods of appreciation, and many of the haters became the lovers. We all started piling all we could onto our plates and letting our relatives take all they wanted. When we finished and all the boxes were empty, we were still smiling. I never forgot that dinner. It brought our family together.

I realized that no matter how diverse a family can get, no matter how far away we were born from our relatives, we are still a family. We are still connected. And to understand each other’s very different cultures, we will learn to adapt to each other’s likes and dislikes, bite by bite.

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  • Amy Holyoak Jones

    Wonderfully said! 😀

  • Ikenna Anyadike

    This is simply amazing, and warm too. There is so much more that we can achieve if only we showed some willingness to accommodate our differences, which in truth aren’t lines that divide, but ties that bind us all together.

  • Lauren Sheldrake

    This has helped me to think about how to be a better wife – thanks for your wise words, Emma.

  • TheLibrarian28

    I really loved your piece about your family. I felt like I was there with the rest of you, and hope that you will continue to write about yourself and your family in the future.

  • Roxana Bravo

    I would’ve gone for all of the food options! Nice post!

  • lancasterjoe

    Short but very sweet! The world needs a lot more of this. I mean #Sharing cultures, and finding the #Positives

  • Jane Mazzola

    What a beautiful story @ families & getting together to appreciate one another. You are a very insightful, wise young lady. Thank you for sharing your story w/ us.

    • Horologium

      I agree 100% Jane – you said just what I was a thinking. A beautiful story from an amazing young lady.

  • Rich Morin

    I had some _wonderful_ T-day dinners with a Jewish/Indian family. Turkey, curry, mango chutney, etc. “All Mixed Up” –

  • Vicki Brown

    That sounds like a tasty buffet!