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.