Embracing our mother culture


Gloria Zhu and Arely Zhang

5 mothers sit at the table, sporting cultural garb and sitting behind plates symbolizing their native cultures. From left to right, the cultures represented are Chinese, Indian, Persian, Peruvian, and African American.

by Lucy Ge, Sriya Batchu, and Esha Gohil

Peking duck wrapped in pancake. Shirin polo. Gulab jamun. Whether it’s crispy, sweet, fried, or cheesy, food can be found in family traditions and history of cultures all around the world.

For April Sun (9), Peking duck covered in hoisin sauce and green onion and wrapped in pancake is a tasty treat that her family enjoys together when they visit her grandparents in Beijing. They usually go to a restaurant or order takeout, and the dish brings back memories of spending time with her extended family.

During Nowruz, the first day of spring and New Year’s in Iran, Melody Yazdi (9) fondly recalls her whole family sitting down together and enjoying a dish of mahi and sabzi polo, consisting of fish and white rice with herbs. A food that holds special meaning in Persian culture is shirin polo, shirin meaning “sweet” and polo meaning “rice” in Farsi. Featuring rice covered in saffron and orange peels with a side of carrots and chicken, this dish is usually served at weddings. Another sweet Persian food is zaboon. Crispy and glazed, these puff pastries are brushed with honey before being baked. “[Zaboon’s] a really yummy sweet that they have at parties and always buy for their homes,” Melody said.

When Kimiyani Butte (10) describes gulab jamun, her eyes light up cheese balls deep fried in syrup, this dessert is a special treat for occasions like birthdays. She remembers that for her birthday a few years ago, her mother made it to celebrate. Because this snack is not particularly healthy, it is best to be eaten on rare occasions.

Every year, Saanvi Arora (9) looks forward to Jan. 13, the day when the Indian festival of Lohri is celebrated each year. When worshipping the fire god, people walk around a bonfire and throw popcorn and nuts into the fire and eat the unburned popcorn afterward. Food also plays an important role in other Indian holidays that Saanvi’s family celebrates, like eating jelabi during Diwali.

The favorite foods of Molly Mobley (10) include mac and cheese, collard greens, gumbo catfish, and red beans served with rice and cornbread. “They’re all hearty and include ingredients that you can get from anywhere, they’re simple and tend to have a lot of flavor,” Molly said. “We have family backyard barbecues, [where we eat] a lot of steak, mac and cheese, sweet potatoes, lot of cool dishes. Usually we do potlucks, so we’ve tried a lot of different stuff.”

Wynter Chaverst (12) also loves collard greens. Typically eaten during big family meals, these greens have origins dating back to slavery in America. “Collard greens were the leftovers in the kitchen on plantations. We took the scraps we were given and turned them into a magical food that we eat with our families,” Wynter said.

When Señora Tejada talks about Peru, her smile reaches her eyes, one that shows how much she loves her culture and food. Her favorite food is ceviche, raw fish that is marinated in lime juice with garlic and salt and pepper. Being a cold dish, it is usually eaten in the summer or spring especially when family is together. “Ceviche is a very popular dish and it is a dish that we usually eat with family not because its expensive or fancy, but it’s because its very popular and most people like it. You always find ceviche during family gatherings.” Señora Tejada said.