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Food Memoir

Finding a Home

Andrew Zhan

I have read and understand the sections in the Student Handbook regarding Mason High School's
Honesty/Cheating Policy. By affixing this statement to the title page of my paper, I am certifying
that I have not cheated or plagiarized in the process of completing this assignment. If it is found
that cheating and/or plagiarism did take place in the writing of this paper, I understand the
possible consequences of the act, which could include a "0" on the paper, as well as an "F" as a
final grade in the course.
Signed: Andrew Zhan

Ms. Nicole Wilson

AP Literature and Composition B
24 January 2016

Andrew Zhan
Ms. Nichole Wilson
AP Literature and Composition B
24 January 2016

Finding a Home
According to Richard Wrangham, The ability to cook is actually built into our genes.
After going out to eat more times than I could count, I figured that I (and my wallet) couldn't live
off restaurants, granola bars, and cereal any longer. With no involvement in the kitchen growing
up I figured that I would go out and give cooking a try. I paused at the entrance of a local
Chinese grocery store, letting my eyes wander across the neatly categorized produce that lined
the walls. Roaming through the aisles, I filled my cart with peas, onions, and peppers until I
began to search for the finishing garnish to my cumin lamb dish-cilantro. Unable to find the
leafy, green-stemmed plant, I wandered toward an employee and asked for help. In return, I
received a blank, questioning stare that I had become quite familiar with. It was the same look
my neighbors gave me when I introduced myself to them, the same look I got from my barber
when I told her how to cut my hair, and the same look a waiter gave me when I asked for a glass
of water.
With a summer internship, I flew to San Gabriel, California, the largest haven for Asian
immigrants in the country (many of whom stuck to their native tongue) with only my ESL cousin
to keep me company. Raised by immigrant parents in a predominantly Caucasian community in
suburban Ohio, I was surrounded by a culture and language I only loosely connected with
growing up. Masked by my physical appearance, I stood behind a barrier, the opposite side on

which my parents stood when they first arrived to this country. After one week, spent mostly in
the rental house or office, I desperately wanted to fly back to a place of familiarity; I wanted to
fly home.
"The home is a privileged environment that nurtures healthy eating and in which healthier
food choices trigger more positive emotions." (Dub and Huet). In order to remedy my
homesickness, my cousin took this information to heart and brought me to the closest thing to
home, a simplistic Northern Chinese, mom-and- pop style restaurant. My cousin, taking over,
ordered one seemingly basic main dish to my disappointment: "Chicken in Garlic Sauce".
Notifying the waiter, my cousin placed our order in Chinese. Moments later a myriad of aromas
filled the air as a dish- filled with shredded chicken in a garlic-soy sauce base, cooked with tree
ear fungus and garlic, and topped with green onions- appeared. Confused, I turned to my cousin
who laughed and explained how the English description did little justice to the dishes. The
"Chicken in Garlic Sauce" actually translated to "Chicken like Fish" in Chinese, which was a
common cuisine in which the chicken was prepared in a similar manner as fish. I began pointing
to the other dishes on our table as my cousin translated the Chinese descriptions. I learned about
the history of Shenyang- styled cooking and the techniques behind the double cooked pork
slices, a new world had been opened. We constantly use food to express not only who we are
but also who we wish to be (Twiss 1). That day I wished to be a part of my culture, and I
resolved to immerse myself in it.
My cousin became my guide and translator. I slowly expanded my basic Chinese
vocabulary and improved my speaking skills. Tired of my isolation and equipped with a
newfound knowledge, I began to branch out. I attempted conversations with my immigrant co-

workers, wandered into diners, found a church congregation, and discovered both English and
Chinese speakers around me.

After five weeks and three hours stuck in LA traffic I dropped my cousin off at the airport. The
following weekend I found myself alone at a Chinese Grocery store asking an employee where I
could find the cilantro.
Working to minimize my accent, I switched languages, " Xiangcai zai na li?"
With an understanding nod, the employee led me to a crate loaded with bags of cilantro.
Finished with my shopping, I drove through the now familiar streets of LA. I had formed my
own community; around me there were restaurants where waiters quickly gestured me in,
recognizing my familiar face, front lawns where I spent late nights talking to my neighbors, and
cafes where my friends introduced me to new foods. One does not become an adult in the
abstract; it must happen in terms of some particular, substantive body of cultural material
(Claxton 1). Two thousand miles away from suburban Ohio, the new foods provided a culture
that I could grow into. Two thousand miles away from my family, I arrived in my two bedroom
flat, my home.
Chicken in Garlic Sauce Recipe
10 oz. Chicken Breast
1 Chopped Scallion
1 Pack Lee Kum Kee Sauce For Spicy Garlic Eggplant
2 Teaspoon Chablis Blanc
1 Tablespoon Soy Sauce
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil


Cut into chicken into desired size (either small blocks or shreds)
Fill a bowl with Chablis Blanc, Soy Sauce, and Chicken Breast
Mix thoroughly
Turn over top to High and pour in Olive Oil
When the oil is hot, add marinated chicken
What until fully cooked, then add the Lee Kum Kee Sauce For Spicy Garlic Eggplant
Add chopped scallions at the end as a finishing garnish

Andrew Zhan

Ms. Nichole Wilson

AP Literature and Composition B
24 January 2016
Work Cited

Foster, Thomas C. "2. Nice to Eat with You: Acts of Communion." How to Read Literature like
Professor: A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading between the Lines. New York:
Quill, 2003. N. pag. Print.
Lu, J., C. Huet, and L. Dube. "Emotional Reinforcement as a Protective Factor for Healthy
Eating in Home Settings." American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 94.1 (2011): 254-61
Twiss, Katheryn C. "Archaeology of Food and Identity." Anthropology News 44.8 (2003): 1-10.
Wrangham, Richard W. Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human. New York: Basic, 2009.