Cooking: Bridging Past and Present

It’s eight in the morning. My muscles are aching from swim practice, barely allowing me to stand, and yet, it is time for me to pick up the pan and move my omelette effortlessly. This is practically a Sunday routine for me: wake up at 5 in the morning, go to swim practice at 5:30 for two hours, and cook breakfast for my family. Cooking is a joy. It’s an experiment, a piece of art, and a way to show my love.

It all started one day when I came back from swim practice. I was starving, and breakfast wasn’t ready. I tried to make scrambled eggs. It was a disaster. That incident marked the start of my cooking quest. I have always loved cooking since. The amount of mistakes I’ve made, though, is incredible. Thinking back on it, I’m surprised I stuck with it. It took me lot of tries to master the simplest omelette, but since then, I have been improving rapidly. Learning my mother’s classic Chinese dishes and her new improvised ones, I was pushing the limits of cooking and was experimenting with eggs, salted duck eggs (that failed), tea eggs, my daily microwave eggs, and baked eggs.

It’s no surprise that I decided to cook. I love eating, and my parents have always been cooking extravagant meals. My grandma cooks almost ten dishes for five people to eat, and when it’s the lunar new year, our kitchen is like the New York City streets. All the relatives come over, and I am always amazed by the quantity and quality of the food presented that day. My earliest memory of cooking is helping my mom make her spring rolls.

I volunteer at a non-profit organization called CAAMNY, the Chinese American Association of Metropolitan New York. Part of CAAMNY’s function is to help Chinese children in New York who are seeking treatment for RetinoBlastoma (RB), a form of eye cancer. I have always helped those children, even before CAAMNY was founded, bringing them traditional Chinese snacks and desserts. After my passion for cooking struck in, I was cooking for them. For festivals, we made them homemade mooncakes, traditional rice casseroles, sticky rice, and red bean buns. Food is a great way to bond and bring the families a reminder of China. We talk about the ingredients, different methods of cooking, and our favorite dishes. It improves my Chinese, and I look forward to meeting with them again, learning another recipes or just getting to know how their day was.

Cooking combines my chinese ancestry with my life in America. I put Asian and Western cuisine together. Fried fish in a chinese tomato broth or lamb skewers with five spice powder, pepper salt powder, worchester sauce, and shanghai spicy soy sauce.

I have used cooking to give back to everybody. I cook for my family, friends, members of CAAMNY, and some people in the hospital. It has taught me to appreciate, to respect the mothers of children, who gave up everything to give treatment to their children. It has taught me to give and to become a better person.


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