The with grass from the front yard,


The Chinese people love to talk about food. They are
some of the most sociable people in the world. The most talked about subjects
are money, government corruption, and food. The ingredients, preparation techniques,
preservation methods, and types of cuisine from different provinces in China. It’s
a connection to your culture and heritage. It’s
personal. Food is identity, influence by the past it reveals hidden
secrets. Details of my grandparents’ past and the terror, they’ve faced in the
worst catastrophe of China’s history.

During the 1960s and 1970s, China enter a social movement
called the Cultural Revolution, led by Mao Zedong. The goal of this movement
was to remove all bourgeois attribute from Chinese society, to create a world
for the predominantly working class. This was achieved by attacking members of
China’s elderly, intellectual, and middle-class population. In fact, the
Cultural Revolution crippled the economy and created a decade of chaos,
bloodshed, and hunger in China. It is estimated that 40 million people starve
to death. It’s not uncommon to heard that people were forced to eat insects and
tree bark. Near the end of the revolution came the birth of new businesses of strange
Chinese cuisines. Including my grandparents’ food stall that sells fried silkworms
on a stick in NYC. A business my grandfather describes as “a business started
from the desperately poor to the desperately hungry.”

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Apart from the business, they serve more simple and abnormal
food at the family table, such as, dumpling stuff with grass from the front
yard, tree leaf soup, and tofu with powder chicken beak. Along with rice, these
are the food from their childhood, it offers very little nutrition and low
calories. This hint explained their physical appearance, both are 5 feet tall
and weighs less than 110 pounds. The malnutrition stunned their growth. Furthermore,
it affected their mental state. This event of starvation help formed a mind of
steel, but it also created an air of sadness and quietness. It was common for
young people to steal food from others who were on the verge of starving to
death. I can only use my imagination to visualize
how my grandparents fought for survival,
because I have never had a real experience that I can compare it to.

This discovery of cultural revolution from my books on
China, I would argue, had made me keenly aware and sensitive to the contextual
confines that oppress my family actions and desires during a barbaric time-period;
it has also made me appreciative of the courageous ways in which my
grandparents left China to America, along with their culture and heritage. From
generation to generation, family passed down food traditions, habits, and recipes
that carry with them, their personal life stories, as unique as our own. Food
can help answer the questions about what your ancestors valued and how they
viewed their place in the world. Their history is something they
will never tell me, but it is something I will discover.