building community over food

I grew up in a pretty large Southeast Asian family, where everyone lives no further than an hour away from one another. Growing up we always had huge family events with dozens and dozens of cousins running around and playing while our parents chatted. People would tell us it was time to leave, and get stuck in more compelling conversation (so we learned early on that the first 3 times your parents say it is time to leave… it isn’t).

One of the best things about coming from a big, close family and being Southeast Asian is of course the food. I’ve realized how much community can be built breaking bread together. In my case, it’s breaking papaya salad and laab, but all still the same. I remember how important dinners were to my mother and father– who worked endless hours to support our family. They’d tell stories of picking fruit from trees and farming. These conversations brought us closer together, and it reminded us of our histories and how much our parents sacrificed for us. This is the beauty of food and conversation, the chance that we get to talk story and eat delicious and nourishing food together.

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I’ve come to inherit this community oriented mentality to dinner parties and barbecues. I have moved into my apartment and probably hosted over a dozen dinners, hot pots, barbecues, noodle parties… you name it, I probably did it. Because at the end of the day, it allowed me to get closer to loved ones. It allowed me to nourish our souls, not just our bellies and that is why I’m a huge advocate of cooking for friends and family.

This weekend, I got to do just that. Cook for my amazing friends, and just relax together. It was so nice catching up, and get a chance to hear about how they were doing. And selfishly, get to play with my friend’s corgi. 🙂 So here is just a sneak peak at the meal I made, barbecue with Southeast Asian flair by making “fun-tziew” (I have no idea how to spell it, but it’s basically the Mien version of hot sauce).

How many of you grew up in families where eating together was an integral part to community building? I’d love to hear stories that your parents and family told over meals too!

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