I took it out of the library and it's a little overdue, so I'm returning it today. But first I wanted to write about it. If you love food, or grew up in the 80's, or like me was in high school and college during the 80's, you'll have a wonderful walk down memory lane. It's interesting seeing the same things experienced by someone at a different age.
The author Bich Minh Nguyen, first name pronounced "Bit", tells us about her life as a young Vietnamese girl, who immigrates to the United States and grows up in Michigan. Her extended family comes to America without her mother. Bich's father soon marries a Hispanic woman, a second-generation Mexican-American. The chapter titles all deal with food as do many of her childhood memories. As a girl, she is constantly trying to fit with the other kids in school, who are mostly white.
"Rosa kept trying to teach us the language through immersion techniques. Buenos Noches, Andale, and Callate la boca had become part of our vocabulary. Though I generally considered myself pretty quiet, I heard that last one a lot. I tried to keep the phrases under wraps to my friends. They thought that I was different enough with the whole Vietnamese thing; adding Mexican American to the mix just put me over the edge."
I want to share few more quotes from the book and my reaction to them.
"At home, I kept opening the refrigerator and cupboards wishing for American foods to magically appear. I wanted what the other kids had" Bundt cakes and casseroles, Cheetos and Doritos. My secret dream was to bite off just the tip of every slice of pizza in the two-for-one deal we got at Little Ceasar's. The more American foods I ate, the more my desires multiplied, outpacing any interest in Vietnamese food."
When I was a kid, my parents would not let me and my brother eat sugared cereals. It was such a treat when I stayed over my friends or other relatives houses and I could eat Captain Crunch and Fruity Pebbles, so I completely identified with the author when she talked about longing for different foods.
"At home I watched TV, slowly eating a pudding snack to try and make it last through as much as possible of the NBC Saturday night lineup, which included at various times, Gimme a Break!, Diff'rent Strokes, The Facts of Life, The Golden Girls, and 227."
I watched all of these shows too!
Stealing Buddha's Dinner reminded me of so many of my own memories -from the food and music, to the television shows to what it's like being a minority student and trying to fit in or just make your way through. Reading the book, my heart broke for the author so many times, because I felt the same way.
There was also one section where Bich talked about how Rosa was very politically involved and would not let them eat grapes because of the grape boycott led by Cesar Chavez. I remember one summer as a child where my parents stopped buying grapes too and I didn't understand why. They explained to me that the workers who picked the grapes were treated badly and this was a way to help them. This was when I learned that food is political. As an aside, Cesar Chavez's birthday is March 31st and there is a petition to make his birthday a national holiday. I just signed.
There are a bunch more quotes, paragraphs, well pages actually that I'd like to share, but this post is getting too long. Read the book. You will enjoy it.
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