A couple of years ago, Statistics Canada released data about the number of mixed ethnic unions in various Canadian cities. I found this to be an interesting tidbit as my husband, B, is a fourth-generation Canadian with a Mennonite background and I am a first-generation Canadian with Chinese ethnicity. Metro Vancouver, where we live, had more mixed ethnic couples per capita than any other Canadian city.
My parents each immigrated to Canada with their families from China via Hong Kong at a fairly young age. I grew up primarily with white rice and stir-fried meat and vegetables being served at dinner. This evolved as I grew older, but Chinese food is what I associated with childhood meals.
B was born into a meat and potatoes sort of family. He would not deny that his repertoire of food has expanded since meeting me.
B’s initiation into Chinese food was Cantonese dim sum (sometimes called yum cha). We were dating at the time and it was the first time he met my paternal grandma so she wanted him to have a memorable lunch experience. The restaurant where we ate with my family was not particularly impressive on the outside, but inside we saw a sure sign of a great dim sum spot. It was packed wall-to-wall with so many people that I questioned if fire regulations were being violated. Chicken feet, gingered tripe, and meat dumplings served from rolling carts were among my family’s favorite items that B was exposed to for the first time.
Not too long after our dim sum lunch, I got to learn about faspa (a light snack served between lunch and dinner, usually on weekends, especially to guests) and B introduced me to “real” Mennonite-style farmer sausage (sorry grocery store brand, you did not fit the bill). It was just the beginning of the enjoyable intermixing and sharing of our cultural backgrounds and appreciation for the broader multiculturalism in our community.
With intention, B and I have tried to open the world to our children by sharing about our international travel experiences and exposing them to a variety of food, customs, and languages. One of our sons loves flags and maps and with that comes many opportunities to talk about the how life is similar and different around the world.
Our children have come to appreciate diversity of our family as it weaves its way through their lives in natural ways. We celebrate Chinese (Lunar) New Year with my family and the contents of a lai see (lucky money) envelope is no surprise to them. They love to make kringles (twisted rolls) with their paternal grandma. And maybe it wasn’t so bizarre to our children when I served them a creative meal (that actually came about in an act of desperation because I didn’t have barbecue pork on hand) that I thought was a brilliant blend of our family: Mennonite Sausage Fried Rice.
A culture, of course, is not defined solely by its food, but it certainly is a tasty place to start expanding your family’s exposure to life around the world, regardless of your own ethnic background.