A Lineage Food Memory: Dumplings

“Sometimes, I worry about my anchor to Chinese culture, but making dumplings is, and always will be, my family’s tradition.”

We are humbled by the care and thoughtfulness that Johanna took when sharing stories of cooking with her mother. We’re so excited to bring this food memory to life on the blog today. Johanna and her mom have spent hours in the kitchen creating the most delicious dumplings, and through this time together have connected themselves to their Chinese roots.

Take a walk through Johanna’s food memory below and find out who her mother’s dumpling muse is. 

Johanna’s Food Memory: Dumplings

 “While making dumplings (饺子) with my mother, I feel the ebb and flow of time passed and time to come- a sweet memory mid-creation, a moment of silence in which childhood and family and warmth fill the space, a connection deeper than words. 

She’s impressed, these days, that I can make them on my own. She beams as I tell her, I invited 哥哥 over, we made dumplings together, wrappings and all. But when we’re together, making dumplings, she shall always remain the leader of the endeavour. 

Standing at five foot one, she needs a stool to roll out the dough, each wrapping circle expertly made; not too thick, not too thin, perfectly 软。And together we wrap, each time a different filling of chives, or celery heart, or sourkraut, a unanimous decision made prior. “What kind of filling would you like?” my mother asks gently. 

Making dumplings is a family tradition. Growing up half Chinese in a small town on Vancouver Island, there weren’t a lot of cultural cornerstones. I didn’t have much to grasp onto in ways of cultural identity- though to the island folk I grew up with, I was Chinese, clear as day. When I lived in China as a kid, I was seen as white. What makes one belong to a certain culture? How does one maintain the connection, when so far removed from it? These are questions that still perplex me- what part of my Chinese culture can I offer to my children, someday? Making dumplings is a family tradition. 

I often tell my mother that, though I don’t understand as much Chinese as I’d like, and don’t always feel like I belong, I still feel so at ease and soothed when immersed in Chinese culture (shopping in Chinatown, eating at the Crystal Mall food court, the rare times I spent with my Chinese family in China). She told me that it’s because, while I’m not fluent in the language, I’m culturally fluent. And food- well- is one of the, if not the, most important part of Chinese culture. And in the language of food, I could talk for hours. Sometimes, I worry about my anchor to Chinese culture. But, making dumplings is, and always will be, my family’s tradition. 

My mother is often perceived as a hard woman. She has been through so much, and it shows in her stubbornness and her critical nature. While making dumplings with my mother, we soften in each other’s eyes and understand that time moves on and love is eternal.” 

-Johanna G. @jojamaleanana on Instagram

“I would share the dumpling recipe, but an easier way to find it is to visit MaomaoMom® Kitchen, aka my mom’s personal goddess. MaomaoMom is a true treasure trove of Chinese (and western) recipes — Her lemon cream cheese cookies are literally to die for. Any dumpling recipe we make is a variation of MaoMaoMom’s. You can find more recipes if you go to the Chinese site- I usually do this, and have Google translate the page.” 

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