Something that isn’t emphasized enough while studying abroad is how homesick you can grow. There may be various reasons as to why one grows homesick, if ever at all (I know my dorm mate isn’t homesick at all, whatsoever). Of course, my family and friends are simply one phone call away from a facetime, but connection with family only happens so often, since everyone has their own schedule and the 16 hour time difference doesn’t help at all. Since so much of my fond childhood memories lays in the food I grew up eating so fondly, perhaps it is through the food of my culture that I can alleviate my occasional homesickness. After ordering Vietnamese food at various restaurants, it was helping me for a bit, but it still wasn’t enough, so I decided to take matters into my own hands. I decided to start cooking for myself using ingredients that I could find in supermarkets around my area. My first Vietnamese food that I cooked was banh mi op la (a Vietnamese sandwich with a fried egg). The ingredients are very simple and can be found anywhere really, I just needed baguette bread, cucumbers, eggs, and ham. I also made my own Vietnamese pickles using carrots and daikon. I constructed the entire sandwich and one detail that really hits the sandwich back to home is adding soy sauce and mayo to the toasted bread as it adds so much flavor. I took a bite into my homemade sandwich and almost started crying. So much of my childhood memories rushed back to me and overflowed in my head from the very first bite. I rapidly ate the rest of the sandwich and realized I wasn’t feeling homesick for any moment that I was eating that sandwich. It was also in that moment that I realized that I could alleviate my homesickness almost entirely through the power of cooking my favorite dishes that I often ate growing up.
The next week, I decided to recreate spring rolls as closely as possible. I really only needed a few ingredients anyways, those ingredients being rice paper, cucumber, lettuce, tofu, and my carrot and daikon pickles. Again, the feeling of nostalgia rushed through my head yet again as I bit into the spring roll. From that spring roll, it solidified into my head that I could bring a piece of my family where ever I was in the world as long as I could taste the nostalgia. It was also due to this realization that I started cooking a lot more often than I ever had in my life; since that point, i made fried rice, Vietnamese pizza, eggrolls, banh xeo, and more. Now I cook as a hobby and I even started cooking for my friends as a way to share a piece of my culture with them.