Like many Asian immigrants, I also had a lunchbox moment growing up in Canada.
What do you mean a lunchbox moment?
A lunchbox moment is that moment in time when you realize that the lunchbox you brought to school, filled with your cultural foods, becomes something you're ashamed of. I remember kids would point and make fun of my food and ask why it smelled so "weird" or looked so "awful". They would ask why I had to bring such "gross" lunches to school. This is the type of racism that wasn't often talked about when I was younger, and I didn't realize that so many others had similar experiences as I did until very recently. I feel angry at myself that I was so ashamed of my homemade Chinese food at school. I wanted so badly to have "normal" sandwiches, lunchables and pizza that I sometimes wouldn't eat what I brought to school.
I remember my mom would create these delicious meals that would fit into a thermos. This was no ordinary thermos though, there were three separate food containers that would fit into it - each with a different dish. I remember the bottom container would have home made Chinese soup, followed by a veggie/meat container and topped with a rice one. It was always a super nutritious meal that was packed and made with so much care and love. Every time I think about these meals, it makes me miss my mom's cooking. But at the same time, I feel so guilty for pushing away my culture and cultural foods when I was younger. I feel so bad knowing that I probably hurt my mom's feelings by not eating the food and kept asking for "normal" foods.
To be honest, this lunchbox moment isn't just something from the past. It still happens today. I've experienced it in the workplace and I remember being shocked by it. It brought back the moment I felt ashamed of my cultural foods back when I was a kid. But wait...aren't we adults now? Why do I feel like there are still uneducated kids stuck in adult sized bodies? People need to do and be better. And as an Asian Canadian, I have to stop making excuses for these individuals and speak up. It's not something we were taught to do, but I've never really played by the books so as I continue to own and embrace my Chinese roots, it's something I know I need to do to foster change and education with fellow Canadians.
If I have kids, you bet I'll be making them triple tiered Chinese lunches that are nutritious and absolutely delicious. I hope that by then, parents in my generation will have taught their kids that diversity is wonderful and that we should be learning from one another instead of making fun of differences. I hope that future "lunchbox moments" are meant to be the positive moments when kids try each other's lunches and learn what foods they enjoy from various cultures.