Today I picked up the kids from acrobatics class at Michael's theater (they're training up a new generation of performers for the show!) and grabbed lunch with them at an Asian cafeteria-style food court nearby. As we sat there eating delicious teppanyaki beef noodles, barbecue eel udon, and chicken fried rice, a cloud of melancholy descended upon the table. My children started sighing. "I sure miss America," said my oldest. My youngest quickly added a "me too."
I take these statements very seriously and try to never make light of their longings for our most recent home. I never say, "You'll get over it" or "We'll be home soon." After all, we're going to be here a long time. I want them to make this place home, for however long it lasts. And if they have to grieve the loss of their last home before claiming this one, then I will give them space to do so, without judgement.
I casually asked what it was about America they missed. "The food," they both sighed. Thinking they meant In-n-Out Burger or Krispy Kreme, I sighed too, ready to commiserate along with them. But my oldest continued, "I miss Mongolian barbecue. And the sushi we got in the supermarket." My youngest added his favorites as well: sweet and sour chicken and sticky white rice.
I tried really hard not to laugh. I did my job as their mom by exposing them repeatedly to cuisine from all over the world, which is readily available in the Los Angeles area. But I guess I forgot to label it as we went along... that Mongolian barbecue is actually from Taiwan (different than actual Mongolian food), sushi is Japanese, and sweet and sour chicken is Chinese, though a Western idea of Chinese rather than one which originated here in Asia. I pointed out the teppanyaki beef and fried noodles, though Japanese, is made the same way as Mongolian barbecue, just on a smaller scale. And I reminded them that we just had sushi on Sunday, freshly made in front of us, not from the refrigerated case at the grocery in America. And how last week we ducked into a tiny hole-in-the-wall noodle shop which served us sweet and sour chicken with sticky white rice. This stopped them short for a moment.
"Oh... So I guess there is a lot of American food here," the oldest said, cheer returning to his voice.
Um, sure. Okay. Call it whatever you want my son, as long as you eat it.