What Dumplings and Deep Breaths Have in Common

Adding a little mindfulness to my life enhances its flavour.

Image from Unsplash

My mama lives in New Jersey. She is Taiwanese, now also American. She makes dumplings from scratch with the best ingredients she can find. Lean pork meat, ginger root, lotus root, Twin Marquis-brand dumpling skins.

Dumplings are one of my favourite foods. Obviously.

They are precious — made with tenderness and love, these little uncooked, powdered pillows of joy. Each pillow is painstakingly filled with meat, folded into a perfectly plump shape, creased at the top.

The dumplings are placed in boiling water. Opaque pillows absorb the hot water, the skin (“shwooop!”) shrinking against the cooked meat filling. They float to the top, drained and served. Delectable. Mouthwatering. Mmm.

I dip a dumpling in a concoction of soy sauce, lemon, chilli and ginger. A dark cloak of sauce enhances the dumplings with sour, spicy, and salty.

Chewing the dumpling, I ponder about how the cute little dumpling came all the way from Asia. I am a bit like this dumpling, a little of Asia, America and other things mixed together. This quote by Thich Nhat Hanh resides with me:

“There are many young people who were born and raised in the U.S., but who do not feel they are accepted as Americans by other Americans. They feel sad and want to go back to find their home. They think: ‘If my home is not in America, it has to be somewhere else.’ But they don’t fit in with their country of origin either. Very few of us feel we are in our true home. Even if we are lucky enough to have a nationality, a citizenship, and a passport, many of us are still searching for where we belong.” — Thich Nhat Hanh

Those dumplings are Asian American, like me. A recipe with a heritage rooted in Asian culture, but made in America. Ingredients bought at a Chinese supermarket in New Jersey. A filling made of cultures and ideas picked up from here and there. A piece of Taiwan on Barnsboro Rd.

“My true home is not limited to a particular place or time.”

My home is within me. I have learned to incorporate meditation into my daily routine. In taking more mindful breaths, in remembering my heritage, in savouring each moment, I can do anything in this world.

I can go anywhere and feel at home because my home is right here in this body.

Developing a habit of deep breathing has helped me concentrate on the present moment, getting me through difficult times by paying attention to my emotions. Feeling them, expressing them if necessary, letting them go.

When I eat dumplings anywhere in the world, I always remember my mom. Her love transmitted by feeding my stomach. She doesn’t know that she also filled my soul. The part of my brain that regurgitates memories does not care where or when I eat them. This food association is a pleasurable, nostalgic feeling of satiation.

It’s important to savour each dumpling: the lean ground pork meat mixed with lotus root and ginger, encased in “QQ” chewy dumpling skin. I focus on doing one thing at a time — if I am eating dumplings, I am not texting or fiddling with my computer. All my focus is on eating the dumpling.

It is my mom’s variation, making these dumplings with ginger and lotus root. Recipes are modified when they migrate from Asia to America. Their taste is different because they are made with new ingredients. Not better, just different.

Migration doesn’t mean we lose meaning or flavour, but we need to work twice as hard to maintain our heritage.

By breathing deeply, I remember who I am, where I come from, where I was born. Mindfulness keeps me in check.

I am at home in my own (dumpling) skin.

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