Have you ever been self-conscious about something? When I was in high school, I was self-conscious about everything. What I looked like, what I wore, how I smelled, the answers I would give when a teacher picked on me; these are just a few of my thoughts that would run through my head. In some cases, it decreased my confidence; in others it gave me the motivation to change something about myself to give confidence. Some things still make me self-conscious as an adult. But one thing I’ve grown out of, is being self-conscious about the food I eat.
I grew up in a very small rural town. Whenever I get the opportunity, I try to show how much I disliked living in that town. It really is a bit unfair to the town I lived in, me picking on it so much. Because i wouldn’t be who I am without living there. But I can say there’s some deep seeded scars going on from living there. The food options where I lived were a couple crappy Italian restaurants, and a couple crappy Mexican restaurants. When a Chinese restaurant opened up when I was in high school, one of the teachers made a comment to keep an eye out for your dogs, lest they end up being served to you at the restaurant. Yeeeeeahh…its okay, I don’t think he teaches anymore.
I was incredibly lucky, and unlucky. You see, since forever, I was the odd one out. I looked different, had a different religion, and ate different food than everyone else. I was told I was going to hell when I was five years old, was picked on for having squinty eyes, and was into some unusual hobbies (like comic books, wtf is that all about). For the most part I didn’t mind though. I loved having a grandfather that forced me to eat all sorts of “strange” things, a Dad that wouldn’t allow me to be a picky eater, and a grandmother that cooked for me every single day. Every free moment my Dad and I would have, it would be spent somewhere outside where we lived.
Most of the time I wasn’t self-conscious about the food I would eat, but there are a few times I can still remember clear as day. One of those memories popped into my mind when I was reading one of my new favorite finds, Ms. Marvel. If there was one thing I could take back with me if I could go back into the past, it would be this comic book series. In the panel above, Kamala Khan is lamenting about bringing pakoras to lunch, wanting to be a normal girl. When I read that panel, I can remember the day where I felt the exact same way.
After having a 10 year or so break from going to the Korean grocery store after the one my Dad and I would go to closed, we found a new market to go to by searching online. Craving the food I had as a young child, I was super stoked (yeah, stoked) to go to a Korean market. I’m pretty sure my Dad and I bought every type of kimchi offered at the market. A couple days after going to the Korean market, I was going on a field trip. We all had to bring our own lunches. Not a big fan of sandwiches, I decided to bring some rice, kim (roasted seaweed), and some banchan (korean side dishes). I was so excited to be eating something interesting at school for a change. But when lunchtime came around, and I popped open my lunch container, everyone made comments on how bad my food smelled. The “eeew gross” and other comments were so horrible that I couldn’t even eat more than a couple bites before feeling like a total asshole and not eating for the rest of the day. On top of that I developed a fever and had in general a really crappy trip back from the field trip.
When I got home that day, I was really bummed. It was yet another drop in my self-esteem. I never took Korean food to my high school again. Actually, I really stopped eating much at school after that incident. I would eat enough to get me through the end of the day, and when I got home would escape into the flavors that I loved. But it was at that time I was starting to realize, finally realize how much it didn’t matter what people thought about me. I still was self-conscious, but I went on with the hobbies and things that interested me. I also was in my junior year, and could start seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. It gave me enough courage to make it through. Even though I was putting on a mask of sorts at school, I at least could escape to my sanctuary at home in the afternoons.
When I got into college, it was liberating. I was finally able to eat the things I wanted, all of the time. I was able to start exploring new flavors, and new cuisines. Since then, I haven’t stopped searching for the next new and interesting thing. I am no longer self-conscious about what I eat. Instead, I have an incredible pride in the food I love the most. Living through what I did sucked. It really really sucked. But, it gave me a motivation to continue to be adventurous, and to be open to new experiences and ideas. For me, my gateway to learning about a place, culture, or a person, is through the food that I want to eat.