1. When we found out I was going to Harvard for college, the first thing my mother made me do was learn how to cook salmon miso soup. “You’re going to be so sad in America without good Asian food,” she fretted. What my mother cobbled together in 10 minutes everyday took me an hour if I was lucky, and even then it was never quite right — the perfect ratio of white and dark miso eluded me. I was too heavy handed on the mirin; the salmon would disintegrate slightly as it boiled. For a week, my family was forced to eat whatever mutated version of the salmon miso soup I churned out for dinner, hurling good-natured insults and feedback my way.
Fast forward three months, and I have not yet made salmon miso soup in college — the recipe is pretty much erased from my memory. But late one Sunday night, I find myself frying up gyoza (courtesy of H-Mart!) with friends, all of them making jokes about the charred dumplings I was serving up, and even halfway around the world it feels like I’m right back home with my family. Perhaps it never was about the food, but rather, the act of creating something with others.
— Angelina X. Ng ‘26
2. Eba smelled like garlic. Not the sour smell people unfamiliar with the flavor may think. But sweet, complex, melancholic.
Abuela Eba smelled clean. Of freshly picked tomatoes from her garden, or the persimmons Ebo grew outside. She smelled of oranges and lemons, of lacón con papa, of café con leche, of flan, of cinnamon and bay leaf.
Though her family once operated a world famous restaurant, Eba was severed from her home when she left Havana post-revolution. Food became her language to enliven memories, nourish our roots, and express her soul.
During el Día de Gracias or la Nochebuena, she’d spend over 48 hours cooking her most beloved meals of platanos, congrí, yucca, and the showstopper: the 20-pound turkey in her adored mojo crudo – a marinade of garlic, citrus, onion, and spices. Coming home meant walking into a kitchen full of Eba, of her radiance, protection, and love she captured onto every plate she served.
— Julia M. Yanez ‘24
3. Porridge is perhaps one of the most lamented foods in human existence. Made from the dredges of harvest, its watered-down cousin served in pitiful portions to a certain Victorian child, porridge has only recently been recognized for its breakfast potential yet has been long known for its soupy nothingness.
But I was raised in appreciation of a morning bowl of porridge, which on a cold winter day is like being embraced from the inside by the heat of an open oven and in the summer leaves your cheeks flushed. My mom makes it in a rice cooker (the wonders of technological innovation!), combining a bird’s nest of lotus seeds and millet to white and black rice that turns the mixture purple. The night before I’ll watch her measure and soak the beans in water, so that come morning they’ll be ready for cooking. Its preparation is a ritualistic endeavor steeped in love and fiber content.
— Karen Z. Song ‘25
4. When my grandma cuts mango, it’s a public event.
Sharp knife. Tight grip. Crows feet exposed. Her butt-length white locs migrate into the folds of her signature turban, cautious of how far the stray juices may spread.
In Trinidad, mangoes come to you. They fall off of trees, begging to be eaten before they rot. They are almost desperate in their ripeness. That’s why it’s not my fault when I chase mango with mango, eating so many that my stomach swells and going for a walk seems simultaneously necessary and impossible. Their sweetness reminds me of my homes; My grandma’s Jamaica, my grandpa’s Trinidad, and my very own Sunshine State (where the mangoes know to keep one peel open when I come around).
— Anya L. Henry ‘24
5. I came home one afternoon to my mom’s new culinary endeavor: Thai larb, the recipe foraged from a food magazine. The glossy torn page boasting the instructions enjoyed a post-meal induction into the hallowed recipe book that night – a worn binder struggling to contain the cacophony of recipes which concocted my taste of childhood.
With a resounding snap of the binder rings, larb became officially recognized as a staple of our kitchen. But the three binder holes soon tugged tears in the tired recipe, and the cooking stains the paper amassed with use coalesced into a potent garlicky aura. I, too, grew weary of the recipe’s frequent use, protesting whenever I detected the minty spice omen of larb. No, my 16-year-old self likely wouldn’t name it as a favorite dish, but I now long for the masterfully-prepared constant of larb which defined a culinary manifestation of home and love.
— Marin E. Gray ‘26
6. With Thanksgiving creeping nearer and nearer, and Annenberg dinner getting less and less bearable, the literal art that’s cooked by my grandma and her sisters, passed down from generation to generation, has been taunting me. These foods, while seemingly simple, are infused with flavor and a culture borrowed from around the world. With my entire family originating from Charleston, low country cuisine and soul food is served at every get together.
My favorite dish is red rice, which is usually a side dish made with tomatoes, sausage, peppers, and bacon. I also enjoy frogmore stew, also known as a seafood boil, sweet potato pie, okra, and “Hoppin Johns,” a rice and bean dish. While these dishes are enjoyed by many today, they originate from ancestors who through slavery, abuse, and oppression held tight to their identities and cooked a testment of their strength and love that could never be taken.
— Makayla Gathers ‘26
7. When I trudge through late-night assignments, dumplings are there to keep me going. When I had just moved into college and was terrified to enter Annenberg without the hordes of friends everyone seemed to already possess, they waited for me in my dorm freezer. Even in high school, when I developed a stress-induced aversion to most of the foods that my mom eagerly presented to me, Trader Joe’s frozen soup dumplings were my warm, plump allies, ready to burst with soothing broth and requiring nothing of me but a two-minute trip to the microwave.
Give these bundles of pork, ginger, and pure comfort a try next time you sift through the Trader Joe’s freezers. It seems almost cliche that my Wasian self is promoting xiao long bao, a Chinese classic, from a granola American grocery store — but maybe that’s exactly why these soup dumplings have always felt like home to me.
— Stella A. Gilbert ‘26
The way it sticks to my chopsticks and leaves its slime on the sides of my hands.
The way there are always a few styrofoam packs of it at the bottom of the freezer.
The way my mom makes it for dinner when she’s a bit too tired to cook.
The way my dad can’t stand its pungent aroma and refuses to walk into any room where the smell lingers.
The way my brother can’t eat it without leaving sticky grains of rice all over the table.
The way I can taste the Earth in every bitter bite.
How could it not feel like home?
— Najya S. Gause ‘26
Read more in ArtsGuts and Gore… A Cinematic Snore