Capturing and sharing a family recipe for tongjyun

May 24, 2022

May is Asian Heritage Month, an opportunity for people of Asian origin and descent and others to reflect on the histories of discrimination, struggle, belonging, and solidarity that divide and connect us. To celebrate, the GSWS Student Blog will feature student creative work throughout May. 

In Dr. Nadine Attewell’s GSWS course “Queer Relations” (GSWS 321), students explore how intimacy, kinship, and community look and feel like for Asian Canadians and Americans today, drawing inspiration from films, graphic novels, memoirs, and other creative texts by queer and feminist Asian diasporic thinkers like Andrew Ahn, Joella Cabalu, Richard Fung, Hiromi Goto, and Kama La Mackerel. For their final projects, many take the option of producing creative works of their own, which you can explore here, as we share a new post each week in May.

Dr. Attewell will be offering GSWS 321 again in the 2022 fall semester; the course can also be taken for Global Asia credit.

GSWS 321 Student Spotlight Posts:

Photograph provided by the student

GSWS 321 Student Spotlight: K. Ng

Inspired by Michelle Zauner’s meditation on learning to cook jatsuk in her memoir Crying in H Mart, I created a podcast that centres on the experience of learning to make one of my favourite childhood dishes, tongjyun. Initially, I began this project with the purpose of capturing and sharing a family recipe as a way to ensure its preservation. I felt that if I recorded this recipe, I would be able to prevent this knowledge from being lost. Although I still believe this to be true, I began to realize through the course of this project that the recipe was not simply a static piece of information, but a living (and continuously evolving) practice of care. My reflections began to revolve more and more around the nature and practice of intergenerational knowledge sharing, as it relates to diaspora, food, family, identity, and care. In realizing this, I decided to shift the focus of the podcast away from offering a step-by-step walkthrough of the process and more on capturing my reflections on the experience of learning through different approaches as an Asian diasporic subject. To me, this project was both a product and a process.

Unexpectedly but not surprisingly, the role of language came to play a larger role in my reflection and project than I had originally anticipated. Through the process, it became evident that it was important for me to leave parts of the dialogue untranslated. As is the challenge with language, I did not want elements of what was said to be lost in translation. I wanted to be able to honour what was shared in the exact way it had been shared it. In addition, I also wanted to explore these aspects of familial knowledge, legacy, and intergenerational healing. In incorporating bilingual elements, I was aiming to capture the sense of simultaneous disconnection and connection, as well as inclusion and exclusion, that I experience in my everyday life when it comes to language and understanding as an Asian diasporic subject. In a similar fashion, I felt it was important to leave certain questions unresolved to reflect this sense of perpetual questioning and ongoing discovery.

In the end, presenting these themes in the form of a podcast (rather than a video, for example) allowed me to play with different elements of storytelling and of focus that might not be possible with other mediums. It also allowed me to emphasize the significance of voice and language, especially in the context of intergenerational learning and care. Ultimately, my hope for this project was to invite the audience in to listen alongside my own journey of discovery.

K. Ng’s podcast was originally produced for a limited audience. She has decided not to share it publicly at this time.