Tag Archives: Rituals

Dumpling-Making Kin

by Ching-In Chen


I grew up making dumplings with my family — my mother preparing pork, shrimp, tofu, egg, and spinach, all seasoned by soy sauce and sugar, and enlisting my little brother and I to help wrap while my father was stationed by the stove as “the boiler,” watching to make sure the pot had boiled three times. 

As a very anxious and socially awkward young person, I often felt like I didn’t belong anywhere — not in school and not in my family. Concentrating on pressing the dumpling skin together over the filling, I got to a humming place where my body and mind worked in concert with each other, each finger moving surely into the next motion.

As a young adult living far from biological family, the thing I missed the most was the family tradition of making food together. I experimented with creating my own traditions for birthdays and other holidays with makeshift kin. I started to host an annual dumpling-making party around my birthday, close to the Lunar New Year. A way to take stock of the community I had gathered or maintained over the past year. An invitation to build in the new year by inviting newer friends to make food with me.

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