“seasoning your life” Essay and Writing Contest 2020 Grand Prize Award Essay
In early 2021, Kikkoman Corporation announced the Grand Prize Award and Excellence Prize Award winner of its “seasoning your life” 2020 Essay and Writing Contest. The Kikkoman corporate slogan “seasoning your life” conveys the core message that Kikkoman helps us savor the joys of life, and suggests that, as Kikkoman seasons and enriches our food, it brings fulfillment to life as a whole. This contest was held for employees of the entire Kikkoman Group and their families. There were 812 entries received from thirty-one companies and nine countries from around the world. Jury members included the renowned novelist Ichiriki Yamamoto, 2002 winner of Japan’s prestigious Naoki literary prize. Here we feature the Grand Prize Award essay by Ms. Lucy Maylee Chuang, daughter of Mr. Kung Chi Chuang of JFC International Inc.
Dumplings Folded with Love
In my family, food is a universal language of love. Born and raised in the United States as a daughter of Asian immigrants, I often faced language barriers when communicating with my mother and father. However, the simple act of cooking family recipes in our humble kitchen taught me to connect more deeply with my cultural heritage and understand food as a greater symbol of my parents’ resilience, warmth, and sacrifice. Over many years, my family has crafted countless spicy noodle dishes and hearty chicken broths. The intimate cooking experiences have allowed us to become emotionally connected, triumphing over language barriers and cultural divides alike.
My father’s recipe for fried dumplings is the most meaningful technique passed on to me throughout my family’s cooking legacy. As a young child, I would watch my father and mother create art when they folded dumplings (otherwise known as gyoza). Together, they would finely chop pork, cabbage, chives, carrots, onions, and mushrooms to fill the dumplings. They would carefully pour in spices such as soy sauce, sesame oil, and garlic to create a sweet and salty flavor profile. However, the most magical moment of the dumpling-making process was my father’s method of folding the dumplings. His giant hands were able to fold each delicate dumpling skin with calculated precision and a gentle touch that always shaped the perfect crescent moon. His dumplings are distinctly beautiful; he tells me that Chuang dumplings are unique because they are folded with love.
Every action I have ever seen my father make has been motivated by love. When he first immigrated to the United States from his homeland of Taiwan, he worked brutal 16-hour shifts to provide for my family’s livelihood. He had no financial or social safety nets; my father worked as both a food delivery driver and a Japanese restaurant chef to make ends meet. Even without a formal college education, my father is one of the wisest people in my life because of his dedication to family, his desire to understand diverse cultures, and his curiosity for the world. Influenced by my father’s selfless actions, his love for cooking, and his incredible work ethic, I have begun to shape my own identity as a dedicated scholar and future lawyer.
As a current student at Princeton University, I carry my father’s life lessons and cooking recipes wherever I go. Recently, I moved back to my childhood home in Georgia due to the Coronavirus Pandemic. Every evening as I study tirelessly for my classes, my father exhibits an equal work ethic. He chatters on the phone with the local grocery store owners and restaurant owners for his company, JFC International. Despite my father’s passion for his job, he still finds time on Sunday afternoons to make dumplings with me. To my father, having a strong family connection has always been a priority.
My dumplings are nowhere near as perfect as my father’s. My dumplings are often crooked and thin, they are sometimes missing soy sauce flavoring inside the meat, and they even burst open during the frying process as they lose their juicy insides. Even though I am inexperienced in the kitchen, my father always stares proudly at my work and encourages me to continue trying. He fries each ugly dumpling in oil carefully, letting them sizzle and crunch until they, too, are filled with love.