Food and Identity in Nguyen’s “Stealing Buddha’s Dinner”

Every culture has its own unique and distinct tradition which is a trademark of identification of every nation. Immigrates are away from their lands and tradition, they face cultural influences that are enforced by an external environment. This essay paper analyzes immigrates experiencing cultural adaptation of Stealing Buddha dinner written by Bich Minh Nguyen. In the book, the author has mentioned her experiences as an immigrant and cultural adaptation that makes her feel more like a native. Stealing Buddha dinner beautifully interprets experiences of immigrants adapting to other cultures for overcoming the discriminations and has several aspects to be discussed. Food is a trademark representation of every culture, highlight of this paper shall discuss the turmoil of Nguyen for knowing her denotation of cultural food that rather represented her in satisfying her internal confusion with his own identity with the references to the original text to provide a better understanding.

American Meat: False claims satisfying internal identity

Nguyen’s family immigrate to Vietnam and settled in Grand Rapids they lived hand-to-mouth, in a small sludgy apartment. Analyzing her situations and conditions and comparing living standards with her friend Holly Jansen. Contrary, Bich exerts to find a similar ground to the natives of Grand Rapids. After choosing the food that was eaten by the native, she finds herself cozy and satisfying resembling their mindsets and traditions. Though, Grandmother Noi feed Bich with bite-sized pieces; consequently, she had no idea about American Meat but pretended as is she knows. “If the girls at the recess talked about these thing that they had eaten the night before I would simple chime in, ‘me too'” (Nguyen 85) reflecting the quote we can determine, that Bich pretended to familiarize with American Meat but in reality, she never had an idea about it.

Bich was fascinated by the interacting environment, to attain similar coinciding grounds. “I would have invited her to my house. I didn’t have my own room, for one thing. And I was afraid, both of how my family would act around Holly and how she would react to being around them” (Nguyen 85) according to the quote w can assume how Bich tried to find familiar grounds of eating tradition enthralled this little girl, she found it herself internally satisfied because according to her consciousness this act of hers might make her more like her friend Holly Jansen. The separate room of Holly was a mutual influence on Bich, whereas, she didn’t own her separate room and had to share it with her family. She had already experienced one of her friends straying from the Buddha altars at her place, according to her the life standard they were living was inferior compared to her mates. For acquiring similar grounds, Bich always seeks for similar ground that linked her to the friend’s identity. According to the above-mentioned quote, we can analyze the confusion that Bich faced while interacting within her school’s friends circles and finds her comfortable even after making false claims.

Humiliation on the dinner table

Bich was an innocent immigrate who was far away from her mother, when she was only eight months, because of being away from her mother; she lacked consciousness in several phases of her life. After the trip to the cinema with Tara’s family, it was a wonderful and exciting experience having pop-corns, M&M, and her mother singing along with the Disney songs rapt the baby girl, all the glittery and beautiful Tara’s house seemed like a fairly land to her, as she was an immigrant she has had never been through such trips. Bich had a lot of experiences throughout, one of the humiliations she experienced when she was at her friend’s place Tara on the dinner table. Bich has had never come across a noodle plate as she discovered at Tara’s place. When the dinner arrived she took the fork and began to eat, Tara’s mother interrupted and said to Bich, “We pray before we eat” (Nguyen 120) this situation was degrading for Bich. As she arrived home, she asked demanded her stepmother to tell her the behaviors, rather than guiding her step mother neglected her saying “Well, it’s not what poor people get the eat” (Nguyen 120) and further when Bich emphasized her to tell manners, she answered her in a very weird manner saying “Don’t you know you are not supposed to sit there?

Don’t you know you’re not supposed to wait until other people start eating?” (Nguyen 120). Rather than correcting Bich stepmother blamed her that she was a refugee and this fancy food is not for refugees like her. According to the context, we can assume the way Bich was mortified as she was not aware of the table manners because she didn’t have an ancestor to guide her for the table manner. Through this situation we can analyze the importance of food as identification of one’s cultural identity, only a lack of table manners can turnout a situation into humiliation and how can one be assumed with the table manners. This situation and answers of her step mother enforced indirect pressure which developed a consciousness that she was inferior and reminded her that she was inferior. After coming across these situations the consciousness of Bich developed that she was inferior and the people around her were right, due to her immature approach and lack of guidance Bich tried to adapt all the possible things that were around her. Due to the lack of supervision deciding what was right and wrong didn’t matter, she tried to collect all the gems that surrounded her, she tried to adapt all the possible ways to gain her identity, where people treated immigrants with discrimination. According to the circumstances of the text, we can analyze the behavior of Bich’s stepmother; her weird answers to Bich enforced her to believe that her every act was erroneous. The dinner interruption and embarrassment developed the importance of food traditions given Bich, she thought choosing and eating food like others can supper her turmoil and confusion by providing similar grounds, she felt comfortable and indiscriminate.

According to the circumstances of the above quotes and context, we can conclude the importance of Food, every tradition has a distinctive pattern that reflects one’s cultural and traditional identity. Though Bich was an immigrant from Vietnam who was always treated discriminatively, because of lack of consciousness and supervision she was drawn towards everything matching her mind sets. According to the above discussion, we can analyze the glittering fantasies that diverted the consciousness of Bich towards the adaptation of the food traditions of the natives. Observing the lifestyles of her friend and comparing it to her lifestyle made her upset and depressed, she felt that she belonged to inferior grounds by adapting their food styles, she felt more satisfied and she felt more relaxed and comfortable. According to the context of this paper, we can also conclude the behavior of her stepmother who didn’t guide Bich in the appropriate ways but made her feel mediocre. A girl who was separated from her mother at an infant age without any acknowledgment of her traditions had no other option left in the city of strangers, by the alteration of their culture and right food she felt herself more gratifying in developing her gratitude and identity.

Works Cited

Nguyen, B. Stealing Buddha’s Dinner. New York: Penguin, 2008.