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11 Meals That Give Kids Of Immigrants All The Feels

There's no taste like home. There's no taste like home.

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1. Mom's fix for a sick daughter: The Sick Curry

Courtesy of Sam F. / Tuk Tuk Sri Lankan Bites

"Elaborate meals made from scratch were commonplace in our home; I never realized they were a luxury until I left for college. Nearly every night my mother would whip up an array of curries, salads, sambols, rice dishes…all for an amazing, fresh dinner. I looked at takeout and pizzas as rare treats, but I didn’t realize I had it the wrong way around until I left the nest. I started Tuk Tuk Sri Lankan Bites because I missed my mom's cooking and wanted to share those flavors. I want more people to be exposed to them. The entire Tuk Tuk business is based on my mom's recipes.

"My favorite thing that she makes can vary depending on my mood, from pillowy and crisp hoppers to sweet and spicy crab curry or dense blocks of coconut milk rice with spicy onion sambol — but I always love what I call the 'sick curry' because she only made it for me when I was sick. An array of whole spices, garlic, ginger, chicken, vegetables, hot pepper, and a touch of coconut milk is simmered until perfectly tender. The resulting stew-like dish is spooned over white rice, and I never leave a grain behind. Out of all of her recipes, it’s the one I’ve yet to master, but the one that is closest to my heart. It’s a warm hug represented by food, for me." —Samantha F.

2. Literally, "weeds"

Courtesy of Ari V. / Getty Images

"My favorite meal to cook for my family is my favorite meal my father brought with him from Greece in the 1960s: a vegetable stew with no written recipe that is never quite the same twice, involving horta (literally, 'weeds') — steamed dandelion or beet greens with lemon — and skorthalia, a garlic-and-olive-oil paste that, in 20 years of trying, I have not quite been able to replicate.

"All of these ingredients came from my grandfather’s garden in my dad’s hometown, Arachova, a village several miles outside of Sparta. It is fair to say he had a tougher upbringing than my comfortable, upper-middle-class Boston childhood. His first memory, from age 3, is German Stukka bombers dive-bombing his village. He remembers the severed heads of traitors in the government square. His father resisted the Nazis in the mountains. He taught me to constantly question authority, stand up to bullies, and work relentlessly to help those who need it. His constant refrain of 'Much has been given to you, much is expected of you,' is an example I try to set for my own sons." —Ari V.

3. "With all of this remaining bread, we will turn trash into smiles for everyone"

Courtesy of Carlos F. / Getty Images

"Dad wasn't a hoarder when it came to material things, but when it came to food, you could always see him trying to get the most out of the whole piece of meat, the entire bag of flour, and every part of the vegetable he was dealing with. Having grown up in Buenos Aires in the ‘30s with 11 other siblings, he learned how to be frugal. He was also a baker. I followed him to work every summer morning at 3 a.m. to help with the thousands of loaves that had to go out to the 100 or so bodegas.

"If you didn't sell it, we would gladly take it back and give you a percentage of credit. I always wondered why my Dad would lose money on an already sold product — until I had, and fell in love with, his famous bread pudding.

"'With all of this remaining bread, we will turn trash into smiles for everyone,' he said. And with that we started cutting the sticks into cubes and placing them in large square pans. My dad never used a scale, so I couldn't possibly tell you how much pure vanilla, sugar, butter, eggs, raisins, and cinnamon was used, but I can tell you that it was perfect.

I've recreated many of his dishes over the years — some for large crowds — but I'll never try to make his bread pudding. I've never been as good of a recycler as him." —Carlos F.

4. "Our bellies and our hearts felt full"

Courtesy of Leslie R. / Getty Images

"My family is from Mexico, and although a lot of people think real Mexican food is easy to find in this country (and I’m not saying crunchy tacos aren’t tangible or tasty), truth is...IT AIN’T. My parents struggled to find their place in the US, but the feeling of home was always present at the dinner table. Through my dad’s calabacitas with tomato sauce, his chiles rellenos, and the plethora of flavorful salsas he concocted, he made sure both our bellies and our hearts felt full when we ate together." —Leslie R.

5. "I wish I could hang out with her and eat her cooking every day"

Courtesy of Emily C. / Getty Images

"In Chinese food, one very popular item is steamed fish. I never liked fish cooked this way, so it was always a treat to me when my mom would make my pan-fried pomfret instead. She also handmade really delicious wontons, and sometimes we would sit together and fold the filling into the wonton skins. She also made an incredible spicy beef noodle soup, as well as amazing fried rice with little pieces of Spam in it. In addition, she made awesome potato salad — not Chinese, but damn, this was some dope potato salad. Basically, my mom is an amazing cook, and I wish I could hang out with her and eat her cooking every day." —Emily C.

6. "They taught me how to make every type of pasta, in massive quantities"

Courtesy of Kristen B. / Getty Images

"Before starting elementary school and during the summers, my Italian grandparents looked after me all day while my parents worked. They taught me how to make every type of pasta, in massive quantities, so we could feed the whole extended family every Sunday for lunch. Our family still continues to get together every Sunday. As we've all grown up and some have started families of their own, we've moved dinner out of the dinning room and onto several large folding tables in the living room to accommodate everyone. I no longer live in town, but I still carry on many of those traditions with my friends, making my own pasta and sauces and sharing them with the people I love.

"This picture is of me making five pounds of gnocchi." —Kristen B.

7. Eat rice — even if the meal isn't rice

Courtesy of Huy T. / Getty Images

"For me and most Asian families, immigrant or not, rice was the staple of our diet growing up. I can't stress enough how important rice is to Asian cultures. This is especially so in Vietnamese households, which is where I come from, where the word(s) 'to eat' and 'have a meal' is 'ăn cơm,' which literally translates as 'eat rice.' Even if the meal does not consist of rice, I remember my parents calling us down for breakfast/lunch/dinner with 'ăn cơm!' And like most immigrant families, both my parents worked all day so the meal that we did get to share all together was dinner. Missing dinner was not an option in my house unless it was for something school related. If the phone rang, it pretty much just kept ringing. Dinner time was sacred. My parents, brothers, and I all each got a bowl of rice, and we would eat it family style with a meat/protein, veggies, and, canh which is a type of soup/broth. That was pretty much consistent every night, and since that was the one time we all got together every day and was absolutely mandatory, it brought our family closer. It was a time in the day that we all just sat down, talked, and shared a meal together. To me, it reinforced the notion of family and will be something I will be carrying on when I have my own family." —Huy T.

8. The Haitian Independence Day Meal

Courtesy of Marjorie L.

"My parents are both from Haiti, and, although I was born in America, the food on our table always reminds me of my Haitian roots. January 1 holds two very important meanings in our house: It is (of course) the first day of the New Year and also is Haiti's Independence Day. This pretty much means the day is full of Haitian music and special meals that bring our family together around the celebration of freedom and starting fresh. The primary dish is a squash-based meat and vegetable stew in the morning (my mom wakes up at 5 a.m. every year to make it over several hours!). For dinner, we usually have a fusion of more American foods, like turkey and baked ham, with iconic Haitian dishes such as rice and beans, fried plantains, and a seasoned sauce to pour over the meat. It's always so strange to me to see how so many things have changed over the 25 years of my life (even the people around the dinner table have come and gone), yet this exact set of meals is the only thing that has remained the same." —Marjorie L.

9. A traditional Polish Wigilia in North Carolina

Courtesy of Marta C. / Getty Images

"Growing up in a Polish household, there's one meal that stood out: our traditional Christmas Eve dinner, known as Wigilia. Living in North Carolina in the 1990s, it was hard to find the core ingredients like fresh, juicy beets for our 'barszcz' or large quantities of dried, wild mushrooms for the ear-shaped dumplings called 'uszka.' But this was nothing compared to the annual heartburn about the centerpiece of the meal — carp, which is raised in captivity in Central Europe, unlike the North American bottom-feeder. My parents would not only have trouble finding it, but also cleaning and preparing it so that it didn't taste like mud and bones. My memories of helping prepare this holiday meal — stuffing dumplings is by definition a group activity — are also full of anxiety. Could we get it all done and eat quickly so that we could start opening presents? The meal was usually dragged out by the ordeal of eating the fish. Neither my sister nor I particularly liked it. Every year, we'd agonize over making the fish disappear from the plate, praying our cats would save us.

"Now that I'm older, I've remained committed to Wigilia, subjecting my US-born in-laws to it every other year. But I get sad making the dumplings myself, as it reminds me how far I am from my roots. Christmas, in many ways, is no longer about the presents for me. It’s about knowing that, come what may, whatever my family looks like over the years and wherever we celebrate it, we will revisit the rituals borne by Slavs over centuries and try to make the best out of food available during the bitter cold winter." —Marta C.

10. "My grandmother's lemon chicken with rice ... I always make it when I get homesick"

Courtesy of Marjan F. / jeffreyw (CC BY 2.0) / Via Flickr: jeffreyww

"I was born in Iran, and I remember when I was a kid the most important question in the morning was, 'What should we eat today?' We had a big family, and we would all gather to eat almost every day. I learned to cook from watching my mom and aunts make Iranian food, which is a long and complicated process but is worth every second of the time that you spend on it. My favorite meal is my grandmother's lemon chicken with rice. I always make it when I get homesick." —Marjan F.

11. The Simple Salad and the Eggplant Zucchini Dish

Courtesy of Anna L. / Getty Images

"My small family — just my parents and I — moved to Fremont, California, in 1997 from Moscow, Russia. My father worked extremely long hours as a software engineer, while my mother stayed at home cooking and crafting. We rarely had meals all together, but everything she made was traditional Russian, yet simple. My daily staple was a salad of just tomatoes, cucumbers, and cabbage, sprinkled with salt. She never taught me to cook. When I moved out for college, I subsisted on TV dinners.

"Earlier this year I started a job with no good lunch options around, so I wanted to meal-prep for the week. I called my mom and asked how to make her eggplant and zucchini dish. With her vague instructions, I made... something. It wasn't bad, but not quite right. I called again to share my results. That was the last time we spoke. My mom passed away unexpectedly in the middle of March.

"Through the grief, I kept cooking. I had to work, and I had to eat. Eventually, I got the eggplant and zucchini right, and wailed, 'Mom, I did it!' in the kitchen. Now, every day after work, I make myself a simple salad with just tomatoes, cucumbers, and cabbage, sprinkled with salt." —Anna L.

Immigrants bring more to America than the food we eat. June is Immigrant Heritage Month, and it’s the perfect time to show you stand with immigrants. Sign up below to learn more about the I Am An Immigrant campaign.