Nine years on, I still think about the visit to Jen Cafe.
With another Chinese New Year’s right around the corner on January 25, and the world now feeling just as politically fraught as it did in 2011, it’s hard not to draw parallels between then and now.
While it would be easy to say that I was wrong about the optimism I felt in 2011 -- with subsequent political events clearly not shaking out the way that any of us would have hoped -- I do still have hope. And a lot of that hope is still driven by the ways cultural traditions and food are proactively used to influence the world for the greater good.
Recent coverage of the democracy protests from Hong Kong, have shown us how protesters have come together through the use of to communicate, support and to make a stand. They’re using food in ways that emphasize connection and engagement, like the gelato shop owner supporting protesters, or moon cakes carrying messages of solidarity and defiance. It’s not hard to see how shared cuisine can unify -- even in the face of significant challenges.
So, even though the future I once glimpsed at Jen Cafe still hasn’t come to pass, I still feel the power of food inspiring conversation and action. I see it happening, in powerful locations around the world. And it’s what I’ll be thinking about when I sit down to another meal of dumplings on the 25th.