There are five widely accepted love languages: words of affirmation, acts of service, gift-giving, quality time and physical touch. In my mind, there is one more: food. To cook for someone is inherently an act of service, a gift, a way to spend quality time with them. I have been taught this idea of ​​cooking as a way to express love throughout my life. Like many of my peers of Color, I grew up around the authentic food of my cultures, in kitchens permanently imbued with the scent of strong spices. I remember being sous chef to my parents and grandparents. With my mother’s Lebanese family, I’d pick garden herbs while the smell of fresh-baked za’atar manaeesh constantly filled our home. With my father’s Indian-Caribbean family, I’d chop mango and roll roti “with love,” per my grandmother’s instructions.

For many people of Color, food is far more than a means of sustenance. It is a way to display familial and cultural pride and love. It is a tangible marker of identity. It’s true that food brings people together, but it also has a potent ability to differentiate. A specific cultural cuisine gives meaning and understanding to a specific peoples. For me, food and culture have been directly intertwined for as long as I can remember. I look back and realize my relationship with food is indicative of my relationship with my identity.

At ages 6, 7, 8, I become aware of my differences. As a young boy, Eurocentrism is ingrained into my mind. I turn on Disney Channel and I can’t find a character who looks like me. Most of my friends are white, or Lebanese, like myself. Although I am only half. My Indo-Caribbean half is pronounced in my thick curls and brown skin. It is inconcealable.

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