Food Culture and Identity
Creating Memorable Moments while Eating

Written and photographed by Tiffany Alexandria

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Every time I invite friends over for dinner, I find myself explaining a full story of history, culture and why we eat what we eat before talking about the actual food and ingredients. Food is such a big part of who I am, and it was through eating that I learned about my culture, heritage and ancestry.

Qing Ming Festival

(Tomb Sweeping Festival)
Culture and food are entwined and tightly knit in Taiwan. Food stalls and markets are built around temples, and each holiday is about traditions that are often food related. Qing Ming Festival (清明節), which falls on April 5, is also known as the Tomb Sweeping Festival. In Chinese culture, this holiday is a day where people visit their ancestors to pay respect and clean up their tombs and the surrounding area.

But like most holidays, it’s so much more than just sweeping tombs; it’s about learning about and respecting the past, spending time with family and, of course, food.

Each region has different must-eat foods, and in Taiwan, the most iconic QingMing food is “RùnBǐng”(潤餅 lumpia/spring rolls). RùnBǐng is a thin wheat-based wrap filled with steamed or boiled cabbage, bean sprouts, egg fluff, pork, crushed peanuts and cilantro.

Easy handheld snacks are popular during this time since everyone is busy cleaning 26 :: march • april 2021 and visiting family. Tsháu-á-kué (草仔粿 sticky rice cake with herbs and various filling), âng‑ku‑ké (紅龜粿 red turtle sticky rice cake with sweet adzuki beans), green onions and eggs are all must-eats during the holiday. Each holiday food has a story and symbolizes good luck and blessings as we enjoy them.

The living are not the only ones who get to enjoy food. Each year during QingMing, we would visit my grandpa at the columbarium—the place where his urn is held—and bring him his favorite foods. There, the common table in the lobby is covered with foods brought by families visiting their loved ones.

The food on the table is blessed by the ancestors and buddha and later shared amongst the family in order to receive the blessing

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About Author

Tiffany Alexandria

Born and raised in Taiwan by a picky-eater dad and a mom who’ll try anything, Tiffany has tasted a world of flavors. Through traveling, she learned the relationship between food and culture, and the importance of supporting locals. Tiffany currently works as a food photographer, blogger, and occasional artist and designer. You can visit choochoocachew.com to learn more about her foods.

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