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The Food That Binds Us Together

A Visual Exploration

Text and photos  by Gloria Wong 
Art Direction  by Melanie Choi
March 4th, 2021


This series of photographs focuses on the relationship between food and intimacy/affection in Hong Kong diasporic communities. This work explores how food is used within Asian familial relationships as a way of connecting when expressions of love and care can be expressed alternatively in Hongkonger-Canadian families.

Growing up in Vancouver, food was often one of the few connections I had to Hong Kong. As a kid, my parents used to pack school lunches for us that would include things like fried rice and spam, dumplings, pineapple buns, and Vita soy boxes. Our food itself could also be looked at as a representation of the hyphenated identity that many children of immigrants have, in bringing together two different cultures.

As a result of Hong Kong’s colonial history, a lot of dishes and desserts – such as pineapple buns or egg tarts – contain traces of both British and Chinese culture. These unique Hong Kong dishes bridge the gaps between the two cultural influences that the city often finds itself caught between. In trying to figure out what being Hongkonger-Canadian meant to me, I held onto these items as markers of a culture I was only briefly familiar with. 

Like many other second-generation immigrants, my relationship with my family was largely mediated through the acts of service, such as preparing a meal or eating together. A lot of my childhood memories involved having tea and dim sum on Sunday afternoons with my grandparents or coming home from school to a plate of cut-up oranges on the kitchen counter. As language was often a barrier between my grandparents and myself, sentiments of care and affection were often expressed between us through food.

Beyond eating the food itself, the gestures of preparing them communicated just as much. I saw actions such as the washing of fruit or my grandmother meticulously peeling pomelos for us after dinner as labours of love; emotions that couldn’t be said through words. For us, food often became a substitute for language.

These acts of care were often mirrored through the packaging of fruit in Chinese grocery stores too, extending beyond just our familial relationships. Pears and oranges would come wrapped in layers of protection with netting and foam. While this extra packaging may seem excessive, it also points to a level of care. The exchange of meals and food creates a sense of community and care for those that are first/second-generation immigrants in a place that might not always feel like home. It brings people together.

With these photographs, I wanted to examine how something as simple as an egg tart or the cutting of mangoes could hold a significance beyond just food; to hold both personal and cultural importance. This work challenges stereotypically-held ideas around Asian intergenerational relationships lacking expressions of love and affection. It suggests that these are shown through gestures of preparing and sharing food as another way of saying “I love you”.


Gloria Wong (b. 1998) is an emerging visual artist and curator based on the unceded territories of the Squamish, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh Nations (Vancouver). Her practice primarily uses photography to explore the complexities and nuances of East Asian diasporic identities and the ways they are shaped by different relationships-whether between people, their environments or objects.





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