Food occupies a special place in all of our lives. It connects us to the past, creates friendships and sets milestones. For me, food signifies much more.

A difficult period in the childhood years has turned food into a unique lens through which the way I see the world. It was summer time in Beijing in the year 1999. I made my way to school, just like any 11-year-old girl would. But upon arrival, I was told to pack my bags and leave. The school was kicking me out, because of my belief in Falun Dafa, a traditional cultivation practice.

It didn’t end there. Soon, my family and I flee China, the country we once called home. Still just a child, I was thrust into upheaval. At age 12, I arrived in the US, as a political refugee. The stress of escaping to new countries and confronting new experiences was enough to shake any grown adult. For me, I learned to cope through food, or more precisely, through places where people ate food.