by Christeen Nguyen
I am Asian
I pretend not to be hungry
I understand that my mom is cooking right now
Kelloggsville Middle School seventh-grader Christeen Nguyen’s poem recently caught the attention of her writing teacher, Katy Andreini, who had assigned the class to write “Who I Am” poems, to tell something about themselves.
“What I mainly eat is rice,” said Christeen. The poem is meant to be funny; Christeen said she was just hungry in class and wanted to share her Vietnamese heritage.
Inspired by Christeen’s poem, Andreini went home and made rice bowls for dinner. She said she often notices “culture-diffusion” in her life — and in her cooking — as a result of working with a diverse group of students. Cultural diffusion is how cultural traits spread into different populations.
Christeen, who wants to be the first Asian president of the U.S., is also interested in becoming a chef. Besides rice, she has another favorite food: “I am obsessed with eating pickled leeks,” she said.
Andreini used the “Who I Am?” poem assignment before having the class start Jerry Spinelli’s autobiography, “Knots in My Yo-Yo,” which includes a chapter devoted to his father’s Italian heritage, including culture and food.