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National Bao Day
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National Bao Day
Even though the Earthquakes are separated from grandparents and great-grandparents through death, distance, and the pandemic, they still feel connected to their ancestors. We talk about the sacrifices and choices our ancestors made so we could have the lives we lead today. This discussion almost always revolves around food.
As we transition responsibility to the next generation, we can connect our kids with their heritage and previous generations with the way we sustain our bodies – even through barriers of distance, language, and lost family ties.
For instance -there’s an actual day dedicated to bao. In a country where our special events aren’t recognized by institutions, we don’t get school days off for our even our biggest holidays, and most of our non-Chinese friends and family have a fundamental misunderstanding on what our real food is actually like, there’s something thrilling about having a day celebrating our favorite pastry. Especially one with a smell and taste that brings back sensory memories – the smells and plump round softness of my grandmother’s hugs.
You can [insert your favorite family food here] if you don’t care about bao. But it’s such an accessible food, with cultures around the world having their own spin on a tasty thing wrapped in a starchy thing. Why not celebrate both?
When is it?
- August 22
- Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao (Ages 4+) A story of resilience, frustrations about being little, and intentional practice. This is the perfect story to support kids who are impatient for slow transitions that take work, reflection, and resilience. I love this book so hard. We’re still saving up for a family copy to keep.
- My Day with Gong Gong (Ages 4+) This story mirrors my childhood growing up with Cantonese-speaking grandparents perfectly, and underlines why food was our love language despite our language barrier. It’s also one of the only books featuring a Cantonese-speaking family (instead of the more popular Mandarin).
- Bao (Ages 3+) The first Pixar short directed by a woman, and a Chinese woman. Until just a few years ago, representation both on the screen and behind it was so rare we get VERY EXCITED when this happens. So this was a really big deal. The animated short is lovely – but it’s also complicated for younger kids to understand. That’s why I love the Little Golden Book version, which spells out the conflict and meaning behind the story for younger kids.
- Let’s Make Dumplings (ages 10+) A graphic novel cookbook for adults, but accessible for older kids
- What makes the bao in these stories about more than just a tasty snack to satisfy hunger?
Some hints to get you started: Family traditions of assembling food together, the variation that allows a family to make a recipe specific to them, the symbolism of the shape of ripe and wealthy abundance, the fact that these have been go-to host gift that supports Chinese-owned pastry shops for generations, and the soft, skin-like texture that feels like a plump grandma’s arms.
- In these stories, there’s a conflict between generations and how we each believe we ‘should’ behave. What are the conflicts and difficulties each young character faces in building a relationship with their elders? What difficulty do the elders face in supporting their children?
- Eat more bao. Support a local Asian-owned restaurant if you can.
- Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao has a recipe if you’d like to try it yourself. Our 5-year-old is pescatarian, so once every couple years I pull it together enough to make vegan char siu bao to make sure he’s not completely missing out on the flavors that link us to our great-grandparents. Support a local Asian-owned grocer when you shop.
More resources to dig deeper:
- Delicious Kids Books That Dismantle Anti-Asian Racism
- Cooking Is Community Care – Empowering Kids In a Time of Uncertainty
- Delicious Asian & Pacific Islander Food Culture for Kids