For months, Ying didn’t even want to go to the supermarket
Since emigrating from China, she and her family had overcome many challenges. Yet, after settling in a rural Massachusetts town and signing her daughters up for school, some confusion of the Western world still remained.
Though Ying had always been health conscious and an experienced food shopper in China, the American grocery store was overwhelming. Her three daughters would come home from school sharing details of the Western food that they had enjoyed throughout the day. Without the comfort of the markets in China, preparing the kind of meals her daughters talked about proved to be difficult. Ying felt she needed to make a change in the way that she prepared food for her family. When a home visitor from the Parent Child Home Program in Clinton shared information about the upcoming Cooking Matters class in her area, Ying enthusiastically signed up.
On a crisp Thursday morning, she joined the table of mothers for her first Cooking Matters class. When faced with the question “What do you hope to learn from this class?” Ying replied with honesty and humility: “I want to learn how to cook Western food for my family.”
On the 5th week, the class met at a local grocery store to pull together all the skills that had been taught in the previous weeks. At the store participants practiced reading food labels, comparing prices, and purchasing a healthy meal to serve their families for under $10. Prior to attending the 5th week at the store, Ying would send her husband to do the shopping. Now she feels confident navigating an American grocery store. She is reading food labels and comparing unit prices in order to prepare a healthy American meal that her whole family can enjoy. “I am now able to pick out healthy food that is more affordable. It really helps my family out financially.”
Empowered by the Cooking Matters class, Ying shared some of the small changes that have helped her adapt to Western culture. “We used to eat healthy in China. Now we just cook in a different way. Before this class we always used to cook with white rice. Now, I cook more with brown rice.”
She has also begun to include her children in the cooking process. “I bake more now. I used to just fry or steam my food, but now I am baking more.” Her three daughters, Cici, Elaine, and Eileen, love helping their mom cook. When Ying was preparing primarily Chinese food, she kept her kids away from the kitchen, nervous that they might hurt themselves with all of the chopping that needed to be done. Now that she has incorporated more baking, cooking has become a family activity. She lets her kids measure ingredients, assemble meals for the family, and even decorate their food to make it their own. Ying said, “The kids enjoy my cooking because they are helping out in the kitchen.”
Ying is now confidently exploring new recipes. She uses the Cooking Matters book to add healthy recipes to her previous collection. “This class opened my mind to cooking. I used to just do it my way, but now I have a lot of healthy, Western recipes.”
As the class came to a close, the moms joined together in celebration of the skills they have learned from class and from one another. Ying shared her gratitude for the course and brought in food from her own culture to share with the group. As often is the case in a Cooking Mattes course, the participants learn as much from one another as they do from the instructors.
“I imagine that this class can help a lot of parents and help a lot of kids,” Ying joyfully added. “It can help make families healthy!”
And that’s what it’s all about.