Ann's Tiffin

Relationship: Child of im/migrant
My family's special tiffin from Cambodia
My family's special tiffin from Cambodia

Like many other Cambodian Americans, my family has a tiered tiffin lunch box. It’s a little beaten and bruised but still shiny silver-looking, nothing special. It’s only used when it's a holiday or going to the temple. Whenever we went to the temple my mom would pack the four-tiered lunch box with different dishes and foods. Often stained with turmeric and lemongrass. They were never anything special to me because many other people had similar ones, they all looked alike and the only way we could tell them apart was the bold, faded, red sharpie that spelled out “Ann” on the top lid. Ann was the name of my grandpa, my mother’s father. Whenever I see these tiffins I think of temples and the mass gathering of people who look like me, and it’s a bit surreal to see so many people who are similar but so different from me at the same time. Our tiffin, as much as it is similar, is so different and carries the story of my grandparent's immigration from the countryside in Cambodia to a modernized and fast-paced life in America. The tiffin now holds food, but it used to hold life for my aunts, uncle, and mother. Despite escaping from the Khmer Rouge they always had time to share a meal with only four tiers between the six of them. The simplicity of it holds so much meaning to me now, as I realize how drastically different my life could have been if my family had stayed and survived in Cambodia. But on the other hand, the tiffin does represent survival and hard choices that were left in the hands of my uneducated grandparents who wanted so desperately to have their kids safe. 

Place(s): Cambodia, Massachusetts

– KH

Relationship:  Child of im/migrant Child of im/migrant