Cantonese Style Wok

Relationship: Child of im/migrant

 My mom and her family grew up in rural China, they didn’t know much about the United States, besides the fact that it was a land full of opportunities. When she found out that she, along with her mother and two brothers, would be immigrating to the United States to live with her aunt, she learned one more thing: things are expensive in the states. Her aunt specified that they should buy a wok – a rounded Chinese pan – before coming here, because things could be found at much cheaper prices in China. A wok, however, is far from small. It measures over a foot in diameter and is chunky, odd shaped, and by all means, an undesirable item to pack and bring with you across continents. Yet, my mom bought the wok and packed it, bringing it with her to the states. My mom’s family valued the wok – so much so that they barely packed anything else; there were no trinkets, photographs, memorabilia, or many clothes for that matter. What mattered was the wok. 

The wok, today, remains with my grandmother – my mom’s mother – after my mom moved out to start her own family. Every day, for the past fifteen years, the wok has been in use, whether it was to cook traditional Fuzhounese meals, or to whip up more “American” dishes for my cousins, who now live with my grandmother. The wok has seen fifteen years’ worth of history – of struggle, assimilation, and success. 

Place(s): China, New York
Year: 1990

– Vicki Lau

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