Food is never just food. It’s also a way of getting at something else: who we are, who we have been, and who we want to be.
— Molly Wizenberg, A Homemade Life
My earliest food memory is the rainbow-colored nian gao from my grandfather.
Like many Chinese grandpas in downtown Yangon, he likes to go on a walk in the mornings. On his way back, he buys me these brightly colored, multi-layered Chinese rice cakes from a neighborhood street vendor in Chinatown, which is where I have spent a good portion of my childhood.
With a little linguistic twists and turns, the Chinese characters that make up the words “nian” and “gao” signify a more prosperous year or a better future outlook. This summarizes how my grandpa treats me: he calls me by my Chinese name “Precious Child” and after his morning walks, he hands me over “prosperity” disguised in the form of rice cakes.