It was when I moved to college in Atlanta that I learned a lot about the importance of comfort foods, especially those that we consumed growing up. Though I owned cookbooks, I rarely cooked from them. Memories of my mother's cooking persisted, like lo mi fan, which is a savory sticky rice made with shitake mushrooms, fresh cilantro and fragrant chinese sausage, or a simple lamb and winter melon soup to cozy up the winter, or the Sunday morning ritual of crimping pork dumplings to consume that evening.
I've attempted to make these foods, some with more success than others, always consulting my mother. She would assure me that I was doing it right, that there was probably something wrong with the ingredients I was getting in the South. I was sure she was intentionally leaving information out to keep me coming back home.
But success wasn't always measured in how accurately it compared to my mother's version. Memories produced a profoundly stubborn desire to imitate the past, but I would find that sometimes a perfect re-creation was met with a less than enthusiastic response from my friends. Taste is subjective, and just as I don't always find the childhood foods of my friends all too appealing, they are not always receptive of mine. Not one to give up, I've acquiesced to social whoredom and made modifications over the years to lure friends back into my kitchen.