Funny how the small and simple things in life can mean a lot more when you take a closer look at them. Growing up, my mother sometimes served us warm rice porridge with yams or sweet potatoes for breakfast, usually on weekends when we spent more time eating breakfast together. The dish bridged different cultures for our immigrant family. It was part of the “traditional” cuisine and culture my parents brought to the U.S. from Asia, but because it was sweet, unlike most other “traditional” breakfast dishes, it resembled the sweet cereal we learned from television and the experiences of our native-born friends that American kids were supposed to eat. It was the closest thing we had to an Asian oatmeal or cream-of-wheat, and it was in a way, our own cultural comfort food.
This sense of comfort and culture are an important and intimate, if sometimes overlooked, part of histories of conquest, colonization, and struggles for political self-determination. Within the politics of struggle, culture translates and locates a sense of place, defining over time the comfort of belonging that is necessary to nascent forms of political affiliation and identification. Culture helps locate nationalism within our modern paradigm for the political organization of governments, states, and societies. And it is in this sense that rice porridge with yams is more than a tasty dish to have for breakfast.