When you think of a ‘blended family,’ often the image that comes to mind is one of two separate family units merging to form one harmonious, and sometimes not so harmonious, family. However, another way to think of a blended family is one which brings together a mélange of cultures to create a multicultural melting pot under one roof. When it works, this wonderful comingling of diverse ways of life brings with it a sense of simpatico, and the frequency with which blended families are formed is on the rise.
Amy and Matt, who call Wilton, Connecticut home, are one such family who bring their respective backgrounds together not only through the threshold of their home but into their kitchen as well. Amy’s Chinese roots are evident, but having grown up in Michigan she is American through and through, while Matt is an American of German and English ancestry. Together, this makes for an interesting mélange of flavors at mealtime in their household.
Amy’s parents, both of whom were born in China, reared their family in the Midwestern U.S. As a child, Amy received the best of both worlds. Not only did her mom cook traditional Chinese dishes for the family, such as preparing an entire fish—totally intact from the head and eyeballs to the tip of the tail fin—or wielding a hatchet to chop off the head of a duck to dress for the evening meal, but she also adapted her cooking to suit her young offspring whose undeveloped palates were more aligned with American style foods like hamburgers and hot dogs.
There are a plethora of ingredients inherent to the Chinese culture, many of which are readily identifiable by the average person. Many of these same ingredients work well in non-Asian dishes and those of a fusion nature as well. Sesame oil, soy sauce, oyster sauce and more . . . these are foods that are staples in Amy’s kitchen cabinet.
On the other hand, Matt, an Ohio native, is no stranger to the kitchen. His roots compel him to wield forks, knives and tongs in the kitchen as he prepares mouthwatering German dishes for his family like flavorful bratwurst and savory stews. However, ironically, Matt’s cooking prowess is greatly influenced by his Italian ex-father-in-law, which includes preparing a variety of pasta and regionally inspired dishes.
The family of Amy’s youth and her own family of today share a distinct commonality: both kitchens have a split personality, which appeases everyone in the family. With two young children to rear to adulthood, Amy and Matt’s kitchen goes from preparing foods for the adults and shifts gears to craft meals which suit the palates of kids who don’t yet appreciate the more robust nuances of grown-up fare.
Traditional Asian cooking is generally a healthy approach to preparing meals, and their kitchen is no exception. Amy cooks with soy products, which is a main ingredient in Asian cooking. She also does her fair share of stir frying, works with traditional Asian foodstuffs like bok choy and snap peas, and more often than not she serves rice over bread as the side dish and starch component.
Thanksgiving is a dual-culture affair in Amy and Matt’s household, one which transforms the meal from ordinary into extraordinary. The family’s American sensibilities still see a traditional turkey grace the dinner table. However, instead of the conventional stuffing, Amy coaxes two cultures together beautifully by stuffing the bird with Chinese Sticky Rice, a recipe that has been in her family for years. And lest you wonder, it’s so much more than mere rice. It’s just one way Amy and Matt merge the traditions of their respective families to build a new tradition to pass down to their children.
In Amy and Matt’s home, East meets West successfully … in more ways than one. Not only are they building memories to last a lifetime, they are forging culinary traditions that will be integrated into their roots, and that’s the best kind of home cooking.