QTViet Feast Reflection
What feels like months ago but was really only a little over a week ago, the QTViệt Intergenerational Feast of Resistance: Say Mê Tết took place at Chapter 510 in the good city of Oakland. First of all, what an event name, am I right?? Like each time I told someone that I was planning this event, I had to break down each word, and I think it’s really symbolic of the multitudes that our community holds. QT for queer and trans because we really are a bunch of cuties, you know? Việt because we nhớ nguồn when we uống nước, and we’re always talking about that water (and often times nước mắm) as people of the diaspora. Intergenerational because here we laugh and cry and cook and eat with the elders, the youth, and everyone in between. Feast because can you really call it a Việt event if there’s not enough homemade food made from scratch to fill everyone up and give them leftovers to take home? Finally, resistance because our existence through time and space has been and continues to be resistance, and damn are we resilient.
At the beginning of February, Trang asked me if I was interested in joining the planning committee for this event and sent me the blog post from last year. My immediate thought was that this was freaking beautiful, and of course I want to be part of it! Even though the virtual planning meetings would always happen late at night after a long day’s work for everyone, they were always so life-giving and inspiring. Everyone had such good energy, ideas, and reflective answers for the check-in and check-out questions. I remember thinking to myself, ‘Damn, we’re really out here working to create the world we deserve. This space exists. We exist.’
Fast forward to mid-March, and we started gathering together at CERI (Center for Empowering Refugees and Immigrants) and Hải’s house to actually prep and cook the food for the feast. The spread this year was a three course meal of completely vegan versions of traditional Tết food complete with drinks:
Bánh tét đậu khoai / Rice cake with beans, shallots, and roots
Đồ chua / Vinegar-pickled carrots, daikon, and green onions
Dưa món / Soy- & dry-pickled veggies
Chả hấp / Tofu-mushroom-noodle-steamed loaf
Canh khổ qua / Stuffed bittermelon soup
Cơm “hến” / “Baby clams” rice
Bánh tét chuối / Sticky rice cake with bananas
Rau câu dừa / Coconut jelly
Trái cây / Fruit
Chanh muối / Preserved citrus drink
Nước đã / Ice Water
Nước trà / Tea
I will never forget that moment when we were cutting vegetables for đầu chua and both Hải and Trang spent a good chunk of time fawning over how beautiful and delicious they were. Find you partners that look at you the way these two affirm and admire vegetables, because I’m telling you THAT was true love. It really struck a chord with me, because it was in this moment that I came to recognize the love embedded in all the meals my mom cooks for me regardless of our heated disagreements. With this recognition, I found a bit of courage to take a step in my own intergenerational healing journey with my parents and started taking pictures of this process to share with them, because as easy as it is to share bits of my personal life with other people, it is ridiculously hard and nerve-wrecking for me to do so with my parents. So this act of texting photos was a baby step and a good step. Because how could I not be moved by all the time and energy that went into learning and passing down recipes, buying ingredients, cutting, washing, drying, marinating, mashing, mixing, stuffing, steaming, boiling, frying, refrigerating, transporting, and serving food that I witnessed through this planning process?? This pathway of healing through food is no joke y’all, and I hope you were able to feel the immense love that our badass team of committee members and volunteers poured into every eyeballed & calculated measurement of this feast.
Before you know it, it was the actual day of the feast on Saturday, March 31st. Folks were on site from as early as 9am to as late as 11pm, and the day just flew by so fast. The program was run predominantly in Việt with live English interpretation, and all printed programs were bilingual to flip the mainstream English narrative. This in itself was so damn impressive to me since most of us are 1.5-2nd generation Việt Americans that didn't get to complete or even start our formal education in the motherland. MCs Tracy & Irene were like the Cô’s at the family party with all the juice and jokes and precious family stories you didn’t know you needed to hear until you heard them. Trang and Hải taught us the very important meaning of the earth dog and introduced us to our zodiac trifectas AKA your lunar besties for life. People on the panel had you getting emotional and grasping your heart when they shared how proud they are of this feast or how much they just want to learn their parents' stories through cooking with them while they're still alive. InnoViệt graced us again with their nostalgic and sentimental tunes that transport us to the past and back in just 20 timeless minutes, and Hunnies & Hot Sauce provided that necessary musical sustenance to keep us sweet and spicy as we feasted and wrapped up the night. As for the Open Mic, we had comedians, storytellers, poets, dancers, and singers grace us on the stage, which meant yes OF COURSE there was karaoke and cải lương. Thank you elders for sharing such powerful messages with us through your performances.
With that, it's time to give affirmations because you know how much we love those! Shout-out to the elders and families for both teaching and holding us with your tenderness. Shout-out to all the community partners that made this event possible with your support. Shout-out to the best team of planners and volunteers ever for making the magic happen. Shout-out to all of y'all for coming through and celebrating the new year with us! You are just as much a part of this community as anybody else no matter how old or new you are to it, and your presence is so, so seen and valued just as you are. If that imposter syndrome tries to sneak in and tell you otherwise, please just kick it to the curb and never look back!! You are loved, bạn. From the bottom of this trái tim, thank you for being part of the 2018 QT Việt Feast of Intergenerational Resistance. Can't wait to see you again next year (or sooner at the next event)! <3