During my freshman year of college, I wasn’t allowed to cook while living on campus. Since I wasn’t used to American food, by the end of the school year I was yearning for my traditional Mauritian food. I made a list of foods that I had to eat when I went back to Mauritius, and even made precise plans to meet up and go on a “food trail” with one of my friends, more than a month away from summer break.
That’s how much I missed the food of my homeland.
When I was assigned an apartment-style dorm room with its own private kitchen for my sophomore year, I was delighted. Finally, I thought, I might be able to lessen my homesickness a little since I could make my own food whenever I liked.
I never thought that the exact opposite would happen.
When I was back home for summer break, my mother and I went shopping for spices that I could bring with me. I came back to the U.S. with a lot more than I needed, with my mom apparently expecting that I would make every Mauritian dish that has ever existed.
After I bought all my pots and pans and ingredients, I just couldn’t wait to cook. But when I started to cut the same vegetables which looked different, when I couldn’t figure out how to “season” a wok before using it, when I realized that I forgot to get a dishcloth to wipe the mess I was making, which my mom always had plenty of, when I looked at the spices that we’d bought together – there was only one thing that I yearned for: home.
Homesickness is funny. You bring back stuff from home that you think will help you feel better, you try to recreate your culture in a foreign land, but the only thing it does is make you more homesick.
Is the best way to avoid it is to not own anything that could remind you of home? I don’t know.
What I do know is that virtually anything can remind you of home – a song, parents laughing with their teenage kids, the sight of the sun at a time of the day when you know it’s shining in your homeland as well.
And there’s no escaping that.