What baking has come to mean

Photo by Dani Sisson Student Publications

Food is an essential part of my existence. 

Obviously in the needing-to-eat-to-stay-alive sense but also in my cultural and sexual identity. 

I am half-Japanese and identify as queer, but it took such a long time to really learn and appreciate these parts about myself. 

I have been fortunate to grow up with a strong connection to my Japanese heritage through my dad and grandparents.

However, it wasn’t until recently that I started exploring what being part Japanese actually means to me. 

Because I am biracial, I didn’t really know where I fit in, whether or not I could fully claim that part of myself. 

A lot of that changed when I read the book “Crying in H-Mart” by Michelle Zauner last year. 

One of the themes of the book is staying connected to your heritage after losing a strong, direct connection to it. 

For the first time, I was confronted with a fear of losing this connection and really started to think about what this part of my identity meant to me. 

And so I started to think about how I could learn and explore more about my heritage and immediately, I thought of food. 

Some of my best memories growing up have been cooking a meal with my grandparents in the kitchen and so that’s where I chose to start. 

Cooking the food brought comfort and warmth, and learning about different techniques and ingredients has so far helped me form a stronger connection. 

Growing up, I knew for a fact that I was half-Japanese, something easy for me to accept.

What was more difficult, however, was coming to accept myself as queer. 

I started questioning my sexual identity in high school. However, I always had a voice in my head that would dismiss it, telling me that I was “normal” and that I shouldn’t think anything of it. 

That internal battle caused a really low point for me, where I felt like I was drowning in a flood of my own thoughts. Cooking and baking became a sort of comfort for me because I just had to focus on what was in front of me. 

I started to follow a lot of food accounts on Instagram, and while a lot of them influenced how I cook, there were quite a few that helped me validate my queer identity. 

Seeing chefs and creators in the LGBTQ+ community doing all of these amazing things and living freely was reassuring to me.

It gave me some hope for what the future might look like as a queer person. 

Even though I am not fully out to my family back home yet, being able to have a supportive and engaged community has been inspiring to have. Creating this relationship with food has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Now, it’s also one of the things that I like to ask other people. There is something really beautiful about sitting down with people over a meal and having conversations about stories from their lives. It is been incredibly freeing to be able to explore my identity through baking.