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Stories of Asian American food culture in Arizona

My mother jokes that I was born with red pin-prick skin because she ate so much spicy food when she was pregnant. When I look down at my hands de ella I see her de ella hands — petite shape, slim fingers, the faint raise of veins that perhaps, when I was born, were coursing with garlic, chilies and lime juice, the holy trinity of my mother’s cooking.

The permanent callus on my middle finger, that one’s all mine, from gripping pencils.

I don’t come from a family of writers, but I grew up writing. And I’m looking down at my hands now because I was asked to write a story for Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, or AAPIHM as it’s shortened to.

IfI asked my parents, they wouldn’t know what this jumble of letters means. I would have to explain to them that this catch-all acronym casts a wide net, lumping together East Asians, Southeast Asians, Desi people, Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders. AAPI also encompasses mixed-race people and Asian adoptees. It’s a clunky term, used in the media, but rarely in everyday conversations with people who would fit under the AAPI umbrella.

Ranjani Venkatakrishnan and her mother, Anuradha Venkatakrishnan, pose for a portrait while holding a bowl of murukku at the Venkatakrishnan's home on Nov. 5, 2020 in Chandler, Arizona.  Ranjani plans on sharing her mom's recipe for murukku on the Blaze radio show

The truth is, there is no AAPI Heritage Month for me. I celebrate our existence every day that I’m alive. My body carries my mother, my mother’s mother and the ancestors that came before us. If we are what we eat, then my genes must have traces of marinated river crabs, cilantro and fermented fish sauce, as well as McDonald’s hamburger — my teenage mother’s first meal in America.