With Thanksgiving only a week away, Irene Li—owner of Mei Mei Street Kitchen and Restaurant and Project Bread Board Member—reflects on her own family traditions from Thanksgivings past, and what matters to her most: food, family, and social justice.
As a restaurant owner and chef, I strive to make the world a better place through food. With Thanksgiving around the corner, I am reminded of all that I'm thankful for and am mindful of the long road we still have to travel to create an equitable community where every person enjoys the basic human right of healthy food.
When I was 12, my dad suffered a stroke and eventually developed Alzheimer's disease. Our family life shifted to center around his rehabilitation and care, and since we couldn't travel to relatives as in years past, my brother, my sister and I took charge of the Thanksgiving meal. We spent weeks carefully planning out every dish. I think it was one of the first times the three of us spent that much time cooking together. It was clear to me, even as a kid, that food not only sustains us physically but also carries the power to build community and express love.
I always look forward to Thanksgiving with my family; I'm excited to sit with them next week and share the meal we will have all prepared together. We always make Chinese-style rice porridge with the leftover turkey bones, and it lasts us all weekend long. My niece and nephew go crazy for it, and it's one of my favorite parts of the holiday.
At the same time, I'm all too aware of the inequity that exists when it comes to accessing affordable, healthy food. For tens of thousands of Massachusetts families — including a large number in the restaurant industry — a bountiful and healthy Thanksgiving dinner is simply out of reach. It should not be this way. And it doesn't have to be.
At Mei Mei, we provide our team with access to high-quality ingredients all year round, and we put particular focus on Thanksgiving, when every person should be able to serve the meal they want as they gather with loved ones and those they are thankful for. But many families don't have any support.
For so many, putting food on the table is a struggle every day. I joined Project Bread's Board of Directors because I share their commitment to making sure everyone has access to affordable, healthy food. And I know you do too.
Project Bread Board Member
Founder & Owner, Mei Mei Street Kitchen & Restaurant
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