Weekends at the Card House - Local Wolves


As we continue to become older and fight the urge to break traditions, we begin to reminisce on the key moments in our adolescence that shaped our beings today; specific smells, colors, textures, and even sounds can easily bring us back to cherishable moments. For this project, the both of us took a trip down memory lane and imagined ourselves as children watching the elder relatives enjoy themselves with a traditional game of Mahjong and Four Color Cards (Sì Sè Pái) over a family style meal and cigarette smoke filling up the air. Setting up this concept took a lot of inspiration from both of our backgrounds as a Taiwanese/Chinese American and a Vietnamese American and the nostalgia of our naive, younger selves witnessing the adults come together at the card house to bond over a game or two. Amongst the thick cloud of smoke mixed with a familiar scent of cheap beer and whatever food was being served that night, we remember eavesdropping on conversations the adults would have that spanned across a plethora of topics. From catching up on current life and bragging how well each others’ kids were doing in school among other gossip to uncovering some truths behind what it means to be an Asian immigrant in America, these conversations hold precedent to the way we go about our lives today as first generation Asian Americans. Reminiscing on these moments brought realization to the customs and values many of us share as Asian Americans, while understanding it is okay to analyze and criticize the impact they have on us now. – Ashley Chang & Vanessa Le.

Cuisine plays a huge role in our cultures – even through our language and the way we speak to one another. My parents and grandparents would often ask me, “Con ăn gì chưa?” (“Did you eat yet?”) as a daily reminder to show that they care and value our health, which is a very common theme in the Asian American household as substitutes for “I love you’s.” In Asian cultures, we are accustomed to “family style” dinners where we share large platters of food in the middle of the dining table rather than individual plates, with large servings spoons that we use to portion the dishes. I like to think this allows for a more intimate setting as we’re passing along food, making sure everyone is able to fill their empty plate with the options laid out in front of us. My mom would even jokingly say, “We’re all family here, your germs are my germs.” All jokes aside, during dinners my dad would constantly feel the need to ask me “Con no chưa?” (“Are you full yet?), which I knew was his way of showing his care and affection for me. To disclose, my dad and I don’t necessarily have the kind of relationship where we can freely talk to each other about anything and everything due to the language barrier between us. Where some forms of love language are lacking in the way I’d like, he makes it up in other ways. And fortunately for me, my mom has always expressed the importance of having dinner as a whole family almost every night for as long as I can remember, because she knows that once we grow older and we have our own lives to live, the only time we would have for each other is the one or two hours for dinner. Her love language is being able to spend time with each other and for everything my mom (and my dad) has sacrificed and provided for me and my family, she (and he) deserves everything and more. Now moved out of my parents’ house across the country, I miss our family dinners more than anything. – Vanessa.

In my family, it was always encouraged to try all the different dishes my mom would cook for us that evening. Often, she’d lay out some sort of stir fried vegetable dish paired with a protein and maybe a soup, all over a bowl of sticky rice and chopsticks. My mom was raised in Korea, but grew up in a Chinese household, so her cuisine reflected both countries. My Taiwanese father, when he occasionally cooked, only expanded my palate even further. And my grandparents, who moved to Japan for some time, brought over their ample taste in food to the States, where they, along with several of my relatives, would open up many different Chinese restaurants across Southern California. I found myself very lucky to have been introduced to a wide variety of foods growing up. Thus, my love for food and different Asian cuisines was a fusion of all the experiences from past generations in my family. It wasn’t until I would visit friends’ homes where family style isn’t a custom, where I found myself ordering food for myself only. Moving out and being independent has also shown me the differences in growing up in an Asian American household versus most American households. Living with roommates who weren’t Asian American, I wasn’t able to share large portions with anyone around me, and this changed the way I cook for myself. I started to appreciate the idea of being able to gather at the dinner table with my parents and sister to share the amazing meals my mom had prepared for us, or when she would surprise me with a plate of sliced fruit, usually Korean pears, while I was studying in my room. I think this is a common realization I share among other Asian Americans who move out to be on their own, but are left with the homesick emotions of not being able to share a meal with loved ones. It is a melancholy feeling and the bittersweetness of what it means to be a first generation in America. – Ashley.

“Weekends at the Card House” was a way for us to revisit the memories we have of our childhoods. Our goal was to embody the way we watched the adults joke around, gossip, bicker, and laugh over a game or two and some dinner, but at the same time being able to respect the struggles and individual hardships of one another. It portrays a sense of pride and togetherness no matter how many different Asian cultures there are, as immigrants who came to America with almost nothing, trying to better their lives for their kids and family. I am Vietnamese American and Ashley is Taiwanese/Chinese American, but we were able to find a connection between the two unique worlds of our cultures to be portrayed in these photos. – Vanessa. You can purchase a physical copy of Weekends at the Card House zine here!

Photography, Creative Direction & Words by: Vanessa Le and Ashley Chang
Talents: Eugene Son, Joseph Tejano, Amy Nguyen, Chris Moon, Danbi Suh
Location: Peking Gourmet in Garden Grove, CA

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