Bánh mì sandwich inherited its DNA from France and Vietnam. Most foods are the same way if we dissect every element of it, including ingredients, cooking techniques, and presentation. Bánh mì at this point in culinary history is its own thing, not simply the sum of its parts. 1+1=3 where the extra 1 is its own personality. The same is true for hotdog and hamburger; we think of them as American food but, obviously, their components are not. American-style pizza is its own thing too. Italians wouldn’t even want to be associated with it. A new life emerges when DNA is combined from two different sources.
When I was younger, I didn’t realize how strange this actually is because I was viewing the world through the perspective of a new life. As I became older, I saw my friends give birth to another human being. Until middle school, these kids were not much more than the sum of their parts; a half from their mothers and the other half from their fathers. Some of them look like a perfect blend of the two, which is uncanny if you have known the parents long before the child was born. When I speak to these kids, in the back of my mind I’m thinking, “I know both halves of you better than you do. You have no idea how you came to be.” They had no say in how they look yet they somehow gradually integrate it as part of who they are. It’s quite strange if you think about it. If you didn’t choose or create it, how could it be part of you? Imagine some government official randomly assigning a painting in a museum to you as your work. You then listen to him and spend years convincing yourself that it’s indeed your painting and that it represents you in that museum. That is essentially what you did growing up.
But it’s possible for that to become your painting. That’s the strange thing about life. Just like bánh mì, hamburger, and hotdog, kids in their teens manage to make their bodies their own. It’s when they begin rebelling against their parents that we know the seeds weren’t duds. Until then, they are just genetic clones. Watching those rebellions is a beautiful thing.
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