Lecture focuses on food and culture

Associate Professor of Mathematics Gail Tang delivers the final “What Matters to Me and Why” lecture of the year Monday in the Ludwick Center Sacred Space. Tang’s presentation was followed by an outdoor dumpling making activity. / photo by Olivia Modarelli
Associate Professor of Mathematics Gail Tang delivers the final “What Matters to Me and Why” lecture of the year Monday in the Ludwick Center Sacred Space. Tang’s presentation was followed by an outdoor dumpling making activity. / photo by Olivia Modarelli

Jordan Alcasas
Staff Writer

Gail Tang, associate professor of mathematics, gave the final “What Matters to Me and Why” lecture of the year, for which she discussed the meaning of community and its relevance to culture, food, and history. The lecture took place on Monday in the Ludwick Center Sacred Space for an audience of about 30. 

During Tang’s lecture, she covered many influences on community, including identity, history, family, culture, food, creativity and solidarity. Her belief is that aspects of community define what community is and influenced her decision to lecture about it. 

“I chose community because it’s interactive and collaborative,” Tang said. “It’s all-encompassing.”

Tang talked about her own history with the community and how her family history has influenced her definition of community through the years. 

Tang told her grandparents’ story, where her grandfather was nearly given away by his family in Shanghai, but eventually became their family’s leader instead. 

Once her grandfather had influenced an entrepreneur to pave roads in his village. Tang saw this as a legacy to be proud of, as their family had influence on creating a stronger community. 

Tang also told the story of her mother’s life in Hong Kong, where she made mention of traits she inherited from her. Of those traits, one of the most prominent was cooking. 

“My community is filled with ancestry, history, and identity, and now food,” Tang said. “It’s a window into culture.” 

Tang moved to close the lecture segment, where she chose to share her culture and create community with the audience. She offered various recipes her mother had passed down to her, such as ones for coffees and teas. 

Among these recipes though, she offered a few for dumplings, one with a vegetarian filling and one with a pork filling. She informed the audience that they would be able to learn how to fold these dumplings with a technique she would be teaching. 

The audience washed their hands and returned to the lecture, where they spent time at tables and learned to fold dumplings. They had high opinions of the lecture and event and found that many different parts resonated with them. 

“I really liked how she brought food and creativity into what she inherited from her family and culture,” Brooke Grasso, an academic advisor, said. “It was a good reminder for me that I should be connecting with my family more on their history and culture when I can.” 

Other audience members found that Tang’s family story was especially powerful because of the journey that was taken. 

“The least likely one to have done all these great things for his family and they were going to give him away,” Daniel Loera, the director of multicultural affairs said. “It resonates how one person can change the whole trajectory of a whole family’s lineage.” 

Loera also mentioned similarities between Tang’s grandfather’s story and his own grandfather. 

“I thought about my own grandparents and the migration from one location to another,” Loera said. “That’s all been a part of my own experience, so learning about her life experience and whole journey was impactful.” 

“We inherit myths and superstitions, stories we are told,” Tang said. “The stories alter over time, from generation to generation. As bits are preserved, parts excised, pieces are embellished and riffed on, like recipes.” 

Jordan Alcasas can be reached at jordan.alcasas@laverne.edu.

Junior computer science major Cherie Atalor, junior computer science major Karime Leon, senior computer science major Dayra Leon and junior business administration major Max Jimenez make dumplings Monday outside at the Ludwick Center. This activity was part of the final “What Matters to Me and Why” lecture presented by Associate Professor of Mathematics Gail Tang. / photo by Olivia Modarelli
Junior computer science major Cherie Atalor, junior computer science major Karime Leon, senior computer science major Dayra Leon and junior business administration major Max Jimenez make dumplings Monday outside at the Ludwick Center. This activity was part of the final “What Matters to Me and Why” lecture presented by Associate Professor of Mathematics Gail Tang. / photo by Olivia Modarelli

Olivia Modarelli, a senior journalism major with a concentration in print-online journalism, is a staff photographer for the Campus Times. She previously served as a staff writer and copy editor.

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