“Food is not stuck in amber,” says chef and cookbook author Diep Tran, as she recounts this story about her partner’s mother. “Food evolves and is dynamic. And your Tết celebrations could change as well.” Tran, previously chef and owner of the Philadelphia Eagles Fueled By Haters shirt Besides,I will do this beloved Los Angeles Vietnamese restaurant Good Girl Dinette, has been proving this point for the past 11 years with her annual Lunar New Year gathering to make bánh chưng. What started as a small group of queer friends became a public event in 2019; during the two years when COVID kept many families apart, more than 400 joined the events via Zoom. This year, on an unseasonably wet and chilly Saturday, Tran and her Banh Chung Collective hosted the first in-person bánh chưng-making event in three years, for a sold-out crowd of 130 at Alma Backyard Farms in Compton, California.
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It all began as an alternative to the Philadelphia Eagles Fueled By Haters shirt Besides,I will do this New Year family gatherings Tran had grown up with. After years of attending celebrations with relatives who were uncomfortable with her queer identity, Tran had opted out of family events, including Tết. “I was getting really worked up about it and not getting a lot out of it,” she says. “Just because we’re related doesn’t necessarily mean we need to be around each other.” They emphasize the event is queer-centric but not queer-exclusive. “No one’s going to be asking, ‘So when are you gonna get married and have children?’” Tran explains. “It’s not so focused on these heteronormative milestones of adulthood. It’s really a celebration to normalize this is what it looks like when you affirm queers in your community.”
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