Me, My Family, and Food: The Block

Jonathan Kho ‘23

Don’t look. Don’t think about it. Don’t breathe through your nose. These are the three rules I follow during every Friday night drive home after picking up our usual order from our favorite Asian American restaurant, The Block. As my parents and I slide into our beige leather seats of our car, my parents quickly delete the address of the restaurant (4221John Marr Dr, Annandale, VA 22003) and frantically replace it with our home address. I stare at the big brown bag, which wafts the dangerously delicious smell of fried chicken and cilantro into the air of the car. 

 

Finally after decades of waiting, we reach the familiar red brick house, and my hands attack the seat belt buckle. I whip my school bag around my shoulders and carry the heavy brown bag like a ring bearer towards the door. As my mom opens the door, I race to prepare the food. I grab the napkins, forks, drinks, sauces, coasters, and drive myself at full speed towards the coffee table. My right arm jabs at the tv remote and my fingers glide across the white numbered buttons, watching the screen finally light up with our favorite show, Brooklyn nine nine. Once everything is set, we all sit at the table, together, all eager to sink our teeth into these mouth watering delicacies, like a tiger only 5 ft away from its juicy prey. 

 

I open the containers revealing six asian fried chicken tacos. The smell of the fried chicken reaches around the room like an explosion of confetti being released into a party. Each fried chicken taco contains five, 4-cm long chicken pieces, covered in fried breadcrumbs, and topped with a drizzle of sriracha mayo. These chicken bites lay on top of a juicy, sour remedy of pickled carrots and green onions that barely touch the golden, crunchy fries reaching from one end of the black container to the other. We all sit on our knees. Hold our hands out. And have a moment of sanity as my Mom utters a quick generic prayer. After saying the magical word,“Amen”, we become beasts. 

 

My mom's eyes look downwards as she spots her prey. Her hands swoop towards the pile of fries as her talons open up to grab these crunchy, soft sticks of joys. She begins to peck at every single fry she grabs, one by one, without hesitation. 

 

My dad's hand glides through the waters of containers as he tries to find his first dish. He suddenly grabs his first taco and throws it in his mouth as his jaws sink into the glossy chinese tortilla. He swallows the whole thing in one bite and begins to race for another. 

 

I sink my claws into the side of the tortilla as my hands pounce onto a greasy taco. Gravity fights against me as bits of chicken fall out of the taco into the oily black container that holds the rest of these delicious delicacies. I glance at the fallen chicken and sink my teeth into the juicy taco as the flavors instantly detonate in my mouth. The meaty taste of chicken descends into the warm taste of tortilla. The mild taste of the creamy sriracha mayo shoots through the explosion of flavors as the spiciness blends with the combination of chicken and tortilla. The sour pickled vegetables pinge the flavors into place as this incredible ensemble infuses a dramatic, yet comforting feeling in my body. 

 

After adding weight to our cheeks and inflating our stomachs with three delicious tacos, I look around at my family and realize we’re all sitting like we would after a Thanksgiving feast, laid back, content, and drowsy. This moment reminds me of when my Uncle shared that the strongest scent that triggers a memory is smell. I wouldn’t think smelling something would instantly drive me back to a certain event with my friends or family, but this moment in my life is so vivid to me that I know when I smell fried chicken tacos, I will always be transported back to our Friday nights, where we devoured Americanized asian cuisine together, happy yet satisfied. These nights filled with fried chicken tacos and family will always have a special place in my heart, and I will never forget these seemingly mundane evenings where we get to lay back and not worry about a care in the world. It's just us, our food, and our family.