From Mothers to Mothers: The Postpartum Nutrition Folklore Project

students in the UC Berkeley Asian American Pacific Islander Health Research Group
Students in the UC Berkeley Asian American Pacific Islander Health Research Group.

October 25, 2017

By the Asian American Pacific Islander Health Research Group Postpartum Nutrition Folklore Project
Khanh Hoa Thi Nguyen Former AAPIRHG Student Coordinator, Kristine Nguyen, Project Fundraising Volunteer and Marilyn Wong, MD, MPH

For a woman who gives birth, the experience can be incredibly transformative. Her body goes through significant physical and emotional changes. In many Asian cultures, postpartum recipes are common to help rebalance a new mother’s health and to ensure sufficient lactation for her newborn. These centuries-old traditions have been kept alive through sharing recipes and cooking for one another from one generation to the next. However, with increased assimilation of Western culture among Asian Americans and a lack of written documentation, the significance of this information will soon be lost. There is now a renewed interest in its preservation among students, scholars, and mothers.

In 2014, students in the UC Berkeley Asian American Pacific Islander Health Research Group (AAPIHRG) started a “Postpartum Nutrition Folklore Project.” They collected over 30 postpartum recipes from Vietnamese, Cambodian, H’mong, Filipino, Korean, and Chinese immigrant and refugee women, and published sixteen of the recipes in a multilingual cookbook titled From Mothers to Mothers – A Collection of Traditional Asian Postpartum Recipes. The goal is to preserve and share this rich knowledge with the broader community, especially with new mothers. The longer-term project goals are two-fold: 1) to encourage interest and research on a broader collection of recipes beyond Asian cultures, and 2) to highlight the need to preserve and acknowledge the wisdom of immigrant and refugee women.

The cover of "From Mothers to Mothers: A Collection of Traditional Asian Postpartum Recipes," which features 16 postpartum recipes from Vietnamese, Cambodian, H’mong, Filipino, Korean, and Chinese immigrant and refugee women.
This cookbook features 16 postpartum recipes from Vietnamese, Cambodian, H’mong, Filipino, Korean, and Chinese immigrant and refugee women.

Copies of the book are available free to health clinics and other organizations that serve low-income communities, to distribute to new or expecting mothers. The goal is to reach those who may not otherwise have access to it as a first priority. We are also distributing it to local libraries for the general public to check out. We are able to do this due to the generous support from donations to our Postpartum Nutrition Folklore Project on the UC Berkeley’s Crowdfunding platform, which took place during March 2017. An exciting spin-off from the fundraising campaign was that NPR featured From Mothers to Mothers on its website and Facebook page on April 2, 2017. In that same day, it garnered over 10,000 likes and has been shared over 3,800 times.

The scope and scale of interest and support, in and outside of the Asian American community, have been overwhelming and unexpected. This has served as a great motivator for us to continue onto the second phase of the project, which is to collect a wider range of recipes and to begin documenting the storytelling behind each unique recipe.

We welcome your ideas, time, and connections. Please contact us at frommotherstomothers@gmail.com if your organization would like to receive free copies of the book. You can also purchase our book from Eastwind Books of Berkeley and/or donate additional funds here.