I had been living in West Java, Indonesia, for about two months when Gugum Gumbira, the patriarch of my host family, paused between bites of fried rice one morning. “Soni!” he burst out. “You can already eat rice!” I tried to keep the shadow of a frown from my forehead, having heard this expression so many times and always with a tone of utter amazement. I had learned to use chopsticks at about the same time I learned to use a knife and fork as a toddler, so rice had always been an important part of my West Coast American upbringing. But Mr. Gumbira wasn’t nished. “If you keep eating this rice,” he said, “you’ll become completely Sundanese. It doesn’t matter how long you spend studying our music. You could be here for a lifetime if you want, and become the nest kacapi player in the country. You could be uent in speaking Sundanese. You could dance jaipongan like a deer. But if you can’t eat the food we eat-and love every bite of it-you will never understand what it means to be Sundanese.” At the time I was still learning to tolerate the brilliant red spicy sambal sauce on my fried rice every morning, and to simply scoop out the dead ants that had discovered the sweetened condensed milk and coee grounds in the bottom of my cup only to meet their doom in the form of boiling water. When he made that statement, I confess to having had a momentary longing for cornakes, strawberries, and fresh milk in the bright sunshine (emotional and physical) of my parents’ kitchen. But he had a point.