Taiwan Tales: Pei-Ru Ko

Pei-Ru at a RFRS Supperclub event with Filipino chef Yana Gilbuena / Photo © Eber Bravo

Pei-Ru Ko is the Founder and Director of Real Food Real Stories, an organization that leverages the power of story-telling to humanize the food system through gatherings featuring personal stories from the Bay Area food community. We’re delighted to be working with Pei-Ru on a Tapestry Supper to showcase her story and her Taiwanese heritage.

Read on to learn more about Pei-Ru’s story and get your tickets here to join us on October 7.

Where did you grow up? Please describe what your hometown was like.
I grew up in Taipei, Taiwan, a bustling, international city, but with a very different experience because we lived on the outskirts of the city, at the foot of a national park. Our house is sandwiched between rice terraces and a lush river shaded by tropical trees and foliage.

How old were you when you moved to the US / the Bay Area?
I moved to the States when I was 14, after requesting a different educational experience in the United States. My parents originally said no because I am a girl, (!! what!?), but I was able to convince them the importance of seeking this education. I moved back to Taiwan post-college and moved to the Bay Area a year later.

What were the circumstances that brought you here?
I developed an auto-immune condition when I was living back in Taiwan. While doctors were prescribing and treating me, I wanted to reclaim agency in my own healing. I came to the Bay Area to attend Bauman College, studying therapeutic applications of food and nutrition consulting, but then stayed to start Real Food Real Stories (RFRS).

Pei-Ru with Sylvia Charles (right), founder of SpiceMama, a San Francisco purveyor of Indian chili sauces. / Photo © Mitchell Maher

What inspired you to start Real Food Real Stories and what has this experience taught you?
The story of RFRS started with my journey to heal my disabling auto-immmune condition through food. While researching the growing practices of Bay Area food options, I befriended many local food producers who are truly in the business to feed people and heal our planet. As I slowly recovered nourishing soups and stews, I started to ask myself, “How can I give back to the budding food movement that helped me heal?”.

I’m a true believer in the magic of storytelling to build bridges and tear down walls between individuals. In the summer of 2014 I got together with a group of friends who are also passionate about issues of sustainability in food and community building. We held our first Real Food Real Stories gathering in a San Francisco home. More than 40 people showed up, demonstrating for us the power that comes from pairing authentic storytelling and an inspired, shared meal to build local food communities. The power of connection to activate the sustainable food movement emerged that evening made it clear that we must share the experience with others. In a modern world so full of loneliness and disconnection, storytelling is a powerful way to remind us of our shared humanity and that if we come together we can create positive change in the world.

Preparing the filling for Green Jade Dumplings.

What was it like to adjust to life here? What aspect of living here strikes you as being uniquely American?
This is such a big question.

I remember when I first came to the States and had a sandwich and string cheese for lunch I was shivering cold all afternoon in the summer heat. Growing up in Taiwan, we would bring a metal canteen of rice, vegetable, and protein for lunch, and the school would steam it up for us at lunchtime.

What do you miss about life in Taiwan?
Everything. The ease. The feeling of belonging vs. otherness. My family. Speaking Chinese and expressing myself fluidly. The feeling of safety. The food. The lush, green nature. So much green.

What do you appreciate about living in the Bay Area?
Being a part of the good and just food movement. Day trip to places like Pescadero, Point Reyes and more.

What inspired the menu for this event? Will you be cooking any family recipes?
All the dishes are inspired by specific stories from our upbringing and ways that we reminisce about our roots.

Pei-Ru with her co-host Henry Hsu hope you will join them for an afternoon of Taiwanese delights and story-telling on October 7!
Taiwan Tales & Dumplings: Henry Hsu
High Chai: A Journey Through The Flavors of South India

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