I decided to make Saturday posts about Korean food. Even if you don’t particularly like Korean food, maybe you could still find it interesting.
Problem: I’m not a food expert. My mother cooks the Korean food I eat. Or I go to Hodori. What can I offer my valued readers? Well, I have memories I can share with you and a recipe from a food expert (complete with citation).
It was a very horrible, no-good, very bad day. I was going to a new school. My mother had just cut my hair. I was wearing Winnie-the-Pooh overalls. I entered the class where my teacher introduced it. I was confused because right before she said my name, all the boys cheered and the girls remained silent. “Please help our new student Caroline feel welcome.” Everyone looked at each other. That’s a girl?!
Everyone pretty much ignored me that day. I ate lunch alone. There were whispers and I heard the word “Chinese” over and over again. I’m not Chinese! I wanted to yell. I hated school.
When I came home, I was met with the warm, rich smells of mom’s cooking. She hugged me in the kitchen and put a plate of beef chun in front of me. She made some with jalapenos (for dad) and some with out (for the kids).
Did I tell her about my day? No. I didn’t tell her about it. We didn’t do that in my family. I just ate the beef chun.
This is a high protein, delicious plate.
I love, love, love this website for Korean food. It’s published and run by a very cool Korean chick named Maangchi. She was born in Korea and knows her food. Here is her recipe for “beef pancakes” or beef chun. YUM! I will be posting recipes and stories related to vegetarian dishes, too, never fear.
In yesterday’s post about First World Suicides, I mentioned that South Korea is #1 for suicide rates among the developed countries and they have held this position for the past eight years.
In a country where the pressures of ambition, achievement and success are omnipresent, students feel frustrated, anxious and ultimately, dejected. Up to 40 people commit suicide each day.
What is South Korea doing about this problem?
Students are enrolling in “death experience” schools where they go undergo their own funerals. The hope and expectation is that students completing the program will learn to appreciate life again. Indeed, some of the graduates emerge with a sense of “cleansing” and “enlightenment.”
Young students are not the only clients. Others enrolling in these schools includes middle-aged people anxious about finances and the elderly who are afraid of being burdens on their families.
The program is designed to provide an opportunity for reflection. Suicidal clients are directed to reflect on the “collateral damage” their deaths might cause and they are reminded that a critical part of life is to have problems and to handle them.
One factor fueling the stress of success is South Korea’s rapid progress as a super power. In just a few decades, “South Korea has rocketed from one of the poorest countries in the world to the 12th biggest global economic power” (Daily Mail).¹
I’d like to hear your thoughts on this. Answer below!
To my mother, who, (like so many other moms), is one of the most understated human beings around.
My mother embraced a new country as a young adult. She worked hard to learn the language and the customs. For her, coming from South Korea to America was probably even harder than our move from San Francisco to Arizona. Probably.
She couldn’t drive, so she walked. A lot. She was alone must of the time, because my father was working and going to school simultaneously. My sister was born 11 months after me, so you can imagine how challenging her life was at this time.
She learned to love pan pizza and Michael Jackson. She listened with open ears and heart to our “rock music.” Boy George fascinated her (“Really, he’s man? Not woman?”) She had – and still has – an eye for style and fashion. She can sew better than any professional I know.
Yooni emulated naughty boys we saw in the malls and amusement parks. They threw up their middle fingers and muttered expletives. At times, she wanted to express her frustration and anger so she would raise her fist (with no finger projection) and yell, “Fist up!”
My mother eventually learned how to drive and she drove us to cello, piano, violin lessons and concerts. She drove us to our Tae Kwon Do lessons. She cooked amazing meals and did all the cleaning. She wanted to hold a “real” job, but it never happened.
But she has held several volunteer jobs. The most recent one was as an assistant at an Alzheimer’s home. She pushed wheelchairs, changed bedding and spoke with residents. These residents rarely remembered anything day-to-day, but because my mother treated them with kindness and respect, many would light up when they saw her. They would hold her hand and call her friend. My favorite story is about one man with severe Alzheimer’s who never had visitors. Not a single friend or relative ever came to see him. He didn’t have many clothes and his undershirts were starting to yellow. My mother went to Macy’s and bought him several undershirts. Her co-worker told me this story. My mother never brags. It’s a special person who would do this for a “stranger.” But to do this for a stranger who won’t remember her or her kindness? My mother is an exceptional human being and I am so grateful for her.
My mom was here again, for another lovely visit. Although most of her visits are always quite pleasant, there is one time I dread: dinner. I have to be patient with my husband and my mom during dinner because she cannot shake the nasty habit of speaking to me ABOUT Willey in front of him. It is rooted in the depths of her Korean soul to speak as indirectly to him as possible. In so doing, she uses me as a communication vessel. It’s almost as if she feels the need for a translator, and it annoys Willey to no end. It’s like a scene from Groundhog Day: we just live it over and over and over again.
We were sitting down to a meal of sujehbee, my favorite dish of dumplings in spicy broth.
“Caroline, does he really like sujehbee?” My mother asks. I look at him. He is sitting directly across from my mom. I know what his line will be:
“Yooni, why don’t you just ask me? I’m right here.” He asks exasperatedly. My blood pressure rises. The girls look from halmoni to their father back to halmoni. She covers her face with her hands. She used to just cover her mouth, but lately, she covers her entire face, and giggles.
“Do you like it, Willeeee?” She leans forward and asks with a renewed sparkle in her eyes.
“I LOVE sujehbee!” He exclaims. “You can talk to me, you know. I’m Willey, remember?”
She laughs some more.
Such a brazen display of flirtation!
Preparing for bed, mom pulls the covers down and holds the TV remote. I am in the doorway of her guest room, saying good night.
“Caroline, have you seen this show?”
I look at the screen. There is an angry black woman with enormous gold hoop earrings yelling at a man. I don’t recognize this program.
“Hardcore Porn, they call.” She slips her legs under the cover.
I take another look. What? Why is she watching porn?! I don’t see any nudity and realize after a few more seconds, that she is not watching porn.
“Mom, Hardcore PAWN, not PORN.”
“Ohhhhh!” Again with the face hiding and laughter.
I love dogs. I miss my dog Maggie. Even though I notified my mother by phone when Maggie died – despite knowing Maggie was gone – the first time my mother walked into our home following Maggie’s death, she looked around like a little kid and with tears streaming down her face, and asked in Korean, “Where is Maggie?” They were best buddies. They reminded me of each other: kind and meek to a fault. My mom walked Maggie every morning and sometimes in the afternoons, too. And even though she swears up and down that she didn’t feed her table scraps, I know she did.
We had hugged each other and cried, missing that dog. Now we have Sadie, who is an oversized lap dog with a strong personality. We think she’s part Labrador and part Pit Bull. I talk to this dog for the benefit of the family. After I pet her, she always shakes her whole body and I say things like, “Sadie, don’t shake my love off!” And now I hear the girls say the same thing to her. In the guest room, the windows face the street and Sadie loves looking out and barking at rabbits, birds and leaves on the tree. Seriously, this dog is out of control. When she’s not barking, she’s whining. Compared to her, Maggie was a mute. I tease, “Sadie, look at the mess you are making on the windows!” And my mother echoes my fake consternation, “Sadie, look what you did with your lips!”