A Korean phrase that roughly translates to “one arm full of groceries.”
August 20, 2018 9:35 PM   Subscribe

I read this in a hospital bed after my kids had just left, leaving a box of homemade cookies with me now I'm allowed to eat again. Food and loss, and that particular experience of sitting in a shared eating space and seeing the threads of live and history brought together - she pulled it together in a moment so lightly and beautifully.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 10:03 PM on August 20, 2018 [12 favorites]

That was wonderful- thanks for posting.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 3:14 AM on August 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

Japanese Breakfast are (is?) one of my favourite music discoveries of the past year or so. I'm not normally interested in reading about musicians, but this was a welcome exception; very relatable for anyone who's lost a parent.
posted by pipeski at 5:17 AM on August 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

That was lovely, thanks.

It's still Han Ah Reum to me, BTW, and the little H-Marts they (thankfully) keep opening here in London bear zero resemblance to the real thing on 32nd Street, let alone the mega-emporium in downtown Vancouver. We have an easier time buying perilla leaves, admittedly, but the big ones leave you feeling like you've just somehow teleported to Seoul.
posted by adamgreenfield at 5:26 AM on August 21, 2018 [3 favorites]

“Am I even Korean anymore if there’s no one left in my life to call and ask which brand of seaweed we used to buy?”

I get this. My Sicilian family is gone. Nobody to talk to anymore. What did grandma put in the braciole again? No answer.
posted by Splunge at 7:11 AM on August 21, 2018 [10 favorites]

(It's not every single day I read something and it stays with me throughout the day like this has. She really nails what it feels like to fly into Incheon, drive into Seoul and immediately order jjajangmyeon and jjampong from the 24-hour jjajangmyeon delivery service, right down to the chattering relatives and the sweaty plastic-wrap tent on the bowls. She has been in those rooms and so have I, emotionally and physically, and it's startling to see it out on the page like that.)
posted by adamgreenfield at 7:23 AM on August 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

This is lovely.
posted by minsies at 7:45 AM on August 21, 2018

My (Japanese and Okinawan, respectively) grandma and grandpa were the ones who did all the cooking, and by the time I started to get into cooking myself they were both gone. That makes me sad, but it means that I still get some of those same nostalgia hits from H-mart, because they carry some Japanese stuff as well. The one nearest to me even has a Japanese curry place in the food court.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:05 AM on August 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

I love wandering these types of grocery stores, though I have no natural connection to the foods or cultures they are meant for. I've bought ingredients that seem interesting to me before, but I usually have no idea what to do with them properly and end up nibbling them or cooking them some random way, that is to say I basically waste them. Maybe it's just a confirmation bias, but I feel like the grocery stores catering to a non-usa culture have better produce. Mexican grocery stores in particular seem to have Avocados for magnitudes less than anywhere else.

This was a great essay, very touching and well illustrated.
posted by GoblinHoney at 8:41 AM on August 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

“Am I even Korean anymore if there’s no one left in my life to call and ask which brand of seaweed we used to buy?”

This is when i started crying, grieving in advance for my 74 year old mom and 80 year old dad. Our kitchen was a mishmash of at minimum 5 different culinary cultures, maybe 6, and divided 3 each from each country? I grew up a global nomad/expat kid in burgeoning South East Asia of the 1970s and 80s. Our home food is genuinely restricted to just us four.

Only my dad puts creamed sweet corn in Maggi mee, curry flavour. As well breaks in an egg and maybe chops in some cabbage (or was that my addition?)
posted by infini at 9:15 AM on August 21, 2018 [6 favorites]

They're already grieving. I know dad is. They just moved to India after 20 years in Singapore for retirement earlier in the spring. We cannot eat our beloved food anymore.
posted by infini at 9:18 AM on August 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

I love this. I love supermarkets like this and go to H Mart, Zion Market, and Ranch 99 whenever I can persuade my family. They remind me of being poor when I first moved to New York City in the early 90s. I'd take the subway to Chinatown and buy groceries there because they were cheaper and in that way dried eel, and milk candy, and glass noodles, and other things are the smells and tastes of an important part of my life.
posted by Mo Nickels at 9:28 AM on August 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

I wonder how many people at H Mart miss their families. How many are thinking of them as they bring their trays back from the different stalls. Whether they’re eating to feel connected, to celebrate these people through food. Which ones weren’t able to fly back home this year, or for the past ten years? Which ones are like me, missing the people who are gone from their lives forever?

I think about this all the time. I think about my in-laws, and I think about their parents and siblings, and I think about people who immigrate here, including my own family, and what and who gets left behind, and it's just so poignant and heartbreaking to think of the ways families and their shared intimacies get scattered and diffused and lost with distance and death and time. I was already feeling particularly misty-eyed today and this essay just put me right over the top.
posted by stellaluna at 12:06 PM on August 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

« Older Medicare for All (for Less!)   |   Let 2018 be the year that the stars came closer... Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments