Most of my family lives in Korea. Just like everybody else’s family, mine is pretty dysfunctional. My grandmother who has been and is going through some emotional turbulence has said numerously that she regrets giving birth to so many children. She has a tendency to exaggerate, but I think she really means it when she says this. So while it’s ugly and headache-inducing, especially when divorce and money are involved, I miss the holiday food that we gather around on days like Chuseok and Seollal.
Due to few women’s labor intensive preparation that also entails great psychological stress, there was always delicious food available in plenty. Whatever doesn’t get eaten on the day or given away to visitors sits inside large, flat baskets covered with sheets from old calendars that my grandmother liked to hoard. The leftover tastes great that I would eat cold songpyeon and sweet potato pancake for the next few days. My mouth starts watering just thinking of the Chuseok food that includes meat and radish stew, a variety of pancake items and vegetable dishes, rice crackers, and the sweet drink.
While I was not a fan of songpyeon, it was fun making it. Yes, it’s fun only when you don’t have to make a lot of it. If you were a designated songpyeon maker, you were likely to see these little ovals as weapons to kill off the men with after making thousands of songpyeon pieces. My family used three different types of filling: beans, chestnut, and sesame. My favorite was the sesame.
Even though I don’t really celebrate Korean holidays and join other families for American holidays, it’s hard not to think about food on these special days. In spirit of Chuseok, I am going to listen to some songs that have to do with food.
My Mother and Mackerel by Kim Chang-wan of Sanullim
Ramen and a Nine-holed Briquetcoal
Jjamppong by Pretty Hwang Band