Weekend: A Perfect Picnic and Lunch with 어머니

This semester I find myself doing all sorts of things I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing had I been studying at McGill: weekend trips out of town, watching movies on weeknights, writing snail mail or even not using an alarm clock. I shamelessly admit that I have yet to set one all semester. And last Saturday, with the weather comfortably in the 20s, I hosted a picnic with some friends.

The theme was yet again, “Not Korean”. It’s nothing personal, but the purist in me dictates that sandwiches must not be paired with fermented side dishes of any kind. So to go with the BLTs, I made portable chocolate mousse cakes that were baked in empty jam jars. And red wine spritzer, with strawberries and lemon, as a cooler.  

Inevitably, I was so absorbed by my own oeuvres that I forgot to take pictures of anything else. So you’ll have to believe when I say that it was a stunning afternoon at Yeouido Park. There were plenty of other people enjoying picnics too, but I’m pretty sure we were the only ones not eating kimbab (Korean style maki rolls) or fried chicken.

On Sunday, we made out way south of the Han river to have lunch with S’ parents. His mom cleverly found out that the best way to see her son was via text messages to me, as unlike him, I would never dare to ignore or refuse her invitations. Don’t get me wrong, I genuinely enjoy spending time with them. And given all the horror stories I’ve heard about Korean in-laws, both directly and indirectly, I feel blessed that his parents are actually excessively warm with me.

But the dynamics of a Korean household are a bit difficult for me to understand, and I can’t help but feel confused about what to do with myself when S and his dad are chatting on the couch, and his mom, a quintessential Korean housewife, is frantically racing to and from the kitchen to cover the dining table with unreasonable amounts of food and side dishes. And while she delights in seeing us overindulging in her cooking, she herself will only peck at the meal like a bird. Once we finish eating, she’ll be off again cleaning, absolutely refusing any kind of help.

Then, before we leave, his mother will pack an assortment of homemade, homegrown and handpicked foods that she will insist we take home. This time, we walked away with a bag of organic lettuce that they grow on their farming cooperative, a traditional fermented rice dessert, and marinated beef ribs. They will join our already sizable collection of honey that they gather themselves at bee farms in Thailand, brewed plum juice, kimchi and etc…

I don’t always like the stuff she has in store for us, but I suppose worse things have happened. For all these years of not being fed by own mother, or anyone else for that matter, it’s nothing short of wonderful to be on receiving end of some good old fashion TLC.

Update: This was tonight’s dinner with the food she gave us.


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