Posted: March 12th, 2023


Jihang wu


Prof. Martinez Earley,

Draft 1

24 Feb 2023

FYS127G Essay first draft

Food is important in human life because it provides nutrients. In return, nutrients provide energy for doing activities and the functioning of body parts and systems. There is a wide variation for example between the Chinese food culture and the American food culture. This article finds common themes, issues, and messages that relate to food and its purpose meaning, compares and contrasts them in the following texts; “Eating the Hyphen” by Lily Wong, “Home run” by Roy Ahn, and “Picky eater” by Julia Alvarez.

The three texts reveal the important relationship between food and identity. People living in various parts of the world have a culture of foods that they embrace. In “Eating the Hyphen” the writer reveals how food has an important relationship with identity. She does this by giving a description of her unusual way of eating traditional dumplings doing it with a fork, knife, and ketchup. And she does it she wonders about her ability to identify with the Chinese culture way of doing it. Even though she does not use the “proper way” of doing dumplings, she is happy about doing it the Chinese -American way. This is seen in the “Picky Eater” where the writer reveals states that'' sticking to a certain food simply because you grew up having such kind of meal limits one from exploring different tastes that they may end up liking''(Alvarez, 77). In “Home Run” the author shows how he will introduce his newborn child to Korean foods growing up. He states that in some way this will help him identify with his Korean culture.

The food we eat defines our culture. In the family food recipes are passed down from older relatives to younger generations. In the story “Picky Eater” the writer points out how foods outside her home were forbidden because they were considered to be unsafe.'' Julia grew up in the Dominican Republic at a time when there was high child mortality''(Alvarez, 76). This situation made her mother worry about what her children ate. Her mother reinforced healthy foods on her to grow up healthy with her family. The fact that the food we eat is passed down by our relatives is seen in the story “Home Run”. The writer reveals his mother’s Korean food recipes pointing out that his parents wanted him to identify with the Korean culture through the foods. He plans to pass them same to his son even though his wife is not Korean. In Wong’s essay “Eating the Hyphen” she points out that her perfect way of eating her dumplings should identify with the Chinese culture. This shows how food can be used by societies in retaining their culture and identity. Therefore, through generations foods are passed as a way of preserving culture.

Today we are living in a world with a cultural identity crisis. This happens when the codes of our cultural history clash with new codes of adopted culture. Cultural crises can always emerge from within or without a certain society affecting some members. This is seen in the story “Home Run” where a Korean family living in the United States starts embracing the American way of life. The author points out'' several instances where they have gone out with his friend among them are three Koreans but they all do not mind embracing the American culture''. (Ahn, 13). however, the author's mother is conservative and sticks to her Korean culture even after living in the United States for a long time.

In modern society, people tend to warrant and have values that are from their traditions but they at the same time consider free- choice. In “Eating the Hyphen” Wong states “become the hyphen between Chinese and American in [her] identity,” (Wong, 96). She values her culture but does not mind doing ketchup which is more of the American culture. In “Picky Eater” the author questions people limiting themselves to specific cultural foods as she did without exploring other foods which they can end up liking their new taste as well. Unlike the past generation, the author's mother did not like eating anything from the streets because she was very specific about what she ate. An individual’s choice of food in the modern days is highly influenced by individual factors like personal taste and preferences, mood, health status, personal income, knowledge, and requirements for special diets. These are changes being witnessed in the modern world that has embraced diversity.

Adapting to new culture and environment as an immigrant is not easy. The texts showcase immigrants from Asian countries struggles in adapting to the American way of life. In the story “Home Run” the family runs away from Korea during a war period and settles in the United States when the author was a child. The author's mother does not have many friends in her ''new world'' because of the cultural divide. She only have some friends who are members of the Korean church in the neighborhood. In the story “Picky Eater” Julia points out her struggles on her dinner dates with her husband. She wanted to meet him for the company but did not like the food. At the same time, she did not want to show her husband that she did not like the food. In the story "Eating the Hyphen" the writer tells of her struggles in sticking to her usual Chinese dumplings and embracing American dumplings (Wong, 93). This shows how changing her cultural practices to link up with changes in the new environment is such a huge struggle.Similarly, as an international student, I have the same problems with the different living environment,its brings me double pressure. My parents can't help me anything here. I need to make a very detailed plan for myself every day. My eating habits are not very suitable for American tastes. I can eat steak but I can't eat cheese. Cheese is too greasy for me to enjoy. However, people always adapt to the surrounding environment and pressure. Try to enjoy life and environment, and we will have a new feeling for it.


Ahn, Roy. "Home Run: My Journey Back to Korean Food."  Gastronomica 9.4 (2009): 12-15.

Alvarez, Julia. “Picky Eater” Penguin Putman Inc. New York 1998: 75-86.

Wong, Lily. “Eating The Hyphen.” Food Matters: a Bedford Spotlight Reader, Holly Bauer, 2nd ed., Bedford/St. Martin's, 2017.

Home Run: My Journey Back to Korean FoodAuthor(s): roy ahn

Source: Gastronomica , Vol. 9, No. 4 (Fall 2009), pp. 12-15

Published by: University of California Press

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Savings Plans chief among them. But as a Korean-American, I was also worrying about our son’s cultural identity. I espe- cially looked forward to introducing him to my culinary heritage. That task would be solely up to me—Amy is from a multiple-generation Wisconsin family with European roots, and our culinary union is best described as Land of Rice meets Land of Cheese. Consider some of the foods you might see in her parents’ house near Madison: pepper Jack, butterkasse, and Limberger cheeses, along with sauer- kraut, pickled Brussels sprouts, and wursts of all kinds.

As for my parents, they won’t be around to introduce my son to their native foods, teach him how to bow properly to his elders, sing Korean nursery rhymes, or explain to him that the number four represents bad luck for Koreans. Both of them died in a car accident when I was twenty-four.

I was born in Seoul in 1972. My parents, a physician and an elementary school teacher, were concerned about raising children in South Korea at a time when military conflict with North Korea seemed imminent, so they immigrated to the United States with my older sister and me when I was four. My official, stamped Korean passport noted that I was “90 cm” tall and weighed “11 kg”—about the equiva- lent of a twenty-five-pound bag of rice. But soon enough I began to grow, my chubbiness a testament to my successful American acculturation.

As a kid living in suburban Detroit, I loved two things above all else: Baskin-Robbins and the Detroit Tigers. (I still think the ice-cream-inside-miniature-batting-helmet remains one of the industry’s greatest inventions.) Inside our apartment I would mark out my own baseball dia- mond, sprinkle the floor with talcum powder, and, using my father’s thick medical textbooks as bases, slide my way across the room as though I were Lou Brock. Like many American boys, I dreamed of becoming a professional baseball player but lacked the athleticism to play beyond high school. My dream of pro ball quashed, I once told my mother that I wanted to become president of a Fortune 500 company. She laughed. A Caucasian businessman would

Home Run My Journey Back to Korean Food

culture | roy ahn

Last winter, I dined with my then-pregnant wife, Amy, at a Korean restaurant in a suburban strip mall, where all good Korean food establishments seem to be. This hole- in-the-wall, located on a stretch of highway outside Boston flanked by retail plazas and ranch houses, was filled with Koreans like myself, plus a Caucasian or two, Amy being one. The proprietor sat us in a spot away from the section with barbecue-grill tabletops, but the smell of seared beef mixed with garlic, soy sauce, and brown sugar still perme- ated our clothing. (Pop quiz: How long does the smell of beef bulgogi linger in a pair of blue jeans? Answer: Until it gets thrown into a washing machine.)

The waitresses spun like dervishes from table to kitchen to table, bringing out vegetable and fish banchan dishes in one pass and clearing them away in another, with little respite between customers to wipe their beads of sweat. I took particular notice of the diners’ white bowls, which reminded me of outsized pieces from Go, my late father’s favorite board game.

After a cup of tea and our own banchan, we awaited the main courses. Mine would be galbi-chim—braised short ribs—served with rice. I imagined pulling the meat off the bone and the flecks of burnt sesame seeds staining the white rice a deep brown, so I was understandably shocked when the waitress placed before me a bowl of oxtail soup. Had she misunderstood? No, I quickly realized. I had ordered the wrong dish.

On the surface, confusing galbi-tang with galbi-chim would seem an innocuous lapse. Both are beef dishes whose names share the same Korean-language prefix. But the two couldn’t be more different. Imagine a Bavarian confusing knockwurst with bratwurst! As I lowered pieces of kimchi into the beef broth to give it a spice kick, and as Amy sipped her way through her bowl of bean-curd-and-vegetable stew, I won- dered whether my slipup was an omen: could I be losing my ethnic bearings? If so, there could hardly be a worse time.

I was harboring all sorts of yuppie anxieties about first- time fatherhood—the unit cost of diapers and 529 College

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fries with greasy chili that turned the paper wrapper orange. It’s worth noting that two Korean-American boys were among my circle, but we rarely went out for food from the homeland. Whatever the reason, they were much more comfortable than I was with being Korean-American. Still, when my circle of guy friends went out, we’d usually opt for fried zucchini with ranch dressing at Carl’s Jr., chicken burritos at a Mexican food chain on Ventura Boulevard, or pasta at the Cheesecake Factory in Beverly Hills, all the while rocking out in our cars to the Beastie Boys and Run-dmc.

When I got home, I chased down all that American food with Korean fare. My mother, who spoke to me almost exclusively in her native tongue, cooked it herself or stocked up on prepared foods from our local Korean super- markets. Variations of kimchi abounded: red-pepper-flecked radish cubes, cucumber slices, bellflower root, and cabbage. Occasionally, too, there was yellow daikon, which paired

never allow a Korean to have that job, she said, steering me into the sciences instead.

My childhood love of ice cream notwithstanding, my favorite Korean dish was a bowl of rice drizzled with soy sauce and topped with a raw egg. I learned to crack the egg over the rice while it was still piping hot, so the egg would cook a little. Sometimes my mother would add some sliced daikon to this silky porridge that glided so easily down my throat. Over time, I began to add my own flourishes—a handful of cooked ground beef and a pinch of dried red-pepper flakes.

During my teenage years, after we moved to Los Angeles, I chose to downplay my ethnic roots. I was a Ralph Lauren–clad American teenager living in “The Valley,” and my Korean heritage was an inconvenience. This applied to my culinary traditions, too. When I went out, I ate all the things my friends did—pizza, hot dogs, enchiladas, and

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knew, she watched a lot of Korean soap operas on the vcr and seemed content to have a vicarious American experi- ence through her children.

Little Korean boys do not take formal cooking lessons from their mothers; the kitchen is considered a woman’s domain. Nonetheless, I made excuses to spend time with her there. Cooking Korean dishes means a lot of sautéing, boiling, grilling, and frying. She rarely baked. I considered my mother a great cook, although she always told me she was only so-so, modestly claiming there were other women at church who possessed skills far superior to her own.

I don’t recall that we did a lot of talking while I watched her cook. She did not share with me the latest in church gossip, nor did she try to impart wisdom in the form of hackneyed analogies about food and life. Such things are better left for movies involving white people and karate. Instead, I recall marveling at the way she so deftly used a paring knife to peel fruit, her thumb applying pressure until the skin unfurled in a continuous ribbon. She had good hands for peeling, with strong fingers, neither long nor stubby. I watched her make simple dishes that, later on, when my parents both went to work, became my latchkey-kid staples.

There was one American experience my entire family did enjoy: eating steamed crabs at the Redondo Beach Pier. The dining experience was far from formal. We’d place our order, lay several pages of the Los Angeles Times atop one of the many communal tables, and wait for the crabs to steam. I remember how excited I was to buy lemons (for clean- ing our hands afterward) and rent crab mallets. I’d crack my crab with authority, as though I were a judge lowering a gavel. Using my hands to eat, I tried my best to avoid touching the mustard-colored crab guts. Afterward, I played Skee-Ball until I drained my parents of ones and fives. As a family, we walked off our meals along the beach, some- times until the sun set. My parents seemed so contented there. My mother was at ease at the beach, less concerned about fitting in, and she laughed a lot.

For a few years after my parents’ deaths, I lived in a weird fog, unable to focus on my future or reconcile my past. I lost interest in all things Korean, including food. When my mother was alive, she would ask me questions in Korean and I would respond in English. After she was gone, my grip on the language loosened.

I began to work summers as a cook at an artists’ colony café in a resort town in the Rocky Mountains. There, under the best of all possible circumstances—cooking for, and being inspired by, the master printmakers, wood- workers, painters, and ceramic artists who came through

well with ground beef, spinach, and rice. Or she would make ginseng chicken stew and japchae, a stir-fry of glass noodles, sliced carrot and onion, slivers of beef, and pink- and-white fishcake in a soy and sesame-oil sauce. Food to fuel the brain for studying deep into the night: a mother’s loving manifesto for her son. I never had the heart to tell her that the food had the opposite effect—the sugar crash put me to sleep atop my school papers.

I should mention that our house in California had two refrigerators: one in the kitchen for American food, and one in the garage for the Korean food. I’m not sure why my mother was willing to go dual-fridge. I imagine she’d had enough bellyaching from me about the garlicky stench of

“Mom and Dad’s food” and complaints of how embarrassing it would be if my friends ever got a whiff of the real stuff we ate. She must have decided it wasn’t worth the aggravation.

My father, for his part, took my resistance to Korean food poorly. He’d wanted me to be proud of his homeland.

“Italian food smells, too,” he once told me. But Korean dishes flavored with garlic smell different than Italian ones, and I imagined the odor exuding from my every pore. Leftover Korean food was even worse, announcing itself like a flatulent guest at a wedding. Never mind that a diet of smelly fermented vegetables, stews, noodles, and meats has nourished Koreans for generations.

You may imagine that my father disapproved of American ways. On the contrary, he immersed himself in the culture of his adopted country. Interstate road trips to amusement parks, Kentucky Fried Chicken, bowling. While he loved being Korean, he was fascinated by cultures other than his own and especially enjoyed commingling them. To this day, I can’t picture a bucket of kfc extra- crispy without adjacent bowls of white rice and kimchi. My father’s stacks of Japanese novels were piled right alongside Westerns by Louis L’Amour, and he listened to instructional language tapes on Spanish and Mandarin in his spare time. He often serenaded us on road trips with his rendition of “Tears on My Pillow,” a number he’d learned from the soundtrack of Grease. Once, I watched him eat a bowl of white rice with ketchup, straight up. Another time, he used chopsticks to pluck Vienna sausages out of their tin. He was so pleased with his concoctions, so original in his wackiness, that I believe I inherited my own willingness to improvise from him.

My mother, by contrast, was never comfortable in the States. She struggled to pick up English and didn’t make many friends outside her Korean church. A short woman with permed black hair, large brown eyes, and caramel- colored skin, darker than that of most Korean women I

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Amy and I live near a Korean supermarket that sells a lot of foods from my youth: perfectly circular Shingo pears, each one cradled in its own Styrofoam nest, and too-sweet candies made from sweet bean, jelly, and agar-agar. I think how cool it will be to have these foods at Charlie’s first birthday party. For that celebration I can imagine cook- ing dishes that capitalize on my knowledge of Korean and non-Korean cuisines. I will sauté fiddleheads with leeks and reserve the leek fronds for garnish. I will make potstickers, doing my best, just as my mother did, to get that even seal on the wrappers, which is so critical to keeping the ground pork and vegetable filling moist. I will put creative spins on Korean classics. I will wrap bibimbap ingredients—sliced beef, spinach, carrot slivers, bean sprouts, fried egg, rice— in nori straightjackets, drizzle them with wasabi aioli, and present these oversized, funnel-shaped hand rolls in metal Belgian frites stands. For dessert, I will experiment by bak- ing sweet red beans en croûte.

Of course, I am getting ahead of myself. At the moment, Charlie’s diet is limited to two options—fresh breast milk, or thawed-and-warmed breast milk.

Another way Charlie will learn is through language. At the peak of one of his nighttime crying fits last week, I found myself soothing him with calming words—“It’s okay, it’s okay”—but in Korean, the way my mother might have. Amy is learning the language, too. She has taken classes in Korean through an adult-education center. In fact, she can read and write Korean far better than I can. I intend to join her in these classes, or at least sit in front of a laptop with Charlie and complete our Rosetta Stone exercises together. I mean, who wouldn’t benefit from learning the Korean word for elephant (koo-kee-ree)? Perhaps this way I will register even farther east on the Korea-meter.

Recently, we had a family dinner at a Korean restaurant in Cambridge. It was a more formal, or, at any rate, more urbane place than the one where I had made my ordering mistake. The host put us in a private room where we had to take our shoes off. During dinner, as Amy nursed Charlie beneath a cotton shawl, I dissected the ingredients in the banchan I ate, the proper method of constructing our ssam (lettuce wraps), using rice and meat and red kochujang paste. I pronounced aloud the Korean names of as many dishes as I could. And this time I remembered most of them accurately.

Amy fears that our son won’t get a sufficient dose of Korean culture. It’s a familiar refrain. But I will make sure to offer Charlie Korean food and, as my parents did with me, exercise patience if he doesn’t want any. We will stick to one fridge in our house.g

the colony—I learned to make crème brûlée, venison stroganoff, and other European dishes. In that nurturing atmosphere, as my confidence in cooking grew, so did my expressiveness through food. (Within limits, of course: my idea for a “healthful” sugar cookie made with lemon Ricola cough drops never made it onto diners’ plates.) But something even more unexpected occurred: latent Korean influences began to insinuate themselves into the food I prepared. I fried rectangles of tofu in vegetable oil. I ten- derized flank steak in garlicky kalbi marinades. I slipped scallions into whatever dishes I could. Sesame oil found its way into my sauces.

I can’t say that I channeled my parents by cooking Korean food, or that food reinvigorated my innate sense of Korean-ness. I’m not at all certain about the synapses that get fired when human beings experience emotions from cooking and eating the foods of their childhoods. All I can say for sure is that something sublime happened in that mecca of Korean cuisine—the Rockies—where I rediscov- ered my native food heritage. My mother left behind no recipe cards. Instead, I created dishes based on my recol- lections of watching her cook, imagining her in that café kitchen with me, telling me to add a few more red-pepper flakes or dial down the sesame oil.

I still harbor mixed feelings about my parents’ move to the United States. Would they still be alive today if we had stayed in Korea? It is, of course, a fool’s errand to speculate about something like that. What I do know is that, because of their sacrifice, I have had terrific experiences and oppor- tunities, and that our son, Charlie, will inevitably have the same. One day, if he so chooses, he may even become a corporate ceo—a Fortune 500 one at that. Or a professional baseball player, if I have any say in the matter.

As I write this, Charlie is just three months old. He has my mother’s skin tone and big eyes, but otherwise no physical features that specifically remind me of either of my parents. He has my faint black eyebrows and Amy’s broad smile. And because he does not cry when I play songs— well, not as much as usual, anyway—I’ve come to believe that Charlie likes music, especially party music, as much I do. Just last week, he and I danced in our living room to the Commodores’ “Brick House.”

Meanwhile, food remains a primary conduit through which I hope to instill in him the lessons of one half of his ethnic roots. I’m sad that my parents aren’t around to help indoctrinate him into their culture. Even though it might be naive to think that by teaching him to eat and cook Korean he’ll also learn about who they were, my gut tells me this is so.

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Final draft

· To put 3 texts in conversation with each other by finding a common theme/issue/message in relation to food and its purpose/meaning and compare and contrast how this common theme/issue/message is presented or addressed in the 3 texts.

· More focus on To respond to this conversation by reflecting on your own understanding of the theme/issue/message presented in the texts and to come up with your own conclusions.

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