The other day my wife and I invited our mother to go out to eat. I thought it would be a special treat for her since she prepares many meals for us.
We didn't get the expected response. Our mother was offended that I had suggested that we eat outside for a normal meal. She said we should eat at home.
Home meals in Korea symbolize family in Korea. The patriarch takes great pride in preparing the meals and when the family eats and enjoys the food. Well, at least it is the case with my mother. It would have been better for me to bring some high quality ingredients to her such as fruit, vegetables or meat and have her prepare the food. When I cook, I need to have this same pride and respect for my family's health. Food is not just food. Out meals are representative of our current state. How are we all doing? How is our health? How is our financial situation?
My mother and I had a long talk yesterday about different country's food cultures and their perceptions of food. The way my mother perceives food is admirable. She has a deep respect for it and believes it is all could change. We should appreciate the food we have for it could easily change.
She said that growing up their family had very little food to eat. Luckily, they had plenty of rice and soup. The bowl of rice would be about three times the current serving side and they would have this with soup. That was the main meal. The banchan like kimchi and jotgal (fermented seafood) were tiny, about the size of a baby's fist. As her family prospered meat would be added and then fish. In good times there would be fresh veggies and fruits. In poor times there would, hopefully, be rice. Sometimes the family would have noodles or fresh tofu. Holidays would be quite fortuitous for foods like rice cakes, nuts, and alcohol would appear.
The family meals are and should be honored. It is more than just food. It is a state of being.