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The Language of food

I ate at “Korea Restaurant” in Minneapolis today (I love the brevity of the name, as it describes the establishment with extreme efficiency). The experience sang to my spirit. Korean food is how I connect to my roots. I don’t feel pressured to formulate words when I eat Korean food. Sitting in the restaurant comforted me like an auntie. I felt like I was in her kitchen with the aromas and bustle of family all around me.

I loved the vibe – with K-pop bopping in the background as the smiley waitstaff moved from table to table. I enjoyed my Hamul Pajeon as I listened to the three patrons at the next table over speaking Korean. The seafood pancake was perfectly crispy on the outside and balanced with a fluffy interior. The chef was generous with the seafood – and the octopus and shrimp chewed just right. I alternated between several activities – listening (but not comprehending) the Koreans next to me, eating the pancake, nibbling on the kimchi, bouncing to the K-pop, and savoring the extra banchan. Moving through my meal gave me a sense of peace that can only be described as feeling at home. The banchan dishes were very fresh. I especially enjoyed the cucumber – saltiness tinged with a hint of balanced sweetness.

I love that Korean-Koreans frequent the “Korea Restaurant.” Hearing them speak amongst themselves felt natural – even though when I try to speak Korean (with the skills of a toddler), I am saddened by how difficult it is to get my brain to form Korean words. As a nod to Nicole Chung (author of “All You Can Ever Know”) – I also feel the same frustration when I am unable to understand the language I was “born to speak.”

But I can certainly understand the food I was born to eat.

The well-prepared food helped to fill the language void which often reminds me I am not entirely Korean (and not entirely American). The tang of their kimchi and the Korean flavor carousel built a cultural bridge that helped me cross from angst to belonging.



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