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[Dramas and Food] Anchoring my memories


Because This Life is Our First

By La-Gaye

How do I give homage to the glorious food porn of dramas like Let’s Eat, Pasta, Gourmet, and soon to be favorite Greasy Melo? These shows celebrate food like I do with characters that ACTUALLY eat! This is so unlike American media that I’m used to where characters are around food, but they don’t indulge like in Korean dramas.

While searching for my food shots it occurred to me that what I really loved about food in Korean dramas was the chance to escape to another time because the food scenes trigger so many memories.

One of my favorite dramas, Because This Life is Our First, did that for me in a way that other dramas hadn’t because of the scenes set in Namhae. A few years ago, I lived in Namhae-eup teaching English at two elementary schools and this drama had me in my feelings about those days. While watching scenes I found myself paying attention to the saturi, Facebook messaging my friends to reminisce, and remembering the kind ajummas who fed my homesick soul.

Another aspect of the show that I loved, which also had me reliving the past, was how the food depicted where the characters were in their relationship. For example, after they first got married Ji-ho had started to think there was more in the arrangement which she expressed through cooking a meal for Se-hee. I am just like Ji-ho’s character because I love to cook for the people I care about, so the sense of anticipation as Ji-ho waited for Se-hee’s reaction to her cooking and the glory-smile when he enjoyed the meal hit a sweet spot.


Because This Life is Our First

In that moment, I was teleported right back to college when I cooked for the guy I was head-over-heels in love with. It also hit a little too personally when Se-hee drew a clear line between them and a rejected Ji-ho decided to no longer share her good-good food. When you think he feels the same way versus when it’s one-sided so you don’t even bother plating everything… I’m not still bitter.

Aside from reminders of embarrassing rejections, K-dramas also have a way of depicting the love of family whether it be biological or a mish-mash of whomever comes into your life. I believe food facilitates this for me when I see mom characters overfeeding and overpreparing for their families.

I saw this in Because This Life is Our First where Se-hee went to help Ji-ho’s family and you see the neighborhood ajummas preparing buckets of cabbage for kimchi. This overpreparing was also in a favorite scene from My Ajusshi, where Mom makes the brothers take Dong-hoon a ton of food, despite Ki-hoon’s loud protestations that he doesn’t like his brother — but he did it anyway, gotta love family.

I was also reminded of my mommy making food for me when I would drive five hours to get home during my breaks from college, or when I returned home from living abroad. It’s the way my mom expresses her love, just like ajusshi’s mom.


My Ajusshi

The food reminded me of bygone times but also that there is something very grounding about coming home and eating food that just doesn’t taste the same anywhere else even with the same ingredients. KFC doesn’t taste as good as it does near Montego Bay airport in Jamaica when we’d stop after getting my dad from the airport. Now, dolsot bibimbap will never taste the same as the ajumma’s at my favorite kimbap store in Namhae-eup. I will forever remember her laughing good-naturedly and calling me an Eskimo (I swear it’s the only English word she said to me) because I continued to wear my puffy white jacket in March when it was supposedly warming up. #stillsalty.

The movie Little Forest also reminded me of that grounding.

Not only did Little Forest lead with tons of food glory shots, but that sense of needing to be home permeated the scenes. Hye-won, the lead character, goes back to her village after not making it in Seoul and she initially struggles with feeling like a failure. After living abroad in South Korea and China, I returned home and also struggled with feeling like an untethered failure.


Little Forest

In a scene where her friend is speculating the reasons for her return, Hye-won merely says, “No. I came because I’m hungry.” This resonated at a time when I too was hungry for my family’s love and support and needed to reset. It can be draining traveling alone especially in places where you are the “first of your kind.” So, the scenes with simple foods, like dumpling soup, carry so much rejuvenating energy and I take it to heart.

Whenever I watch a food heavy drama I will indulge in bibimbap from my favorite café, milk bread from a Paris Baguette, samgyupsal from a bbq joint, or kimbap from the Korean supermarket. However the thing that I get the most satisfaction from is a chance to go down memory lane and that is worth its weight in soju.

 
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Wonderful post, I'm kind of jealous that you lived in Namhae but I'm not jealous about the cold weather haha.

You're right, now that I think of it certain foods can be cooked anywhere in the world, but they will remind me of the specific place where I ate it, and in what context. Also, nothing tastes like mom's food. :)

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I love your post! Food and memories are inextricably tied for me as well. Thank you!❤❤❤❤

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A post about food featuring Because This Life is Our First and My Ajusshi?! The first thing I have to say is: what excellent taste you have, my friend!

I’m with @wishfultoki, so jealous that you got to live in Namhae.

The mothers in K-dramas overpreparing food (who can ever forget the legendary piles of food prepared by our favorite Answer Me mom?) will always remind me of my grandmother. When I was younger and going through growthspurts, I would eat EVERYTHING. People talk about teenage boys having bottomless stomachs, but I think they severely underestimate teenage girls. My grandma loved me for it. I would always eat and eat and eat at her house. As I’ve gotten a bit older, I just don’t have that ravenous appetite anymore and I can feel my grandma’s disappointment when I don’t finish the piles of food she gives me. Oh, Grandma! I don’t mean to disappoint!

And I also agree about food not tasting the same depending on the setting. Even when made with the exact same ingredients. I love going out for Spanish food here in the US, but it’s definitely not the same as my host mom’s home cooking, or even the tapas places I frequented during my time in Madrid. One thing that Spain/Europs ruined forever for me is pastries. Croissants here in the US are, quite frankly, disgusting.

Ah, and I made this whole comment all about me. I’m sorry!

This was a wonderful read, and I really must watch Little Forest! Thank you so much for writing this! You’ve certainly made me hungry—for food, familial love, and more.

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i have a 20-something year old daughter who has always been able to out-eat her male peers since her teen years, just like YOU!
: )

i LOVE a young girl/woman with a good appetite! kids would come to our house because they knew i'd ask "have you eaten?"... there's nothing better than kids that love eating food that you've cooked!

of course, as we age, our metabolism slows... sad!! but, i enjoyed eating every and anything i wanted when i was young, too!
; )

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Your post is so heartwarming and definitely relatable:
"These shows celebrate food like I do with characters that ACTUALLY eat!
I was stunned and in awe when people actually ate in kdramas too, instead of the food being mere (delicious-looking) props!

I have yet to watch Let's Eat, Pasta or Little Forest though for fear of intense cravings and weight gain. Sigh, the food looks delicious. I'll definitely get around to watching it though!

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Thank you for this wonderful post, La-Gaye!

This really speaks to me, it is so true that food has a different flavor depending on where, when and sometimes even who you eat it with.

Your adventures are fascinating and even whether you felt like you succeeded or not, I think that you have accomplished so much.

There's a saying I like that goes something like this:
'People who speak with an accent are the truly courageous ones'

You left your home and lived in a (no 2!!) very different culture and the life skills that you have surely developed are amazing. I would love to hear about your continued adventures.

Thank you! Here's a glass of soju to celebrate your brave spirit!!

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What a GREAT expression! I've never heard that before but I'm going to use it a lot in the future with everyone who is afraid their English isn't 'good enough', thanks!

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This comforted me a lot when I first came to France and realised that I would never lose my accent completely. Now I don't worry about it, communication is more important than worrying about perfect form!!
<3

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What a wonderful post. It sounds like you have had a lot of adventures with good food and kind people.
The look on Se-Hee's face when he thinks he is going to get another breakfast....and she doesn't share.
And then he made her that omelette.
Oh, and DH feeding JH. Just sitting and letting her fill up. Then he had to go buy her grandmother all the snacks. Love both of those shows.

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Se-Hee expecting breakfast is one of my favorite kdrama moments of all time. It resonated with me like no other.

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Lovely post! I have to say though, despite characters in dramas eating a lot, they always leave their appetising-looking drinks unfinished in scenes at cafes, which frustrates me.

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This line resonates with me so much: It can be draining traveling alone especially in places where you are the “first of your kind.”

There is such an understated melancholy to this type of feeling! May you always have good food and friends to turn to wherever you are in the world!

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i love that you've lived in two countries abroad! so great that you are doing this while you are young... i wish my daughter were as adventurous...

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I'm so happy (and also jealous) that you were able to live in Namhae. It looks so pretty, I recall it from a drama I watched years ago. Too bad I can't remember the name of that show 😬. Your story brought back memories of being on long work trips overseas and I'd get home to my Mom's city and she'd say "let's go to Restaurant X!" I wanted to cry because I'd just spent a month eating in restaurants and all I wanted was to eat home cooked food in my pajamas. She couldn't wait to try new restaurants with me 😜

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I loved Little Forest! Nothing else has ever expressed the comfort of home food.

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Have you watched the Japanese version? It's gorgeous as well.

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Not yet, but I plan to! I'm excited, since I know its two films rather than one.

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I only saw one as i couldnt find the other one..winter i think..

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@La-Gaye, I'm back to report that the older drama set in Namhae is Couple or Trouble.

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Lovely post, thank you for writing it. Food does remind us of home, not just the taste but the smell. I used to joke that Guiness only tastes good when it's made with water from the Wicklow Mountains - that is, only in Ireland - but the same is true of so many things. We can try to recapture that feeling again but often just end up feeling homesick for the place it reminds us of.

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Nice post, and what a gorgeous last pic! It kinda distracts me from any food, lol.

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Thank you for the lovely, well-said post! It is as if you could read my mind, hehe..
I am not Korean, but I can feel how Koreans appreciate food very much. One of the reasons I like Kdramas is the treatment of the food. Just like you, I love how the characters prepare and actually eat the food as well as how the food is part of the necessary inclusion in the style and plot as you show it in Because This Life is Our A

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