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[Dramas and food] The food-love connection

By Ally

If you’ve been around Dramabeans for a while and are familiar with my posts, it will come as no surprise that food is important to my and my family’s lives. This is 100% due to my husband, maybe 110%. (But this essay is not about how food is the way to a man’s heart, or some such nonsense.)

Looking back, it was my own mother that introduced me to Korean food. I’ve mentioned this in earlier guest posts, but I grew up and still live in one of the least diverse cities in the United States. As such, when my family met other minorities with similar beliefs and family structures, we gravitated towards them and stuck to them like white on rice.

It was in this way that my mother met her soul sister, a Korean woman with two children. My mother is an excellent cook and she would take the best recipes of her friends and incorporate them into our diets. So, it was nothing for us to have homemade Italian meat balls direct from a 1st generation Italian followed by the best bún riêu recipe from my own Vietnamese-immigrant grandmother. The Korean dishes that she most often incorporated into our weekly meal plan were japchae (glass noodles with vegetables) and tteokguk (rice cake soup). Cooking was her love language.

Reminiscing on this in the past month reminded me about all those K-drama moms whose cooking was their love language. One example that came to mind was Let’s Eat 3. (You didn’t think I would skip doing an homage to my favorite multiple-season series, did you?) I can’t think of kimchi sujebi without thinking of Lee Jin-woo and Lee Seo-yeon, the stepsisters vying for the love of their mother/stepmother. Polar opposites in terms of personalities and interests, they were united by their mother who, through her cooking, showed them how much they were loved.

Lee Jin-woo couldn’t understand how sweet and considerate her mother could be to her stepdaughter, always making her favorite dish when asked, when she would always nag at Jin-woo. And it was her mother’s kimchi sujebi which was the sticking point. It’s a hearty soup made of hand-pulled wheat dough noodles, anchovies, vegetables and, of course, kimchi. The very first episode, Seo-yeon comes back to Korea and the first thing she craves and has to eat is kimchi sujebi. Unfortunately, and unsurprisingly, she’s disappointed in the restaurant fare, a far cry from the kimchi sujebi of her memories and her stepmother.

Some of my fondest memories growing up are of making japchae and tteokguk with my mother, two dishes I’m comfortable making for my own family. When the girls in Let’s Eat 3 prepared kimchi sujebi with their mother, I found myself missing those times with my mother. Even I, who would rather do just about anything besides cooking, felt the emotional tug of family. Knowing how far apart these two sisters really were and how mentally far away their mother was from them made the sting that much more palpable.

I understood their mother trying to cook at the nursing home and almost burning the entire place down, because you see, my grandmother has dementia as well. My grandmother’s amazing bún riêu is a distant memory for her, which is why I love it when my mother comes over and cooks it for us. Because not only is the language of love in the present, it’s also the memories of that love that sustain us when we eat those foods–even if those who made it have long forgotten us. It was that way for Seo-yeon, and that is how it is with me. My own mother is showing signs of forgetfulness now, and so I cherish the times when I get to cook with her. I prefer tteokguk to kimchi sujebi (which my husband has made for me) and it’s likely due to the strong emotional connection I have to my mother when I eat it. When Dae-young found a traditional kimchi sujebi for Seo-yeon that tasted just like her stepmother’s, I bawled. One little soup formed bonds between all these characters that were not easily broken.

This will be too late for Mother’s Day, but to all the mothers out there–whether food is your love language or not–you are loved, more than you know, and more than your children will ever tell you. So keep showing your love in the ways you do, because the food you make not only physically sustain us, the memories emotionally sustain us for life.

 
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Beautiful.

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Very beautiful and emotional , congrats @ally-le

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This is lovely @ally-le.

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This is a wonderful post. Thanks for sharing @ally-le

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That's just beautiful and heartwarming @ally-le
Thanks so much for sharing it.

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Lovely!

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Thank you again! This always looks so much better after you all edit it! I did cry while writing this--more than I thought I would have. For me, it's always easier to write about important things than actually vocalizing them to the people I love. I really thought Let's Eat 3 was the most emotionally satisfying offering of the entire series, that it was less about the food and more about the relationships, towards which I always gravitate.

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wonderful post!
I got some tears forming in my eyes while reading this post, because it came right after I spent the weekend in my mom's house. I was furious before I got there because the train delayed for 3hours and I was not well, (my right eye was swollen and in pain) but still went on with the trip because my mom asked me to,,and by the time I got there she was ready with all the meals for me, I ate and ate and ate,, and just like that I felt blessed and loved and energized, haha,,
here to all the Moms with full of love! (and food!) :D

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I also really loved lets eat 3. I clearly remembered when lets eat 3 was airing, u were one of the few beanies commenting in the recap post. I had not made the account that time so I just would read the comment. I used to eagerly wait for ur comment as mostly our feeling abt the episode would be was same.<3

it was a shame that the drama ended so abruptly.

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Ah! That’s so right! There were very few Beanies watching that! Such a shame really. It’s much better than lots of other dramas! I’m glad you enjoyed my comments! It feels like I’m talking to the void most of the time!

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thank you for sharing your/our story - it truly is a food-love thing for mothers/grandmothers! there are no nationality boundaries to family favorites - it simply has to be a family favorite recipe to make it supremely special! and it is especially important to pass those recipes/flavors and memories down!

*finger hearts*

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Hi, Ally. As usual, you are captivating with your words. Thank you very much for sharing.
So good you had a wonderful mother.

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Thank you for sharing this Ally,such a lovely post 🤗❤

I can never replicate the taste of my mothers cooking. It's always missing something.
I definitely think food is the language of love. There are just some dishes that remind you of your childhood and your family.

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Thank you for such a wonderfully moving article, @ally-le. It resonates with me on so many levels.

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Wonderful article, thank you!

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Thanks @allly for this warm hug of hungry memories.

I love cooking and I learned how to cook by watching, assisting, trying and experimenting from when I was 11. It was because I developed eating disorder - anorexic periods with total fit of bulimia afterwards which completely messed up all my hormonal balance so guys love yourself the way you are! It got useful when I started to go regularly every weekend and holidays to my grandparent's place in the countryside and my grandpa got several types of cancer. I've watched my grandma doing our traditional dishes and little by little replacing her tired and busy hands. It was like an award to me seeing my grandfather eating what've cooked because of his ulcer he'd feared to eat and he had to make great effort to swallow something because of his throat cancer. He had this little émaillé metal bowl from which he would eat and after some chimio he was eating with pleasure because he couldn't feel much but it was so nice to see him eating... I didn't get to bread making, because my grandmother didn't have enough force to do the dough and everything - it was 2 days of work plus we couldn't heat up this huge stone stove just for one bread. She was reputed for her beautiful bread and I loved bread crust the most with forgotten little pieces of charcoal stucked in it. I would prepare enough food for them for a week and at home I'll experiment during the week. I loved to cook with my father. He'd cooked with pleasure some rare dishes and wouldn't stress about it. I don't know but maybe because of the sense of duty my mom would take ages to prepare something and stress about it. But with cakes she was different, that is her thing.

I love to cook for people, lots of people (because of my huge quantity cooking for all of my family while in grandparent's place there's enough food to provide for an army like they say;-) ) and love to try something new. I can't resist by buying a nice cooking book and because of youtube there's nothing to be scared of to try to do.

I still didn't get to do this kimchee! I have to do it!!!

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Thank you for sharing your wonderful story here. It sounds like cooking and feeding others is your love language as well! And getting out of that cycle of anorexia and bulimia should be commended. That’s really tough. Thanks again for sharing!

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Oh, @ally-le. Just 😢.

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This is beautiful @ally-le! Thank you so much for sharing.

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Aww thanks Ally, this just made me miss my mom more. I am always in a happy place when my mom visits and makes me food, even if it's just plain breakfast. And just like SeoYeon, there will always be dishes that wouldn't taste as amazing (not that those dishes aren't tasty) as my mom or grandma's dishes.
Those scenes in kdramas would always be heartwarming, when the lead would be touched by the other leads' Mom when feeding them home cooked meals. It might be cliche but it is truly touching. 😭

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Lovely! @ally-le All of our (cultural) family rituals revolve around food, so this resonates with me deeply❤

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This made me genuinely tear up and made me think of my own grandmother cooking for us. When my aunts would fuss that she was feeding us too much and we'd get fat, she'd say it's okay, they can use up the fat when they're sick. Thanks for a beautiful post :-).

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Wonderful post. Can so relate from a daughter's viewpoint (my mom is an awesome cook too) and from a mother's viewpoint - I too love to cook and my kids, when they come home will tell me they miss this and that.

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i knew this was going to be beautiful as soon as i saw the title and author, and i was not disappointed. what a moving, heartfelt tribute! just lovely, as always, @ally-le. it's always a treat (lol no pun intended, but i like it now) to get your insights on here. thank you! <3 <3 <3

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Thank you! *finger hearts* 💕

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Beautiful is the first word comes to my mind after reading it. thanks for sharing @ally-le and as always moms are the best thing god has ever created cause she knows her child in and out and her love for kids cant be expressed in words so food becomes the way....lovely...

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