My mom immigrated to the United States from South Korea when she was 25 and engaged to be married. She came here with limited English skills, no blood relatives, and just a few friends scattered across grad schools in New England. Through living in the states, she learned English, hosted family members, and made friends. It’s a quite typical story for an immigrant who came to the States as a young adult.
As an immigrant mom raising two second generation kids with a 1.5 generation husband. my mom found it important to understand our heritage while still being American. My brother and I were signed up for Tae Kwon Do classes and we spoke Konglish in the house. But most important, we would eat. My mom always tells me that her now favorite foods were the ones she ate often growing up in Chungju – the simple doenjang jigaes (soy bean paste stews), kongnameul bap (soybean sprout rice bowl), and janchi guksus (festival noodles). These were the dishes that my maternal grandmother learned from her mother and made for my mother. In turn, in the midst her incredible baked zitis and chicken cutlets, donkatsus and chicken stir-fry’s, my mom also made her childhood dishes for me and my brother. We would eat them up, ask for seconds, crave them, prod her to make them for us over and over again. Lucky for us, she did, and through her cooking, my mom both showed us her love and helped fuel our Korean pride.
– Nicole Bae