Sincerity Carried Through Noodles — Eunheh Koh

When my mother made knife-cut noodles,

She would add anchovies to the pot.

She would then make the noodles,

From flour and potato starch, not even needing to look at a recipe.

Her hands carried the magic to slowly create the noodles

One knead at a time.

Out came the powerful knife

And one by one, each noodle came to life

Every noodle was special in its own way

Each a different thickness and shape

And as white as the first snow.

The sweet aroma of home fills the kitchen

As my sister and I run to get our bowls.

After a sip of the warm broth,

The heart is full, the longing for home continues.

  • What piece did you choose to imitate?
    • I chose to imitate “Noodles in Broth” by Hong Junju.
  • Why did you choose this piece?
    • I chose this piece because the author describes so eloquently of the making of bing steeped in tea. As we learned in class, the bing in this poem refers to noodles (as bing was used to describe foods out of flour), whereas after the 10th century, bing only referred to the flat-pancake. I think this further demonstrates how food is always changing and contributes to the idea that food is fluid (it is not set in a distinctive category). This poem also indicates how much comfort the eating of a dish can truly be; eating is an universal experience that can be shared by everyone and something that is able to embody important memories and emotions with it, which we are reminded of every time we eat the food. Lastly, I think poems are very powerful, as they are often short but concise; each part of Junju’s words are an important part of the story they tell. I think this is something I personally struggled with while writing the paper; I did not want to be too wordy and tried to be as concise and descriptive as I could.
  • What did you learn about the culture of the original author through imitating his or her style?
    • In this piece, I learned about the importance of cooking in Chinese culture. Every step is intricate and complex in its own way, and plays a large role in the making of this dish. When writing poems, authors must be careful and emphasize what they view as the most important. Thus, I think that the process of cooking and eating together are what the author views as the most significant; his or her views were probably influenced by their culture and identity, which is how we can make the connection from the poem to Chinese culture. From this, I believe that the poem establishes the importance of community. The sense of community connected through noodles is particularly evident especially the last line, and demonstrates how much comfort we can feel through eating food. It is not necessary for the author to explicitly state it as the smile is sufficient to show this. In addition, it is clear how foods are passed on from generation to generation; the chef is cooking from memory by remembering how he would make it when he learned. Thus, it shows how important it is in Chinese culture to carry on your heritage and pass traditions (especially in terms of food) from generation to generation.
  • What did you learn about your own culture while writing?
    • I decided to write about 칼국수 (knife-cut noodles), a Korean dish where the noodles are knife-cut (which is why each noodle is unique and special in its own way). It is not made usually from noodles that are cut by a machine, which makes it more special in my opinion, considering many noodles after the industrial revolution have lost this handmade taste. I also believe that these noodles are able to symbolize how even though we are all from different identities (and thus, everyone is unique), we can all come together harmoniously and become an amazing entity. I particularly love eating these noodles because I can taste the amount of sincerity put into these noodles by my mother and grandmother, especially since I know how difficult it can be to make noodles. In my family, we eat this dish whenever we think of our home country, Korea. My dad is from Jeju Island (right off the coast of the Korean peninsula), and my grandmother always makes this dish with the freshest seafood ingredients, as these noodles are able to preserve both the savory broth and fresh seafood flavors. These days, I feel quite homesick as it has been a while since I have gone home, so I love eating this dish as it helps me feel connected to my family. It is hard to reproduce it the same way my grandma does, especially since we lack the fresh ingredients, but I really appreciate it whenever my mom makes it for me because it reminds me of so many good memories. This particular instance that I chose to write about in the poem was when my mom made these noodles for my sister and I; it was in the fall following the first summer I spent in Korea and the first time I had tasted these noodles from my grandmother. As soon as I ate the noodles, I was content, but also felt bittersweet, as I wished to go home (which is why I wrote “the longing for home continues”). Although food is a great way to feel connected to family and home, it sometimes makes me miss home more, because it reminds me of all of the memories of my hometown. However, while eating these noodles over the years, I have also been able to develop new memories here with my nuclear family, which I am also appreciative of.  All of these moments have been integral in shaping who I am, so I am grateful that I am able to retain these memories through food.
These are “knife-cut noodles” (칼국수). The noodles are of different thicknesses because they are made by hand.
  • Is there cultural DNA embedded in the piece you read and in your piece? How does this DNA manifest in the texts?
    • I think the main thing I realized about the cultural DNA in both pieces was the importance of family and community in both of our cultures. There is a big emphasis placed on family and the importance of spending time with our loved ones. Food is also evidently a big part of both of our cultures that connects us to our community. I think one of the largest aspects that is also evident in both of our cultures is how as we observe our elders, we begin to learn more about how to cook these dishes and this is how we, as the younger generation, learn how to make these foods, just as how my mother learned how to make it from my grandmother (the “magic” gets passed on through the generations). Through food, we are able to appreciate our rich cultural heritage, and it becomes an important aspect of who we are. The love and care put into these both of the noodle dishes are also evident, as it takes a great deal of work to make these noodles from scratch. Thus, it appears that in both Chinese and Korean culture, food is a great method to express genuine love for the people we love. We are also able to feel and appreciate that love when we eat it, as “the heart is full” (my poem) and “the body would relax” (Junju), which become important feelings for the foods we eat. These feelings are  what we remember as we age and continue to eat these dishes, and we will also put in the sincerity and care when we make the noodles for the younger generations. The legacy will live on through the noodles over time.

References:

Junju, Hong. “Noodles in Broth.” Chinese Poems of Food. 3rd Century AD. Online Access.

*photo credit given when you press the picture

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