I took myself out to a hearty dinner last night. I haven’t been eating well lately, though I’ve been eating a lot, and was craving stew and chicken bulgogi. This soondubu restaurant offered a combo including both and though the chicken dish wasn’t good, the meal did the job.
I’ve been in Korea for one month to the day now and have been settling in very slowly, as I’ve written to friends who have asked how it’s going. It’s been difficult adjusting when I feel like I might burst into tears at the slightest verbal inquiry—my gayageum teacher in LA, who I love like my own grandmother, passed away too and it’s all been more than I can handle.
My 외할머니, my mom’s mom, who seems to think she is living too long as she approaches ninety, exclaimed against a suggestion to eat an egg because it’s good for you. “I need to eat food to die, not to live!” she said.
What a concept—eating to kill yourself rather than to elongate and improve the quality of your life. I thought about that, what I would eat if I wanted to end my life sooner rather than later. How great would it be if I could eat all of the fried Korean snacks I want and forget about its effect on my health and well-being?
I thought it over and was surprised to realize that I already do eat like I’m about to die, and have had at least a couple episodes like this since I’ve come to Korea, mindlessly stuffing myself with 약과 and other junk food for the day with a plan to press reset the next day. This doesn’t quite work since my flesh lacks a reset button.
It was a revelation for me. Maybe once I hit eighty, I’d deliberately do enjoyable things that I know to be harmful (like in the article I read where a celebrated person I can’t remember the name of quipped that he would smoke again when he turned eighty), but right now, I want to eat and live like a person that wants to live and dreams of the future.
It’s been shocking to see people my age die abruptly in the past month. While I’m grieving, I will remind myself to be an optimist through meals of life-giving food, planning to be alive and thriving tomorrow.