This year has certainly looked differently than past years. Instead of trying to out do the last celebration, the last party, most of us have taken this opportunity to slow down. Hopefully some of us are using this time to spend time with our families, either in person or through the tools of the modern era. The change is harder for some to adjust to. For others, it’s an old hat we wear. our family falls into the latter category. We were looking forward to moving physically back to the United States, to regain a sense of normalcy. To experience the American culture in its entirety. And when COVID shook the world, for us it was like running a race where you could see the finish line, only to have the goalpost move. No sweat. I laughed. This wouldn’t be the first time things changed. All my life as military brat, as a Marine, as a military family member-no matter your stage of life, anyone associated with the military learns an important lesson. Belly grip all you want, but at the end of the day, you adjust or you get left behind.
To say that people like us are unable to relate is far from the truth. When our family first moved overseas it was a shock. Much like what many families have experienced this year, we lost our physical connections with community and family members. We were in a sea of strangers where it was up to us to redefine and reshape what community meant. We didn’t understand what we took for granted until we no longer was surrounded by it. Some of us did well adapting. Some of us did not. Our time overseas turned birthday parties and holiday celebrations into family affairs. We saw how different cultures looked out for each other, how they communicated and disseminated information to the community. Which helped us come back to the United States with a different perspective, and for me, added layer of understanding of why Americans from the top to the bottom have acted the way we have. Which is a conversation for another day perhaps.
Instead I want to tell you about a local Facebook group who helped support the community by sharing and which restaurants were doing specials, take outs, or deliveries. You might think that it wasn’t needed, but it actually provided a place for us all to gather and share our joys. To share hidden gems in the community. In a year where I have chosen to experiment with a smaller social media footprint, as a foodie lover this has proven to have been one of my favorite groups to be a part of. With the Lunar New Year approaching, this working girl didn’t have it in her to make a big dinner, much less make any of the lucky mandu dumplings I knew we were all looking forward to. I knew I couldn’t let this go without celebrating it in some way. You can imagine how excited I was when I saw that Southern Chopsticks was a offering a Super bowl catering package. Yes! This is it! We can have sushi! and lumpia! and chicken! I asked them if they were willing to offer the package for later in the week and they said they could.
Last night I went to pick up our order and when I arrived I saw that they had a bulgogi bento box. I had never been here before but they seem to have every type of Asian represented on the menu. But I had to ask. Bulgogi? By any chance did they have any mandu as well? She said no, it wasn’t on the menu. No problem. I did have to wait because the kitchen was short staff, which is not an isolated problem in our current state, and the rain had brought in several people who were ready to check out. I did not let any of that damper my spirits! Tonight was the eve of Lunar New Year! Finally! My order was ready! But what happened next took my breath away. The owner brought out a tray of yaki mandu.
It’s hard to drive in the rain when you are trying to blink away happy tears. I was deeply touched.
All night and this morning as well, I thought again about the impact of the crisis and how our community is handling it. With travel reduced, tourism took a hit. And our food industry fared pretty similar. No big gatherings, meant no big orders and no more catering. Small orders are often the sustainment between these bigger orders, but those bigger orders can be the difference between staying open and closing your doors forever. As stressed as everyone is in trying to find a new path forward… If we take the time to look, there are these little pleasures in life that peek their head to remind of us of how beautiful life is. Much like bringing a plate of fresh baked cookies to a neighbor, today and forever mandu will symbolize that tasty hope of something more than what was expected.
Maybe the new year will bring more family meal deals. Perhaps there will be more mandu in my future? I can only hope to eat it every day! Whatever it is that brings you delight and reminds of the beauty of today, I hope you find it this year! A New Year is here and it is a chance to imagine and achieve something better. Especially for all the hard workers out there, currently working or not, the Year of the Ox is your year. Seize life by the horns and make the most of it.
Happy Lunar New Year Everyone!
For the Curious;
Have you seen what’s in store for your zodiac? According to the Chinese Zodiac I am an Earth Goat! What are you? https://chinesenewyear.net/zodiac/
How do Koreans celebrate Seollal? https://asiasociety.org/korea/seollal-korean-lunar-new-year