I don't really know what it is about Koreans versus Americans, but there seems to be a big discrepancy in the amount of importance placed on food in each culture. Koreans pretty much live their lives around food and drink (or the ones I know do, at any rate). Americans don't, really, not even on a food-centric holiday like Thanksgiving.
Let's be honest. Green bean casserole from a can? Sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top? These are results of a people that don't live for their food. (I will grudgingly eat green been casserole, but I really do not like sweet potatoes or yams or whatever with charred bits of marshmallows on them. Sweet potatoes and pure sugar puffed with air were not meant to be bedfellows.)
At home, my (totally white, very American) roommate and I have drastically different approaches to food. I work a lot more than her (I work a lot more than most people), but I still like to cook and make my own dinner if I'm not eating at work or out someplace. I don't buy things like Rice-A-Roni or frozen dinners, because if I'm going to eat at home, it better be good. I don't enjoy frozen dinners, not one bit, no matter how "balanced" or "delicious" they claim to be.
Also, I'm a very instinctive cook. I throw stuff in a pan, boil things in a pot, and figure it out as I go. I don't use recipes and didn't own a cookbook until years ago (maybe four? five?) when the misguided aunt of an ex decided that I should have one (it was part of her Christmas present to me one year). To this day, I have never used the cookbook. Bless her soul, it was a sweet gesture- I chalk it up to the fact that she had never met me before.
My roommate's all about boxes of things and frozen dinners and recipes. She and her mother both use recipes. I understand it to an extent- if I've never made something before, I'll peruse whatever recipes I can find and figure out what the cohesive elements of that particular dish are. But I don't generally follow any recipe unless it's something I'm completely unsure of (like pho!). For cuisines that I'm more familiar with (Korean, American, Mexican, Italian, Jewish), I'll look at recipes and then veer off as I cook. For cuisines that I'm not entirely comfortable with (Vietnamese, Thai, Indian, most European countries), I'll stick close to a recipe the first time I try a new dish, then gradually go off on my own tangent.
I know these differences are cultural. Korean food is extraordinarily difficult to write recipes for, because you can't really measure the scent of a soup or the color of a mixture or the "feeling" of a batter as you stir it. The best way to learn to cook Korean is to be in a kitchen with a woman that grew up in Korea, cooking and eating. You learn about textures, about when to stir things and when to leave things alone, about how much oil is the perfect amount, as seen by how it slides around in a skillet.
This makes Thanksgiving a bit difficult for my family. We have our set menu- Mom makes the turkey, the ham (Dad doesn't like turkey), the kimchi, the jeon (Korean pancakes or fritters), and whatever other Korean dishes we convince her to make (we're trying to convince her that we absolutely need japchae / chapchae this year). My sister makes mashed potatoes and gravy, along with something American, like biscuits or macaroni and cheese or some other such thing (this year, deviled eggs!). I make green beans (not from a can) and the pies (pumpkin and/or pecan). And other than for the pies, none of us uses recipes for our Thanksgiving meal.
Our Thanksgiving is very much a combination of the American (where do you find a whole turkey in Korea?) and Korean (kimchi is a must). The meld is perfectly illustrated at our church, where the older generation speaks only Korean while the youngest generation speaks only English. There are a few of us, in the middle, that speak both and serve as unwilling conduits between the old and young.
Thanksgiving Sunday was great, as it usually is. We churchgoers are best when stuffed to the gills and lulled into sedation with turkey and pie. The kids decorated gingerbread cookies, which I had baked up the night before, and the adults all dutifully ate the (heavily, heavily) frosted cookies. My sister and I had packaged up little candy bags with four cookies in them, only one of which was decorated, for everyone to take home, purposefully leaving three of the cookies bare so that the parents would be spared insane sugar-induced hyperactivity at home.
Stuffing, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, and cranberries. I don't get stuffing. It's like ... soggy, hot, seasoned bread. Is it supposed to be ... good? Is it a replacement for rice? Because we always have rice. So stuffing is moot, right? Green bean casserole, courtesy of a lovely woman that has no talent for cooking. She's really nice, just can't cook. So this is her yearly contribution to Thanksgiving, made from a recipe and lots of canned goods. My mother made the potatoes. They were yummy.
I'll post the recipe for the gingerbread cookies tomorrow- they are easy and bake up really, really quickly. They also cool in minutes, which means that the decorating can happen very soon after the baking. A cookie recipe that I really like and have used many times- perfect for kids to ice, since the cookies are sturdy enough to handle twice their weight in royal icing.