Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Happy 추석!

Today, September 22, is 추석 (pronounced choo-suk, usually spelled Chuseok).

Happy Chuseok!

We didn't really celebrate Chuseok in my family. I mean, we did in the ways that mattered- basically, we ate this type of glutinous rice cake (떡, pronounced ddeok or tteok) called 송편 (song-pyun or song-pyeon).

My sister and I have always loved tteok, because we're weird that way, but I have to say, of all the varieties of tteok in the world, song-pyeon is definitely in my top three. 

We usually had it just like the photo above, with white, green, and pink. I could never taste a difference between the pink and white, but the green ones were slightly grassy, a little chewier, and delicious with a sweet red bean paste filling. I preferred the white and pink ones with a sweetened sesame seed filling, which pairs better with the softer tteok exterior.

I really miss tteok. It can be found here in Albuquerque, but it's usually just the type used for tteok soup (eaten during New Year) or tteokbokki (eaten anytime). I miss fresh tteok, made in places by ornery old Korean women, stores that only sell tteok and kimbap, a weird but delicious combination. I miss Korean food in general, but most of what I crave, I can make for myself. Tteok is something I've made once in my life, under the careful supervision of my mother. Maybe I'll have to try it again, under the not-as-careful supervision of myself. We'll see if that pans out.

Anyway-- Chuseok is sort of the harvest festival, which is more symbolic than literal in modern times. There are games to play, people to see, dead family members to visit and pay respect to. I have none of that here, and I've realized that it's during these times, when I am completely used to spending a day with my family, that I really, truly miss home.

Work has been mind-numbingly hectic lately, so I don't have (too) much time to dwell upon my homesickness. Still, I think of people at the oddest times- I saw this lip balm that my sister and I use, but in a new flavor (honey berry!) with SPF, and I wanted to turn to her to talk about it. I saw a clump of cacti on the side of the road downtown that were flowering with bright blooms, and I wanted to tell my mother to go look at them. I saw a big ol' skunk crossing the road, and I wanted to joke with my father about roadkill (we used to talk about eating roadkill, because we're weird- canned armadillos, pickled rattlesnake, etc.- the skunk wasn't roadkill, he was fine). I miss joking with my sister that she shouldn't eat injeolmi (인절미, a type of tteok dusted with the powder of beans or sesame) because the elderly and the young choke on the powder.

It's those small moments, the insignificant personal things, that are like tiny paper cuts. Especially on days when I feel more Korean than American, because there aren't any Koreans that I'm close to in this here town.

I don't think it's helping any that it's pouring down rain here and has been for a couple hours now. The city is reflecting my mood. Thanks, Albuquerque.