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Posts Tagged ‘vegetarianism’

This is a little late, but April 23rd was our second wedding anniversary and Dragon’s 3rd month birthday. We celebrated on the day of with an ice cream cake. Three little candles for D and two big candles for us.

On the Friday, we celebrated by going to our anniversary restaurant (Chaegundaam) for lunch as D gets a wee bit cranky at night. You can read more about the restaurant in my blog post from last year. It’s crazy to think that last year at this time, Dragon didn’t even exist, and next year he will be toddling all over the restaurant.

This year didn’t disappoint either. We have a White Day and my birthday Korean-vegetarian restaurants that we go to every year, but this one really is a cut above the rest. I should note that this is not a vegetarian-only restaurant, but they do have a set menu that is vegetarian (2 people have to order it though).

And now without further ado…the food!

The appetizers

The main meal

Dessert

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My first experience with how things work in Korea was late in the afternoon on the Friday before my scheduled 7am Monday morning flight to Seoul, when I sat on a bench in the Korean consulate in Toronto staring at the consulate officials and willing them to process my visa in the final hour before closing time.  Of course, I had received the necessary paperwork from my school on the Tuesday of that same week and gone immediately to Toronto, only to be told by the consulate that they would take a week to process the visa, and then ordered by my school to make my Monday flight.  But anyway, after sitting for an hour staring at the officials in a most uncharacteristically Canadian, but actually very Korean show of ‘I’m not giving up until you do this for me damn it!’ manner, they finally agreed to process my visa and sent me to the ‘library’ so they didn’t have to deal with my evil eye stares.  It was there that I read a book on the history of kimchi and learned not only that I was going to have to love this fermented and spicy cabbage if I was going to live for an extended period of time in Korea, but that I was also going to have to accept the fact that most forms of kimchi are made with some form of fish paste or fish sauce.  I didn’t know at the time about temple restaurants or white radish kimchi that is not typically made with fish, and I didn’t know about different regional recipes, some of which rely less on fish as an ingredient, but sitting in that consulate library just days away from my now certain departure date, I had my first realization that being a vegetarian in a country where you do not speak the language or have a vast knowledge of the local cuisine was going to be more challenging than I had initially thought.

I was lucky in that my first job in Korea was at a large adult institute with about 25 Westerners at our branch, most of who had been in Korea for a year or more and could help me to navigate around some of the food intricacies.  One co-worker immediately started taking me out for meals and writing down dishes she thought I could eat.  A few months later, R, a fellow Canadian veggie, arrived at work, and we quickly became friends and we explored the city and our food options together.  However, a few additional issues I had never ever considered quickly came to light.  For instance, when something says ‘vegetable’ ie. ‘vegetable bread,’ ‘vegetable kimbab,’ ‘vegetable pizza,’ it does not mean that it is vegetarian.  It simply means that it has more vegetables than other similar menu choices.  I learned this pretty quickly, but in the early years, I was constantly having to educate other well meaning but nonvegetarian and thus veggie-clueless people who would order food for the group.  This problem was compounded by the fact that, when rolled in kimbab, a California roll, a piece of Korean ‘bread’, as part of a sandwich, or some other sort of concoction, egg, fried tofu, and fish cake all look exactly the same.  So there were countless times when someone would say, ‘I brought you a vegetable_______’, and I would bite into it only to find that the egg/tofu was really fish.

Another rather large challenge for vegetarians from the West is that there is no all-encompassing word for ‘meat’ in Korean (there isn’t in English either, but there’s a general cultural understanding that animal flesh=meat).  ‘Gogi’ means ‘meat,’ but linguistically it is used to say ‘cow-meat,’ ‘pig-meat,’ ‘fish-meat.’  But words like ‘ham’ (actually SPAM), ‘sausage,’ ‘squid,’ ‘clam,’ do not include that very important ‘gogi’ in Korean; thus, I have had endless conversations that go like this (in English or Korean) ‘Please have some’ (a lovely person giving me some kimbab with a piece of SPAM in it).  ‘Thank you so much, but I don’t eat meat.’  (confused look) ‘But there’s no meat. It is ham kimbab.’  ‘Yes, ham is meat.’  ‘No, ham is not meat.’  ‘It comes from a dead animal.’ ‘Oh really? Yes…I guess it does.’  The problem is further compounded by the fact that Koreans love to put meat in things Westerners would never ever imagine meat would end up….like bread…I can’t count how many times lovely wonderful people have bought me rolls, baguettes, or bread type items (cause I’m a Westerner, I must want bread right?) which had tiny pieces of SPAM, chicken, or minced pork in them.  (And one time in Japan, I found a piece of ham in a baked potato).  None of these things are inherently wrong on the Korean side, it’s just that there’s a learning process that often has nothing to do with language, but rather has to do with learning how other cultures perceive food, ingredients, or even the interpretation of your own food.  And of course also in the Korean context, so many English words have been incorporated into Korean, but are used differently than native English speakers might use them; thus, the vegetable/vegetarian distinction that is important to know.

Then, there’s cultural aspects to take into consideration.  Western and Korean concepts of service seem to be looking glass opposites of each other.  Most North Americans complain endlessly about North American service on airplanes, especially after experiencing Asian airlines, and one of the most glorious things in Korea is finding out you have some sort of home/computer/car etc problem on a Sunday night, and then being about the find someone or someplace to fix it for you on the spot.  But then when it comes to service in many restaurants, the opposite is true.  Korean restaurants love set menus…and they are…set.  Recipes are…set.  And this is especially true when the server (often the owner in a small restaurant), is older than you.  No, it would not be easier to omit the spoon of ground beef on your bibimbap, it would be harder…it would take an extra 10 minutes instead of saving time, it wouldn’t taste right, it wouldn’t be right, or it’s simply not possible.  Part of the cultural disconnect here is that communal culture extends to what you eat and how you eat.  When you go out with your Korean team, the boss decides what everyone is eating, and then everyone eats that meal.  There’s no individual ordering, and often there’s no individual plate.  Everyone is eating off the same grill, out of the same bowl, off of the same plate.  There might be different kinds of fish, or different side dishes, or different cuts of meat, so it is possible to avoid something you don’t really care for, but it’s not possible to avoid the meal and choose something different altogether.  Of course, this is changing a bit with the introduction of more Western restaurants and a growing trend toward choice, but still, when I go out for Western/Indian food with students or a group made up of predominately Koreans, they are ordering individual plates to be shared together, and everyone is eating that food collectively.

So back to how this relates to vegetarians, there is less of a concept of individual likes or dislikes…or at least a lack of ability for younger people especially to be able to express these likes, dislikes, food issues with people who are older (including servers/restaurant proprietors).  Even when the sever is younger, they have to go back to the older cook who may disregard their menu item changes, and thus, because the job and the Korean manager are more important than the crazy Western one-time customer, they would rather deal with the wrath of the Westerner trying to express herself in broken and hilarious Korean.

But even when it is a Korean doing the ordering…and on older man doing the ordering, they themselves have to learn how to be more explicit, more demanding, more forceful.  Mr. Lee had several occasions at first where he would order something for me and say, ‘no gogi’ only to get something with fish eggs or shrimp in it because those aren’t ‘gogi.’  And my father in law, during his 70th birthday party (a big deal here in Korea), tried to order bibim naengmyun for me without the piece of meat on top (it was a galbi restaurant), and was shocked when the server totally disregarded his 70 year old male order and brought….a bowl with a piece of meat on top.  After that I felt a bit better actually, like it wasn’t just my Korean skills or my face…it was just a different culture of understanding meat, ingredients, service, and choice.

But it’s not all bad.  I used to go to the local Kimbab Cheonguk (a ‘Korean diner’ chain), near my first work, and after one time of telling the kimbab rolling woman that I wanted a ‘ham kimbab without the ham,’ she totally got it, and by the 5th time, she started rolling my own kimbab as soon as I would walk in the door (ordering a vegetable kimbab would have gotten me a ham kimbab with lukewarm mayonnaise, and the other options were beef, tuna, or kimchi, kimbab, the later which also had SPAM).  Her co-worker, a woman I suspect to be a bit dim on the best of days, could not, after two years, understand ham without ham.  I would stand beside her constantly reminding her or telling her to take the SPAM off after reminding her….and still, she would make mistakes EVERY SINGLE TIME even with the good kimbab woman coming over to yell at her.  But the good kimbab woman was my primary kimbab maker, and she would always put an extra piece of egg on the roll for me.  It’s the same with my current work, and the woman who makes my egg, cheese, and ham sandwich with an extra piece of egg instead of ham for me.  She sees me coming, and those two pieces of egg go on the grill.  She’s my sandwich angel.  And that’s not to mention my Korean family who have also been ridiculously supportive.  My mother in law makes special soup for the holidays just for me without any beef broth.  My brother in law’s wife always has something set aside in a Tupperware container just for me.  My father in law lightly chides me to eat bbq pork and then happily pops the piece into his own mouth.  And everyone always passes down the salad or veggie side dishes to my side of the table.

The other benefit of living here is that while nobody understands the why of being a vegetarian, they mostly accept it as a ‘weird foreign thing.’  I’m sure the fact that I am white-Canadian-weird not another ethnicity/race-weird helps a bit, but there is some understanding that other cultures have other practices, and people should be kinda/sorta okay with that.  I’ve never experienced any real backlash to my vegetarianism from Koreans although I’ve been badgered, scorned, and ridiculed by countless Westerners, especially men.  Two specific individuals at my first job here used to make some sort of bacon/sausage/pork/living cow/whatever joke EVERY SINGLE MORNING as we started work at 6:50am.  And when I say ‘joke’ I mean ‘mean spirited or ridiculing comment.’ There is also, from certain individuals, (again, almost always males), a need to change my eating habits through force, and thus win the ‘right’ to say that they have made me a meat eater again.  I’ve never experienced this in Korea from an eating perspective (drinking is another matter).  I suppose that’s partly because group pressure is less direct and relies more on playing on the guilt of the person not participating in the activity (eating, drinking, etc) and fear of ostracization.  Being an ‘outsider,’ I care less about not being part of a group through eating meat together, and of course there are fewer consequences when it comes to not following the group’s lead.

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I’ve had a couple of requests to talk about being a vegetarian in Korea, but I think I first need to talk about why I am a vegetarian. This feels actually very strange because I have never ever in any kind of capacity written down this very important life choice on paper. I’m not sure of the exact direction of this narrative as I write it, so I may or may not get into why I have never been very vocal about this lifestyle choice, but for now, just know that it feels strange to explain this aspect of my life in writing.

Like any kind of approach to life, my feelings and philosophy about my eating habits have changed over the years. My mother tells me that even as a baby I refused to eat meat although I loved yams…and then proceeded to hate yams/squash for several years before rediscovering the taste for them about 3 years ago. Growing up, I was okay with meat – and especially loved fish although I think that part of this love came from the fact that it was banned in my house (my mother hated fish after having a very scary incident with a fish bone when she was young). Thus, eating fish at my grandmother’s house, or sneaking a bit of smoked salmon from the neighbour’s hunting and fishing trip down in my dad’s workshop seemed a bit rebellious or sinful. But from about 11-13 I went through a pretty intense period of pre-teen angst/self reflection, and it was at the end of this time that I went to camp in the summer, and found that at this (somewhat upscale) camp, you could request vegetarian meals. I’m not entirely sure why I asked for veggie meals initially, but I did every meal, and the result was when I came back home I went to dig in to my shepherd’s pie and realized…that ground beef was a cow.

I can’t remember ever having a conversation about the merits of vegetarianism or the evils of eating meat. Both sets of grandparents were farmers (maternal=dairy, paternal=mixed including beef cows and pigs). Even at that time, they were family farmers, and much of the meat I ate at their house and maybe even at my own house came from local butchers my dad and grandfather had known all their lives and local family farms. I specifically remember once going with my grandfather to a local Amish home with a pump tap and massive handmade wood kitchen table to buy sausages and maple syrup from their farm. We weren’t being locovores and we weren’t reacting against factory farms or retail giants encroaching on local businesses, my father and grandfather were just buying from people they had always bought from. Therefore, when I was growing up, farms meant small scale production, good living conditions for animals, and local people working together to get things done on each family farm. And contrary to what some people may think, other than the barn cats and dogs and the horses I later rode for my riding lessons, I never became very so close to my grandfather’s animals that I would have reacted in horror to ‘Mr. Piggy’ ending up on my plate. But somehow, when I turned 13, I finally had that realization that ground beef is in fact tiny cut up pieces of flesh that used to be part of a one living breathing blood flowing cow that was killed in part for…me. And that realization affected me so profoundly that I put down my fork and have not intentionally ingested a piece of beef for more years than I ate beef. At that point, the issue for me was that I had seen that whole cow being butchered in my head, and I could not justify that particular death in order to fill my stomach. To this day, I support hunting (the one person and his/her regular old hiking rifle in the woods bagging a dear not the men in a helicopter with a semi automatic rifle or on a big game reserve hunting) over slaughterhouses because if a person can look a deer in the eye, shoot it, put it on top of the truck, dress it, and feed their family, that to me seems to be a much more honourable way to get your meat than from a factory operation. But when I had that momentary flash of the cow to knife to plate, I realized that I could not do that, and was thus not the person to be eating meat.

I was semi-vegetarian (no red meat) for a year before I finally cut out all poultry and fish and became a lacto-ovo vegetarian (I eat eggs and milk products but no meat). My family was ridiculously okay with the whole thing. My mother told me I could stop eating meat as long as I drank milk and ate more vegetables. My least likely to understand paternal grandfather started making a special batch of dressing made outside of the turkey for Thanksgiving and making sure I had an extra roll or salad in lieu of meat and gravy.

As I got a little older and started following the news, I started to develop a belief in modified pacifism. I’ve been as far as 99.9% pacifist, but at the moment I would consider myself 80% pacifist. Most certainly, my vegetarianism has evolved with these views on violence and pacifism. For instance, while I recognize that meat eating can sometimes be necessary (I came very close to living in the Far North one summer which caused me to really reflect on how I might have to change my eating habits because of the food availability in remote northern regions), not eating meat has become part of my commitment to reduce violence or find non violent solutions to world or personal issues. I do think that in some cases violence is unfortunately necessary (mostly self defence…much of my worldview on the issue of violence developed in the first few years post-9-11 with all those public debates about pre-emptive strikes and collateral damage), but for me, especially in Canada (we’ll get to Korea in the next post), meat is unnecessary killing.

I should also say that my Buddhism classes in undergrad also evolved my understanding of vegetarianism. Certainly the third noble truth (the cessation of suffering is possible), and the interconnectivity of beings has also influenced how I think humans should interact with other beings and the place of humans in this world. I suppose some people could argue that I have used these worldviews to justify my eating habits, and if people are being honest with themselves, they have to admit that conversions to any religion, philosophy, or worldview is influenced in part by their environment, but I would also assert that my vegetarianism is a belief (and practice) that exists deep in the core of my being. My reasons for being a vegetarian have evolved and developed over time as I have been exposed to more ideas and reacted to cultural developments (wars, animal culling, factory farming, etc), but the fundamental idea that meat consumption should be limited or avoided altogether has not waned since that shepherd’s pie moment when I was 13.

I should however say that after almost 31 years on this earth, I also know something about myself: I am susceptible to being dogmatic. I went through an ‘I’m a poster child for Evangelical Fundamentalism’ phase during my teen years, I’ve already mentioned that at one point I was pacifist to the edge of reason, and I went through an incredibly dogmatic Said + POCO period. I can take worldviews to the extreme, and this knowledge about my propensity for dogmatism has also informed some of the limits to my vegetarianism, something I will discuss further in my next post on being vegetarian in Korea.

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Friday night being my birthday, we went out for dinner (AND Mr. Lee got off of work ‘early’….actually he had to go into work Saturday  to make up for it…but he’s a good husband like that!)

We went to the same place Mr. Lee found for my birthday dinner last year.  It’s a restaurant called 발우공양.  It’s a temple restaurant owned by the Jogye Buddhist order, and directly across the street from the Jogye Temple here in Seoul (5th floor of the building).  The head chef is in fact a nun (대안스님) with the Jogye Order.  I have a ‘thing’ for restaurants affiliated with religious groups, and I’m a vegetarian, so restaurants serving vegetarian temple fare are my kind of heaven.

Now, being a temple restaurant, the food is displayed in a much more simple way than at the other veggie restaurant we frequent, but the food is very good, and each set menu has an enormous variety of dishes and tastes.

We started with a corn poriage, salad, and of course kimchee although of course the Buddhist version has no fish in it.

After that, we had 3 kinds of jeon, followed by vegetarian mandoo, tiny tofu blocks, and chobab (rice, spices, and vinegar – this time wrapped in a grape leaf).  At the same time, they also brought us spicy fried mushrooms and other vegetables.

I should also say that all along we were drinking song cha which translates as ‘pine tea’ but was really a form of alcohol.  It was sooooo mellow, and had more of a melon flavour than a pine flavour…AND was super easy to get drunk off of because it didn’t taste like alcohol at all.

The next set of dishes included mushrooms with honey and yujacha (a thick tea that looks and tastes a bit like marmalade).  I have to say that I was quite disapointed in this dish because last time we ate at the restaurant, the honey was actually fresh honeycomb…and there’s almost nothing in the world better than that.  The other dishes included a potato-mushroom soup, and something else that we couldn’t figure out the English word for it.  The texture was kind of bambooish…or ginsaengish….it wasn’t my favourite…

The main part of the meal was sticky rice, side dishes, and a modified veggie form of dweng jjang jjigae (bean paste soup). 

And finally, dessert.

I know I know…most of you feel the need to have meat in a meal, and I don’t want to get all preachy here, but temple food is a great way to get a wide spectrum of Korean dishes and flavours, and the fact that they don’t use meat/garlic/onions means that they have to get a big more creative in how they prepare the food.  So, I highly recommend temple dining if you haven’t tried it before.  It’s a great way to get a wide variety of food and gives you a different perspective on what a meal can be!

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This isn’t really a food blog, but I am a vegetarian and passionate about finding new veggie places (or places with a good veggie selection). Since Mr. Lee and I returned to our old haunt 감로당 (Kamrodang) tonight for White Day, I thought it would be a good idea to blog about it for other people interested in good vegetarian food in the city. 감로당 serves temple food (vegan + no garlic or onions) but in a more upscale interpretation and presentation. 

The restaurant has moved from it’s former location to 경복궁 (Gyeongbokgung) station on line 3. Take exit 3 and walk straight past Dunkin Donuts. When you see the hanbok (traditional Korean clothing) store on the side of the road, turn down the small road on your right. You’ll be able to see this sign.

And the indoor interior.

The beautiful menu (meals are set menus – 12,000 won for lunch, and 23,000-98,000 for dinner).  We had the 30,000 set, and it was more than enough with a wide variety of flavours and dishes.  It’s certainly not a meal we would eat regularly, but it’s a great alternative to all the faux upscale (and way overpriced) Italian places on a special night out.

The following are the courses in order:  1)kimchee and mushroom juk (Korean porridge)

2) Salad

3) Grilled mushroom, lotus root, and white yam (ma) with salt on the side.

4) Fried tofu in with spicy sauce

5) Mini Korean ‘pancakes’

6) Mini Korean ‘crepes’ (middle:  mushrooms, Korean radish, carrots and Korean zucchini)

7) Spicy salad with lotus root

8- Battered mushrooms in 유자차 (citrus tea)

9) Korean pear and ? turnip perhaps?

10) Fried tofu ‘sandwiches’ with mushroom filling, and nuts on baked squash.

 

11) Soup and 비빔밥 (mixed rice, vegetables, hot pepper paste, and in this special case, a variety of pickles and marinated vegetables). 

12) Dessert – candied ginger, small ‘pancake’ filled with something sweet, and shikhye (a traditional Korean sweet rice drink).

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I ordered my cake before I had a ring, a date, a venue, or a colour scheme.  That may seem strange, but going backward mostly worked for us.  And, picking a cake seemed a lot less scary than picking a venue.  I figured, ‘I bake cakes – they’re not that hard.  Wedding cakes shouldn’t be much different from regular cakes right?’

 I picked up a couple of back issues of wedding magazines at the local bookstores (since Korean weddings are more paired down 1 hour package deals, wedding magazines with a great diversity of styles are not really in here).  I also took a moment to look at a few websites before choosing my design.

 I quickly found the ever delightful Cake Wrecks and learned never to totally trust your baker knows what they are doing.

(Original Picture)

(Actual Wedding Cake)

And I learned that making a life sized version of me might not be the classiest option.

But I found a plethora of cakes on Martha’s site and others which were elegant, tasteful, and graceful in their simplicity.

A week after first considering these options, I had decided my cake would look something like a combination of these cakes:  a three tired cake emphasizing height with simple piped scrolls up the side in white.  I decided that the simpler the better.

But recently, I have come across a few debates about cakes I was utterly unaware of before putting down my down payment.  The biggest issue is fondant vs. butter cream icing.

In my naïveté, I had always thought that the reason why professional baker’s icing looked so much smoother and more uniform than my own icing activities was entirely based on the fact that they were just more skilled.  However, I’ve since discovered that this effect is produced by fondant – a primarily sugar/water mixture which is rolled out and placed around the cake.  This is all well and good, but it seems that people have very extreme reactions to fondant.  When I did a quick survey of friends, half (the sugar loving crowd) LOVED it while the other half loathed it and said it has a horrid taste.  That’s not the kind of reaction one is hoping for in their uber expensive wedding cake!

So just use butter cream icing right? Well – the biggest problem with this is melting capability.  Fondant not only creates a smoother effect, but it is also less likely to melt in the middle of August.  When you pay that much for the cake, and have the photographer sticking around to catch the great cake cutting moment, you don’t really want a landslide for a cake.  Butter cream is also hard to shape and create cool designs.

And then one extra problem….fondant often includes gelatine…and I’m a vegetarian..and many of my guests are either vegetarians or practicing Muslims.  I’m trying to make the wedding food as inclusive as possible (veggie everything except one entrée, requested the cake be made without lard or rum in the chocolate truffle layer, virgin cocktails etc). Also, even though I eat products with gelatine in them (because it’s hard to avoid…especially when I’m living in Korea), as this is probably the only time in my life I will be able to throw a swanky dinner and request with the authority of a bride every single thing that I want, I want a hide and cartilage-free cake! 

But….as a result of more research, I’ve learned that a vegetable gelatine is possible in fondant, and even if it absolutely cannot be done, fondant can be easily peeled off, leaving the rest of the unblemished cake behind for those who do not or cannot eat the fondant.

Whew! That was complicated.  I never expected there to be such controversies over cake…and I am starting to realize that accommodation can only go so far.  Because I am a vegetarian and am often a non-thought when other people are planning dinners and events, I am very sensitive about food inclusivity.  I also really want the meal to be a special time for everyone, so I want everyone to be able to enjoy it equally.  However, I also have to realize that while I can be mindful of my uncle’s poultry allergy, my sister’s aversion of most vegetables, the pregnant women who can’t eat soft cheese, and the diabetic family members’ sugar requirements, at some point I can’t please or accommodate everyone.

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In Canada, we consider Thanksgiving a time to stop and consider our blessings over the past year. It’s not a Korean custom, but I thought I would take the opportunity to give thanks for my soon-to-be Korean family.

I’m thankful that, despite their initial misgivings, Mr. Lee’s parents have been very supportive of our marriage once they met us. I have heard (and seen) more than a few disastrous situations where Korean families of bi-cultural couples went so far as to threaten to disown their children, or they stopped speaking to their kids for a whole year (despite living in the same house). Therefore, I am thankful that his parents have welcomed me into the family and given us their blessing.

I’m thankful that his soon-to-be 70 year old father is studying English in an attempt to communicate with me more fluently. Nobody asked him to do it…he started by himself and has now found a new later-in-life passion for language.

I’m thankful that my mother – a white woman in a 99% white English speaking village – has started studying Korean by herself. She has almost 0% chance of being able to practice with a real Korean where she lives, but she wants to be able to know both languages her future grandchildren will speak.

I’m thankful for Mr. Lee’s cousin, who despite having had her wisdom teeth taken out the day before, was able to carry on a perfect conversation in English that made me feel welcomed and part of the family.

I’m thankful for the amazing amount of vegetarian food my future mother in law and her sister were able to make. Koreans love their meat, and despite having a traditional diet low in animal proteins, have embraced it fully in the past few decades. I know what I can and can’t eat here, and I am able to communicate my dietary restrictions easily in Korean, but I still often get dishes with hidden beef, spam, or chicken broth because people don’t consider these things ‘meat.’ However, despite the lack of cultural awareness about vegetarianism, his family members made a veggie version of a traditional Thanksgiving soup, and a ton of traditional dishes without meat (or chicken broth, or fish sauce) just for me.

I’m thankful that his family kindly accepted my disastrous pumpkin pie…and that his nieces actually seemed to enjoy it.

I’m thankful that my soon-to-be Korean family lives in Seoul. That means we will never have to brave a 12 hour traffic jam to get to Daegu or stand on a train with an infant to get to the family homestead. We will always be able to ride an empty subway and then spend the rest of the weekend relaxing in a city that comes to a standstill over the holidays.

And finally…

I’m thankful for family in general. My Canadian family members have never been each other’s secret keepers, but parts of the family are close, and I grew up regularly seeing my grandparents and spending time with my extended family. Living in Korea for the past four years I have felt a great deal of freedom because of lack of family commitments, but also a great deal of sadness at being physically separated from multi-generational interaction. Family causes great burdens, but it also brings joy and security.

I am greatly blessed.

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