Bananas in an Olive Oil Sauce

Mother won’t let me cook (yet), and she’s afraid I don’t know how to use the subway and will get lost/die/be kidnapped/gorge myself of Dweji Bars if I leave the house alone, so all I’ve been eating is Korean food. For all of my bitching about Mother bitching about what (when, why, how, how much) I eat, she is trying to be accommodating. Of course, we only got there after Mother lectured me on how fabulous Korean food is and how I should eat it all the time.

I sighed and said, slowly, “Mother, in America we had one American meal. And then we had Thai food with rice. And then we had Korean food. In America, you ate more Korean food than American food. Right?” Mother admitted I was right. “I don’t only want American food. I want it sometimes.”


At breakfast, Mother told me to eat my vegetables. Breakfast was cabbage in an olive oil and vinegar sauce, cucumbers, pepper strips, apple chunks, and an English muffin with strawberry jam. I had eaten most of it, when she was telling me I should make a salad every day or breakfast.

I said, “But usually, in America, we don’t eat salads for breakfast.”

“Why not?”

I thought for a moment and finally settled on “it’s a different country.”

“What do you eat?”

“Cereal or oatmeal or bread [Korea’s idea of bread is nothing like America’s, but I don’t go into it], fruit, maybe bacon or eggs, juice, coffee… Sometimes we eat rice with milk and cinnamon.”

“Rice with milk?” Sister asked.

“[Good Man] hates it.”

Mother asked, “Fruit? What kind of fruit?”

“Apples, bananas, kiwis, strawberries…”

Mother disappeared for a moment and comes back with two bananas in her hand. She sliced the bananas over our salads. Then I watched with disbelief as she rolled her pieces around in the olive oil sauce.

Mother asked what I want to eat and I told her the truth: a sandwich. We settled on left-over curry and I forget about the sandwich. At dinner, Mother told me she’s made sandwiches. She handed me two slices of the darkest bread I’ve ever seen in Korea (which isn’t saying much). I looked at the filling. She’d cooked and mashed up potatoes, carrots, scallions, and onions. And this is a fine example of what Koreans think “bread” is.

I asked if she has any black pepper. She said we’ll get some at Costco next week.

We’re touring Ulleungdo and Dokdo. I knew that food would be included and I knew it would be seafood, seafood, seafood. I hate seafood and fish, with the exception of tuna (canned—I know), but I used to be a vegetarian, so I am used to eating what I can and leaving the rest.

We had some tofu with our lunch, and it was delicious. I asked for more and the server said they didn’t have any more. Mother pulled the server aside and said quickly and quietly, “My daughter-in-law is having a hard time with all of the Korean food and doesn’t really like fish. Can you please get some more tofu?”

Five minutes later, I got a huge plate filled with hot slabs of tofu, fresh from the kitchen.

We’re eating pretty much the same lunch as the day before, except now the soup is too fishy to eat, and I can’t bear the thought of a bowl of rice for the fifth meal in a row. Mother tells Sister to go take me to find a sandwich. Neither GS25 nor FamilyMart have sandwiches, so I pick up a jar of fruit salad, some string “cheese,” some crackers and some juice. I expect Mother to lecture me about the crackers, but instead she says, “Good, now you can have your cheese. And for dinner, you can have gimbap and we will eat raw octopus.”