14.016 Lighter/Milder

Cycle 14 – Item 16

21 (Sat) January 2023



by MIL

at the In-Laws’ home

-Apgujeong, Gangnam, Seoul, Republic of Korea-

with the Family, In-Laws

Snarky remarks about the mother-in-law’s cooking have long been a recurring theme on GMTD.  A few of my favorite zings:

    • “Reportedly, MIL is an excellent cook.  I have yet to see or taste evidence in support of this claim” (see 1.013 Daegu Maeun Tang).
    • “MIL makes [gungjung ddeokbokki] for her son whenever he’s over for dinner.  He seems to enjoy it.” (3.080 Gungjung Ddeokbokki)
    • “I just love it when I come home to find, much to my surprise, the MIL cooking dinner in my kitchen.” (4.187 Braised Byeongeo)
    • “Bless her heart, the MIL insisted that she make dinner for me, despite my loud objections and clear proclamations that her cooking falls way short of my standards — she really believes that I’m joking.” (7.194 The MIL’s Typical at Korean At-Home Meal)
    • “When I got home from work, the MIL presented me with a plate of boiled beef.  In addition to eating the beef, I enjoyed the privilege of hearing her epic tale about buying and preparing it.”  (7.272 Suyuk)
    • “Generally not a fan of pickled pollack roe, which can be overly salty/fishy, unpleasantly squishy/slimy.  Generally not a fan of MIL’s cooking, which can be overly salty/fishy, unpleasantly squishy/slimy.” (7.291 Myeongranjeot)
    • “The best part of a long stay in Korea is the guarantee of a home-cooked meal by MIL.” (8.298 Skirt)

To be honest, the food is not bad per se.  It’s mostly that MIL’s southern style of cooking tends towards spicy/salty flavors, whereas my palate was raised on my mother’s light/mild northern style (see for comparison 7.298 A Special Korean At-Home Meal à la MIL).  (She also overcooks everything.)

One optically apparent difference these days is the composition of side dishes, which now are much lighter/milder, in contrast to the spicier/saltier spread in years past (see for comparison 3.080 Gungjung Ddeokbokki).

But recently, a slight yet seismic shift.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I’ve come to embrace her food, though certain dishes I’m beginning to kinda sorta enjoy (see for example 13.223 Braised Doenjang Mugeunji).  Most tellingly perhaps, I don’t really feel the urge these days for mockery.

Like a disparate pair of tectonic plates creeping towards each other over billions of years, my palate and her style have been converging to meet somewhere in the inevitable middle.  The consensus at the table, among those who have eaten the food for decades, despite her emphatic denials, is that the shift is more on her end.   Everyone is both amused and bemused that the stubbornly proud culinary traditions of a Jeolla grandmother were defeated by passive-aggressive demands of a Korean-American son-in-law.

(See also HANSIK)

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