Steamed dumplings define a path to happinessIt seems that the word “innocence” is long gone from the dictionary defining today’s teenagers.
My 12-year-old “niece,” Yu-jeong, recently told her mother that she wouldn’t want to participate in one of the three-month language programs that her classmates attend during summer vacations.
“If I go,” she was quoted as saying by her mother, my cousin, “I would want to stay at least three years.”
Two years ago, Yu-jeong spent six months in New Zealand, studying English. She loved it, but thinks “it’s too pesky” to get used to the school environment when she returns to Korea.
If I were my cousin, I would burst into tears at having a child who doesn’t have any sympathy for her hard-working parents. But for some reason, my cousin, who earns a moderate income exporting ski gloves, seems relieved that her daughter has already gotten her reality clearly figured out.
But Yu-jeong is a typical girl in Gangnam, a neighborhood in which parents spend one third of their income on their children’s education to help them get into the top universities.
She is daring enough to chat with my cousin’s office colleagues on MSN Messenger, asking when her mother will finish work and come home. Instead of keeping a diary, she grouses about the latest brand of her mobile phone. The rest of the time, she is studying or taking lessons at a hagwon.
An exception to this pattern that I found is the students from working class neighborhoods that I had a chance to meet recently in an after-school study room.
Surely, reality is tougher for them than it is for Gangnam students. Many can’t afford to pay for private institutes. Their parents often work until late at night, leaving them little time to spend with their children.
Yet the kids in the study room seem genuinely happier. They play more, and study less. They talk like kids, and act like kids.
Maybe they are clever enough to have reached the conclusion that there is no point in making an effort if there is no chance of winning, but they seem to have already figured out their own way to happiness.
Or maybe for some kids, the ideal way of coping with desperation is simply to not have a lot of hope.
In the end, emotions adjust to reality, whether we like it or not. We all learn how to adapt to happiness or unhappiness.
But to make things better, we just have to keep finding new ways to embrace our everyday life more seriously.
To reclaim my guide to happiness, I must find a decent dim sum restaurant.
Every Sunday, when I was living in Vancouver, it was our family’s ritual to go to Chinatown to have a huge meal of dim sum after church.
The Chinese waiter who served us each week eventually figured out our appetites so that whenever we arrived, he would smile and say, “You’re hungry, huh?”
It was such a pleasure. I should have known that in a hard life, a hearty bowl of steamed dumplings is more than it seems.
How to Cook
Ingredients: 2 cups flour, 100 grams ground pork, 1 package mandu dough (mandupi), 1 package tofu, 100 g bean sprouts, 3 teaspoons diced green onions, 2 teaspoons sesame seeds, 1 teaspoon crushed garlic, 1/2 teaspoon crushed ginger, 1 teaspoon seasame oil, 1 teaspoon salt, dash of pepper.
1. In a large bowl, mix pork with green onion, garlic and ginger.
2. Steam bean sprouts over medium heat. When done, add to the meat mixture.
3. Crush tofu and add to mixture.
4. Add sesame oil, salt, pepper and sesame seeds. Mix well.
5. Put a teaspoon of stuffing on a piece of dough placed on a floured surface. 6. Cover with a second piece of dough and seal the dumpling.
6. Steam the dumplings in a pot for about 10 to 15 minutes.
7. Serve with soy sauce.
by Park Soo-mee