Me and baby Jesus, sipping slimy seaweed soup

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Me and baby Jesus, sipping slimy seaweed soup

Having your birthday on Christmas Eve isn’t always a pleasing experience. As a child, I endured the trauma of friends rejecting invitations to my birthday parties because their parents wouldn’t let them out on Christmas Eve.
In kindergarten, I actually lied to my teacher, saying my birthday was on Dec. 16 just to eat my cake before Christmas break. I still have the picture of me blowing out candles in sheer pleasure with the big cake in front of me.
For years, I have been discontent about how my birthday was always pushed out of people’s memory because they were too busy preparing for Christmas.
I couldn’t resist blaming my mother, even though I knew I couldn’t complain. She was a victim too, having giving birth on Christmas Eve. That fateful night in 1974, my mother repeatedly called out for help after she went into labor, but most of the nurses were busy partying in a hospital lounge. She could barely sleep, because of the sound of popping champagne bottles and people singing.
Mind you this was the early 70s in the small factory town of Ulsan. Hospital regulations might have been much looser then.
I am just thankful the hospital staff didn’t make any fatal mistakes during delivery. Imagine a team of half drunken nurses snipping my umbilical cord in the wrong way, or something.
In any case, I decided to pay tribute to my mother this year.
For the first time, I felt it was my turn to treat her on my birthday. (And I just got myself a new credit card with a special birthday discount at Outback Steakhouse.) We each had a big sirloin steak on Christmas Eve. It wasn’t the usual birthday meal I’ve gotten for the past 31 years, but what the heck?
I’ve had enough seaweed soup that I almost don’t need anymore. (Where did the tradition of eating seaweed soup on birthdays come from anyway?)
As I chewed down my steak, I reflected that it isn’t so bad being a girl born on Christmas Eve. At least people smile when they hear when my birthday is.
People might still reject my invitations, but many friends still manage to call a day early, wishing me a happy birthday while joking they wish to have never heard my birth date ― once they know, they can’t pretend to have forgotten.
I guess that’s the beauty of being born on Christmas Eve.


How to Cook

Miyeokguk
(Seaweed Soup)

Ingredients: 100g of beef, 10g of dried seaweed, 2 cups of water, 1 teaspoon of sesame oil, 1/2 teaspoon of crushed garlic, little bit of soy sauce.

1. Cut the beef into thin slices. Soak the dried seaweed in clear water. Wash
thoroughly, and cut both into bite size pieces.
2. In a saucer, pour sesame oil, seaweed and beef. Stir for 2 to 3 minutes on medium heat. Add water.
3. Add garlic and soy sauce before serving.


by Park Soo-mee
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