A tale of two holidays: Mom vs. Steak by the beach

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A tale of two holidays: Mom vs. Steak by the beach

Every year around this time, I am torn between the irresistible desire to check into a cozy hotel room near a beach along the East Coast for a relaxing weekend and the duty to help my mother fix a meal for our family’s ancestral worship ceremonies on Lunar New Year’s Day.
Having said that, I find it ironic how great the divide is between the options I give myself.
If I check into a hotel, I could lie on a cushy bed fixed by someone else and listen to the sound of ocean waves all night long. If I stay in Seoul, I would spend the whole evening plucking the ends off bean sprouts, or hear my uncle lecture about why there are so many unmarried women in their thirties in Korea, as if it’s some critical social problem.
I’ve probably said this before, but I am generally displeased about the whole economy of ancestral rituals that demand sacrifices by the living to commemorate the dead.
This tradition might have been worth keeping for my parents’ generation. But perhaps they will be the last to do so.
It’s probably too much to ask for people in my generation to compromise their lives for the dead when most of us can barely keep our own families together.
Indeed, if there is one reason why I decide to stay in Seoul every year instead of going on vacation, it is because of my mother. I think many women in Korea would feel the same way.
Most of us repress the urge to take a nice vacation, not because of tradition, but because they want to emotionally support the people they love, those who are still alive, compromising with a situation that they cannot change.
When we read novels and watch TV shows like “Sex and the City,” women in Korea feel a cultural gap that is increasingly hard to cope with. No matter how hard we try, our lives are still somehow swayed by traditional values of the past, whether we agree with them or not.
But in my utopian vision, I am still dreaming that one day I will check into a beautiful hotel room overlooking a winter beach. A suite room with a fireplace would be nice.
There, after a long bath, I will dine in a hotel restaurant and order a huge piece of abalone steak just for myself. After all, part of the beauty of being single is to pamper yourself with the luxury that you have earned.

How to Cook

Abalone Steak

Ingredients: 2 abalone, 3 pecans, 10 ginkgo nuts and 1 sliced shiitake mushroom. For sauce: 2 teaspoons of soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of rice wine, 1 teaspoon of sugar, 3 cloves of garlic, 1 ginger, little bit of pepper, sesame oil, 1/2 cup of water

1. Peel the abalone flesh off its shell. Wash it thoroughly in running water. Boil the flesh in salt water on medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Take it out and cut into bite size pieces.
2. In a pot, pour all the sauce. Add Abalone and shiitake mushrooms.
3. Let it simmer for 5 to 10 minutes.
4. Just before serve, add pecans.

by Park Soo-mee
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