Cracking open the waffle mold of a typical marriageKoreans say that marriage is like the mold used to make bung-eo-bbang, the fish-shaped waffles filled with sweet red beans. Once you are in the mold, you’ll probably turn out the same, no matter how hard you try to be different ― just like the identical fish-shaped snacks.
It’s a poignant expression of our marital system, and how difficult it is to go against tradition and the institution called “family” in our society.
Indeed, the younger generation is generally pessimistic about marriage, whether they are single, engaged or already married. They are unhappy about many things: the unnecessary expense of weddings, inevitable conflicts with the in-laws and social expectations to live up to the standards of a “normal” marriage.
There seem to be phases in dealing with these conflicts.
First they complain. Then they become silent. Later, they accept the situation fatalistically, seeking the best ways to reduce confrontation. Several years later, they participate in the system as it is, spending two thirds of their income to send their children to the best kindergartens in town.
They probably didn’t like being asked about their plans to have babies. But once they put a bun in the oven, they don’t hesitate to ask other married couples why they don’t get pregnant too. Soon, their entire focus in life gets shifted from the notion of live and let live to ruthlessly saving money to send their children to a better hagwon or buying a house in satellite cities.
I don’t expect anything from anyone, especially when it concerns people who are overtly certain about their views on life before experiencing something.
But I’m curious to ask people who had been so critical about the system of marriage and the whole package it comes with, if they had ever really meant what they said about their ideals.
Life, of course, should not be a battle. But people should make some effort ―it seems that too many of us become fatalistic too easily after getting married without seeking alternatives.
Some people, like my cousin Ji-woo, would laugh at my discontent.
“It’s taster’s choice,” he adamantly said the other day about people switching their attitude after marriage, telling me not to worry about it.
Surely, I won’t. But maybe they should have developed their earlier ideals to a higher level instead of neglecting them altogether as if their world before marriage did not exist. It’s sometimes painful to watch for the single and married alike, who might worry that one day we will end up like them, like the poor fish-shaped waffles, hot out of the mold.
How to Cook
Ingredients (for 1 serving): 1 cup of flour, a pinch of salt, 1/3 teaspoon of baking powder, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, 1/2 cup of milk. For stuffing: 1 cup of dried/fresh red beans, 1/2 cup of brown sugar.
1. Mix all the ingredients for the batter.
2. In a boiling pot on medium heat, put red beans.
3. Add brown sugar to the pot. Simmer with the beans for 15 to 20 minutes.
4. In a waffle maker, pour the batter.
5. Add a dollop of cooked red beans in the center of the batter.
6. Close waffle maker, turn occasionally and cook until done.
by Park Soo-mee