Michelle Zauner, from Japanese Breakfast, on “ Crying In H Mart ”

Food plays an important role in how we connect with our friends and family, our heritage and the world around us.

Michelle Zauner is someone who knows this. Many know her better as a freelance Japanese Breakfast musician.

But she has a new project – a memoir – which tells the story of her mother’s death. In it, Zauner spends time thinking about how to remember his mother, especially when it comes to the food they ate and their Korean heritage. It is based on an essay for which she wrote The New Yorker:

Since my mother passed away, I have been crying at H Mart. For those of you who don’t know, H Mart is a supermarket chain specializing in Asian food. The “H” stands for han ah reum, a Korean phrase that roughly translates to “an arm full of groceries.” H Mart is where skydiving kids go to get the exact brand of instant noodles that reminds them of home. This is where Korean families buy rice cakes to make tteokguk, a beef soup that brings the new year. This is the only place you can find a giant tub of peeled garlic, because it’s the one place that really understands how much garlic you’ll need for the type of food your people are eating. H Mart is the freedom of the one-aisle “ethnic” section at regular grocery stores. They don’t put the Goya beans next to the sriracha bottles here. Instead you will probably find me crying banchan refrigerators, remembering the taste of my mom’s eggs with soy sauce and cold radish soup. Or in the freezer section, holding a stack of dumpling skins, thinking about all the hours Mom and I spent at the kitchen table folding ground pork and chives into thin dough. Sobbing by the dry produce, asking myself, “Am I even Korean if there’s no one in my life to call and ask what brand of seaweed we were buying?”

We talk with Michelle Zauner about “Crying in H Mart” and grieving a loved one through food.

Axios’ Niala Boodhoo hosts this show.

Copyright 2021 WAMU 88.5. To learn more, visit WAMU 88.5.

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