For the first time, New Year’s Eve was quiet this past year. I didn’t do anything, but it had absolutely nothing to do with the giant fiasco that went down, downtown, Georgia Brown. Two days of drinking and dancing in a double dog dare between my liver and legs to see which gives out first – that was never in the plan to begin with. Four giant years in a row is enough for me, no matter how long Diggers was scheduled to spin, no matter that The Crystal Method would fuel the evening, no matter that Fergie would be phunking with my heart.
I think I might be getting *ahem* old.
Actually, saying I didn’t do anything isn’t quite accurate. Despite the ridiculous torrential rain that made Domino’s sound like a delicious gourmet option, we forced ourselves to brush our teeth, take showers, and put on real clothes. We went all of two miles (or less?) to Casa Escobar for dinner. Yeah, I know, big night. We thought Casa would be relatively quiet, but we ended up waiting a little bit for a table because it was busy. We were finally seated next to a table of the Texas version of Sex and the City. Casa Escobar is a low key Mexican restaurant and the five girls on holiday here in LA for Wednesday’s game were dressed to the nines (which is understandable, since they were probably hitting up the NYE party scene after), but their very loud, very explicit conversation was just…I can’t go into it. It’ll make me choke again.
Dinner was good and cheap, and the killer combination of margaritas at level 10 strength and salsa at level 10 spice were perfect against the miserable weather outside. I forced myself to stay awake until at least midnight to wish a fond farewell to 2005 and properly welcome 2006, but it took every ounce of energy left in my body to make it through almost an hour of Ryan Seacrest and Hilary Duff. I won’t even go into how it was downright depressing to see Dick Clark. I made it to midnight, then promptly fell asleep at 12:01 AM, Janury 1, 2006.
The real reason behind my keeping it low key on New Year’s Eve, though, was not that I felt too old to party it up (I am a bit old for it, but *eh*), nor that ice cold rain was pouring down on LA, nor that I had nothing to wear (oi, okay, so maybe that’s part of the reason – LOL!). The reason I kept it mellow this year is that last year, I didn’t make it home on New Year’s Day because I was still twirling from party to party in downtown LA in a half-buzzed haze. I missed the traditional Korean New Year’s Day at home with my family, but didn’t think it was a big deal. So I have to show up on January 2nd, a day late. At least I’m showing up and I’m still going to call on January 1 to wish everyone a Happy New Year. Is one day really that much of a difference?
Yes, you selfish disrespectful Korean-American girl, it is a big difference.
I’ve written about Korean traditions for the New Year before, and how much I absolutely abhorred them as a child. The hahn-bok (??) we had to put on as little kids were uncomfortably stiff and itchy and worst of all, to me, they were ugly. Kow-towing in front of my parents was stupid, and I didn’t even really know the meaning of the Korean words I was mumbling, strictly memorized by sound. The only redeeming factors were the sae-beh dohn (New Year’s money) my parents gave us, and the dduk gook we ate together, gathered around our taupe-colored Formica dinner table.
As we were growing up, it was important to my parents to make sure that some part of our Korean heritage remained with us. My sisters and I were all born in the US. We didn’t live on either Coast in a big city where there are decently sized Korean, or even Asian, populations. We were in Detroit, Buffalo, San Antonio, and Cincinnati. We were bombarded from all sides with “American”-ness. Yes, I have mentioned many times before how Dad trained us to “be American” because we are in America now, but it is still important to recognize from where we came before. Thus, not only were holidays like New Year’s Day important because that’s just tradition so that’s just what you do, but they were lessons in culture in which my parents could really help us to remember where we (didn’t) come from. We are American. We are Korean. Not one or the other, nor one before the other, but both at the same time.
I know my parents weren’t devastated when I called them last New Year’s Day to wish them “Sae-hae-bohk mahnee bah-duh-sae-yo” over the phone. But I know that they probably wondered if their lessons in culture and tradition and family were in vain all those years. My Mom had told me to be safe because she knew what I was (still) up to on New Year’s Day 2005, and told me she’d save some dduk-gook for me until the next day (and my sae-bae money, too). It was delicious (dduk gook is one of my favorites), but I know that I missed out. I told myself I wouldn’t be so stupid and selfish this year. I went to bed early. I woke up early. I drove down to Orange County in the rain to be with my family on New Year’s Day.
Mom’s dduk gook this year tasted sooo much better on January 1st than it did last year on January 2nd. Maybe it was the fact that after thirty years, my Dad has finally found a new lecture topic – the migration of the nomads and the creation of the different races of people. Maybe it was that our whole family was sitting around the table eating dduk gook together. Maybe it was that in addition to our Korean dduk gook and other bahn-chan, we also had that very traditionally American New Year’s food, steaks grilled in the decently warm-for-January weather outside on the patio. Maybe it was that Champagne tastes great at lunch time, especially paired with kimchee.
Of course, tradition never dies, and Dad did mention that spaghetti comes from China. :)
Dduk Mahn-doo Gook (Rice Cake and Dumpling Soup)
Thaw (if frozen), then soak 1 package dduk (oval slices) in cold water for at least 20 minutes, or until soft.
In large pot, heat 8 c. rich chicken broth, then add 4 cloves finely minced garlic (more if you prefer), 2-3 Tbsp. soy sauce, 2-3 scallions cut into 1″-2″ long pieces (green parts are preferable), and salt/pepper to taste. Let simmer for about 10 minutes (to flavor the broth).
Add enough mahn-doo (Korean meat and vegetable dumpling for which I will eventually do a blog entry) for everyone who is eating to the broth to cook, then add the soaked dduk. Allow to simmer until dduk is soft.
You can either lightly beat 4 large eggs and slowly stiry into the simmering soup (it will look like egg drop soup), or fry the eggs into an egg crepe, julienne, and use as a garnish (this is what we did this year).
To serve, ladle into large bowls, drizzle with sesame oil, and sprinkle with sesame seeds and toasted nori, if you’d like.
*Note: Once it is cooked, dduk does not keep well. Add only enough dduk to the soup that you know you will eat immediately. You can always add more later.