, Muskogee, OK


September 25, 2013

Korean-inspired food is popular

The SAT is only a few weeks away and students in our area are studying feverishly to get the best possible score. The pressure to succeed academically is not limited to any one culture in the American experience, but is especially significant among Asian Americans who have a traditionally rigorous work ethic and outperformed all other groups on the 2012 SAT.

Enter Casey Han, main character in Min Jin Lee’s 2007 novel “Free Food for Millionaires.” Casey’s parents, Joseph and Leah Han, are Korean immigrants who manage a Manhattan dry cleaner. They want nothing more than for their daughters to appreciate their cultural identity while pursuing the sacrosanct law, business or medicine options at Princeton and M.I.T.

But, it is exactly her graduation from a high-powered Ivy League school that threatens to wrench Casey from her Korean roots. Her “refined diction, enviable golf handicap, wealthy friends” and white boyfriend, Jay Currie, about whom she has not told her parents, have put her in a completely different social milieu. What is worse, she has deferred her admission to Columbia Law School for a year to do that most American thing of all, find herself. She soon realizes that life takes money and she has none. To fill the gap and maintain her socialite lifestyle, she finds herself $23,000 in credit card debt on top of her student loans.

Readers either love Lee’s protagonist for her struggle with self and society or hate her for her deceit and superficiality. On the surface Lee’s novel seems like navel-gazing chic lit, but its deeper message of status and identity put it in the same class as Thackeray’s classic “Vanity Fair” or Elliot’s “Middlemarch.”

You don’t have to be a millionaire to enjoy Korean-inspired food. The Kogi Food Truck in L.A. spawned a nation-wide Asian fusion craze that blended Mexican and Korean flavors in a truly delicious combination.

Other popular Korean taco trucks are Austin’s Chi’Lantro, San Francisco’s Seoul on Wheels, and Korilla in New York City. Try this easy-to-make barbecued taco for a fun weekend meal.

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