87 pages • 2 hours readMichelle Zauner
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H Mart is a popular chain of Asian grocery stores throughout American metropolitan areas, and Zauner uses it (as well as unaffiliated local Asian grocers) as a symbol of cultural exchange and recognition. She suggests it as a place to reconnect with her Korean heritage and to honor her mother, grandmother, and aunt, and she likens trips to H Mart to a pilgrimage. In a significant moment after her mother’s death, she puts on her mother’s sandals to go the Asian grocery store so she can cook for her aunt and cousin, signifying the importance of authentic ingredients and practices in her desire to honor and care for her family.
Kimchi is an act of preservation that includes decomposition, a significant distinction for Zauner’s purposes of using it as a symbol for making foods that honor what she’s lost in her mother. Zauner’s practice of making kimchi every month is more than just a therapeutic practice; learning to cook this and other Korean foods is also an act of reconnection. This symbol becomes even more resonant when she inherits her mother’s kimchi fridge only to find it filled with candid photographs from her childhood. She uses a candid shot of her mother as the cover for her first album, thereby mirroring the act of making kimchi.