87 pages 2 hours read

Michelle Zauner

Crying in H Mart

Nonfiction | Autobiography / Memoir | Adult | Published in 2021

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Food’s Relationship to Cultural and Family Identity

The book’s title and opening chapter suggest a theme that’s borne out in nearly every chapter of the book: There is an intense emotional connection between Zauner’s love of Korean food and her sense of self, her heritage, and her relationships with others, particularly her mother Chongmi. The prose describes food in rich detail, noting the sensual details of eating to honor Chongmi’s memory, as she was a woman who paid attention to the foods that Zauner liked and disliked, and who used those experiences as conduit for love and care. Zauner adopts this attitude in her life and in her writing, so when she writes about food, there is a purpose to the writing that goes beyond a sumptuous, voyeuristic pleasure for the reader. Zauner was raised in a home where food was the message and the medium of love.

During Chongmi’s illness, Zauner is eager to step in as the primary cook in the household, but she finds her attempts stymied by her mother’s shift in appetite. This is a practical and symbolic moment of disconnection, especially when Chongmi’s friend Kye steps in and withholds both the responsibility and the knowledge of cooking dishes like jatjuk from Zauner.