Breakfast To Go, Illinois, 2003

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I found my favorite breakfast in America in 2003, while I was attending a small liberal art boarding college, located deep into a little town near Mississippi river. It was during my very first year I spent in U.S. as a grown-up (I’m saying this because I spent two years in U.S. in my infancy when my family was living in Ohio, which of course I don’t remember).

As much as I loved the life on campus – surrounded by nature, very supportive and safe environment, lifelong friends and great teachers – I was also struggling to adjust to a completely new life and culture, far, far away from my beloved families and friends who I left behind in S.Korea. The little town and the small campus had absolutely no Korean around, and I was very often homesick from not being able to speak my mother tongue. Though my friends and classmates were more than wonderful, having to have a conversation in English all the time drained my energy sometimes and I just wanted to be alone. Being alone wasn’t easy though in a small and intimate setting of a boarding school campus where everyone knew everyone. (This must have been an ideal setting though for a first timer in US, I later realized. It is horrifying to imagine coming to NY as a first timer, where people are too busy and quite indifferent in others.)

Then there was this Thursday morning breakfast when everything came together perfectly for the relaxation of my body and soul. I had one hour class from 9am. My roommate had three hour class and was gone for the entire morning. (Come to think of it, I was a horrible, awkward roommate, especially for the first semester.) And the school cafeteria, where most of students came for three meals a day, or two, if you skip one, served my favorite breakfast every Thursday! Their breakfast menu was on a weekly routine, and I couldn’t have loved this Thursday breakfast more. It was buttery biscuits with sausage gravy on top. Mmm…so yum! I actually didn’t miss Korean food that much during my first year in US, and adjusted quite well to American food (which I’m not so sure if it was a good thing or a bad thing). But that biscuit with sausage gravy was especially so good and even now it makes my mouth water. I often skipped breakfast, but on Thursdays, as soon as the morning class was over, I would run to the cafeteria, being very impatient, got the biscuit with sausage gravy on top to go, came back to a quiet empty room, and slowly indulged in eating the delicious, peaceful breakfast all by myself.

I’m not sure if I will still like the food now if I have that again (oh, I will like it!!) – but in any case, back then, it was the most perfect comfort food for a tired and lonely foreign student who sought the peace of mind and body.

 

 

Breakfast in Tokyo, 2010

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Now I can take a convenient non-stop flight between New York and Seoul, but in early 2000s, when I lived in midwest, all my planes to and from Korea had an overlay in Japan. After ten plus something hours of being cramped in a narrow seat from USA to Japan, I would sit at the transfer gate totally exhausted, thinking of home that I would get to in couple hours. I had never gone outside of the airport (except one time the airline overbooked the flight and I stayed at the nearby hotel until the next flight) to explore the city. Then in 2010, my close friend from college who had moved to Tokyo invited me to stay over, and I stopped by for a week on my way home to Korea.
I ate a lot of delicious food during my stay in Japan, but what I remember the most is the breakfast my friend cooked every morning. She had recently moved to the apartment at that time, so didn’t have any table to sit around. We would sit on the floor with food and eat together. Every morning, she made hearty meal for our breakfast. Even for someone who loves cooking, making breakfast every day for someone else is a lot of work especially when it involves more than pouring cereal and milk in a bowl. She always included small side dishes of pickled veggies, lots of salad with fresh lettuce, and big omelet style eggs, which were all delicious. On top of that, there was a main dish – one day it was perfectly simmered chicken to go on top of rice, another day it was grilled fish, another day it was tiny pancakes with tuna, crab, and veggies. While my friend was cooking, I stayed in bed and got up only when the breakfast was ready. It definitely was the luxury not many grownups get to enjoy, and it still remains as my favorite memory in Japan, thanks to my friend’s heartfelt hospitality.