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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Tresther’s Tru-pinions: Juk means porridge in Korean

Photo by Scott Lew.

In the corner of my living room in a Target disk chair is a butternut squash. No one is allowed to sit in the chair. It is not meant for humans. It’s a chair exclusively for melons, squash and produce that have found their way into our home. Melons are no longer in season, so this chair is now exclusively for squash and clementines.

This particular butternut squash has been sitting around for two weeks in our Target chair. Tomorrow it will be boiled into porridge for me and my housemates. 호박 죽 to be exact. The romanization of 호박죽 is hobakjuk. The pronunciation of hobakjuk is your problem, not mine. You can also call it squash porridge, but hobakjuk is a much cozier name. It’s one of my favorite fall foods, and it reminds me of Korea and the Korean communities in America my parents have created.

I’m making hobakjuk tomorrow for my housemates and I can’t wait to sip that steamy creamy juk. I made it once for myself when I was a second year in college when I was missing home. When the leaves have fallen and the seasonal affective disorder descends, that’s when I bring out my porridge recipe from Maanchi, my favorite online chef. It is during autumn, the season of change, that we gravitate most towards the familiar. We hold onto what grounds us and what has been tried and true to work.

I bring out the soup to take care of myself and to share the care with others. I fill up my bowl until it’s full and the overflow is for my loved ones. I’ve made juk for my parents before and whenever I do, the juk enters and soothes any wounds inside. It opens their mouths to reveal memories and stories of their parents warming up their families their stoves. A regular night would turn sacred because their parents made them steamy red bean juk with rice balls. You can see in the juk all the stories of care, suffering, celebration and living yet another day. In the juk are the stories my dad has told me and my brother time and time again and the stories my mom holds inside and will take to her grave.

When I eat tomorrow with my friends we will reflect on the stories and memories we write today. We’ll nourish ourselves with warm thick sweetness and laugh at President Kington’s special campus memo about the College’s “collaboration” with UGSDW. We’ll cry about the excruciating process of applying for jobs and our journeys with imposter syndrome and self-growth. What therapy has done for us. What our relationships have done for us. How many unhelpful men we’ve cut from our lives. How we have to perform for Drag next semester, our last semester together.

Now I’m a fourth year thinking about post-grad, and in the midst of all the coming change I know I’ll make the same recipe of butternut squash, mochiko rice flour and water after I’ve left this cold hearted neoliberal business of a school and settled down in a new city. People ask me what my plan is, and my plan is to stay open. It’s to embrace the uncertainty of the future and hold onto what I know works for me, one of which is a juk recipe that has never failed to keep me warm.

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