Book Review: Michelle Zauner's Crying in H Mart


If you're keen to write a bestselling cooking book, try to write your own memoirs stuffed with particular scents, ingredients, and authentic human emotions. This mixture is going to cook well, at least it did for Michelle Zauner whose longing for an untimely deceased mother turned into a chef's masterclass of Korean cuisine.


Michelle Zauner, a well-known Korean - American musician, the leader of a pop band Japanese Breakfast, copes with her grief after her her mother dies of cancer only being 56 years old, by spilling out her despair, loss and pain in the book called Crying In H Mart. However, it is a rather unusual type of revelation. As Michelle's mother was Korean and used to take her daughter to her relatives in Seoul, all Michelle's reminiscences of her mother are tightly connected to Korean traditional dishes, which they together liked to taste in Korea and at home. Therefore, buying food in Korean supermarket, making Korean dishes at home or enjoying Korean cuisine in Seoul at her grandma's or in the local restaurant has turned into the strongest knot that tied Michelle and her mother. And perhaps this is the part of her mother that continues living within her.


Zauner begins her story with the image of herself literary crying in H Mart, as the memories of her mother begin to circle around the shelves stuffed with thousands of titles of Korean alimentation. She can't escape the thought of shopping with her mother, and it leads to more vivid reminiscences of her childhood where this bond between her and her mother was born. Reconnecting with her mother with the help of detailed description of Korean food, recipes and dishes is what makes this book unique and so down to earth at the same time.


For those who never invested into a deep dive of Korean traditional cuisine, it might be a beginner's manual for cooking, a new acquaintance with Maangchi and her authentic Korean recipes website or at least an impromptu to visit a Korean restaurant. In any case, the readers will be definitely tempted to try and make a pine nut porridge (jatjuk) (I have already bought pine nuts!) or even experiment with kimchi, as you just can't read all these pages about its preparation without giving it a try.


Though actually these are not the recipes that this book is about. It is about mother and daughter relationship, which starts with unconditional love, experiences its ups and downs, and even an estrangement, till it is abruptly terminated leaving that unbearable void, which you still cannot believe in. The story-telling itself doesn't sound like a high pitch but does human grieving has to? The sentiments are so dear and natural. They percolate stealthily inside the heart of the reader, and suddenly you are also crying on your own.


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