January 1 — last night, I fell asleep before midnight, but I always fall asleep before midnight, so that was nothing new. I fell asleep before midnight with my puppy curled up next to me, and we Facetimed when it was almost midnight in Boston, so we could say, Happy New Year!, and blow kisses at each other as your friends drunkenly laughed and cheered and kissed around you.
I wish you were here — it would’ve been more fun if you were here, you said, and I nodded sleepily. Isn’t it nine p.m. there?
You look like you’re about to fall asleep.
I am about to fall asleep! I’m trying to keep my body on East Coast time.
How’s that going by the way?
Like shit — it’s going to suck, going back to work on Wednesday, I said, yawning. But honestly, I’m torn on this working-from-home thing. I might like it better in New York if I had my dog with me, so I could spend time with him, but it sucked over the holidays because I totally worked more because I’d feel bad about any slacking off I did and I didn’t have that mental break of going home, so I’d just keep working at night and on Christmas and on the weekends. Did not like.
I could’ve told you that you shouldn’t work from home. You work too much as it is.
But I got a lot of good food!
Yup. Mum made me jahp-chae and ddeok-guk today because I won’t be able to have any ddeok-guk tomorrow.
I asked my dad over dinner why Koreans eat ddeok-guk on New Year’s, and he said he didn’t know — we just do. I’m not the biggest fan because I’m not the biggest fan of ddeok, but my mum makes good ddeok-guk, though my dad also said that most people wouldn’t like her version — Koreans tend to want bone broth or a proper beef broth, one that’s been fortified by a long simmer and meat on bones. My mum sautés cubed beef in oil and garlic, makes a simple, easy broth from that, adds sliced rice cakes and a beaten egg and sliced green onions at the end, and I like it for how clean and simple it is. I do also enjoy the tradition of eating it on New Year’s, participating in that unexplained cultural tradition.
The thing with my mum and ddeok-guk, though, is that, once she gets started making it, she doesn’t stop, and we were often eating ddeok-guk way into the New Year. Now, though, I rarely get to eat it, so I savored my bowl of soup, going back for seconds, mostly for more soup, not so much for ddeok. I added heaps of shredded, toasted seaweed. I continued stuffing my mouth with jahp-chae, one of my absolute favorite foods, one that tastes so much better home-made, even more so because I know how much work goes into jahp-chae.
It seems so simple — glass noodles with sautéed vegetables and meat and mushrooms — but it’s not. Each vegetable needs to be sautéed separately because you want them to retain their individual flavors and textures, the pan wiped down between each vegetable, and glass noodles are tricky to get flavorful and slick because, as they are, they’re dry and like to stick to each other. Too much oil makes them slippery and greasy; too little makes them dry and unpalatable; and getting the texture right is also hand-in-hand with getting the flavor right, finding that balance of soy sauce and salt and sugar.
It’s not easy to do.
My mum does it so well.
She doesn’t often make it, but she made it last night because she knows I love it — and maybe here is where we might talk about how families are complicated, how love is complicated, but it’s the end of 2018, the beginning of 2019, and I didn’t want to linger on that.
Instead, I ate dinner with my family and gave my puppy some cheese and bits of plain brown rice, and I Facetimed with you as my parents went to church, and I fell asleep before midnight, my puppy curled up beside me, as you slept across the country in your apartment in Boston.
Back when I was single, I used to dream up situations with you — or, I guess, not specifically with you but with someone. New Year’s Eve was one of them, and I used to think about a New Year’s Eve party we’d go to, and I’d try my damnedest to stay awake until midnight, giving up and giving in and falling asleep on you instead. You’d find it amusing and cute, though, take a photo of us at midnight, you awake, me asleep on your shoulder, texting it to me later with a happy new year! As the party started dispersing, you’d wake me up gently, somehow get me into my coat, and get us into a car home, and all the movement would half-wake me as we got back to your place or my place or wherever we were sleeping, and we’d kiss in the hallway, say sleepy happy new years. Maybe things would heat up, maybe I’d ruin the moment by having to pee or something — and I thought, this year, now that I have you, I thought maybe this is how we’d bring in 2019, but, instead, we’re on opposite sides of the coast, and I’d be sad about it except I brought in 2019 happily asleep with my puppy curled up next to me, and, on January 1, I got on a flight back home to Brooklyn and you took a train down from Boston, and we ordered really shitty Thai food and tumbled onto my futon mattress in my unfurnished studio and kicked off 2019 together without me having to stay up tortuously until midnight.