Chang-Rae Lee Magical Dinners Summary

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Chang- Rae Lee's Magical Dinners includes many personal stories regarding his everyday life, but especially capitalizes on the many struggles with food his mother faces on a daily basis. Lee expresses his family’s drastic lifestyle change as foreigners moving to a new country by using preparation and consumption of food to symbolize those challenges and changes.

Lee’s mother is the most affected by the move to New York, and that can be shown through her cooking. The only thing that Lee's mother has power over is cooking for her family, but she is unable to take control over that task due to her difficulties reading the instructions for recipes or cannot find the right ingredients. Without her planning and preparing for meals, his mother's personality and emotions vanishes. Back in Korea, "she's a forthright, talented, beautiful woman" (pg 4), but because of her lack of knowledge regarding the English language, she loses her once thriving self as she lacks confidence in this new country. In reality, his parents "don’t want to eat non-Korean food; they want to hold onto what they know" (pg 2), thus emphasizing how …show more content…

Because Lee is also trying to adapt to the new culture and fit in among his peers, he naturally gravitates towards food that his peers often eat. For example, Lee mentions that he would ask his mother to prepare American foods such as "Southern fried chicken and mashed potatoes, beef Stroganoff over egg noodles, lasagna." Since his mother has little to no experience recreating these dishes to Lee’s perfection, she is heavily critiqued by her son as well as herself. Because Lee uses words such as "tyrannical" and "awful" to describe himself after causing his mother to lose the bright light in her eyes, it is clear that he has an understanding of his lack of gratefulness and is able to "squash her whole day’s work with a grimace" (pg

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