Sung and I were both born in the month of May, on opposite sides of the USA. We met in the month of June. So we were nearly a year into our relationship when we finally celebrated each other’s birthdays.

May 2020. Let me set the scene:

We’d been laid off from our restaurant. Tossed all our stuff in my truck and drove from Hollywood up to the small town in Northern California where my mom’s parents live. I call them Grammy and Grampy. Sung and I moved into their garage for the summer.

Sung turned 25 a few weeks into our stay.

The morning of his birthday, Grammy wanted to go on an excursion. She drove us 45 minutes, to the only Asian grocery store in the area. She kept saying she wanted to buy kimchi because of a cooking show she’d seen on TV. But I knew she just wanted to do something nice for Sung.

He’s Korean. Me and my family are white. And we’d been eating only American food for a while.

We bought a cartload of Asian food at the store, including a gallon of kimchi.

Later that day, a bunch of my relatives came over for dinner. It was just a coincidence that it was also Sung’s birthday. And he was fine with that. He hadn’t met all my family yet, and he didn’t want his birthday to be the center of attention.

Grammy and Grampy’s house quickly filled up. Especially once my younger brother arrived.

It’s hard to describe my brother.

When he walks into a room, everyone is aware of his presence. Partly because he’s a big guy, but mostly because he has a loud voice and he talks a lot.

He was my best friend growing up. But since we become adults, he irritates me more and more each year. He broadcasts his opinions like they’re God’s gift to planet earth. He thinks his sh*t doesn’t stink. He never reads the room.

“The room” that day was the kitchen, where everyone was gathered for dinner. On the counter was a spread of classic American food: grilled hamburgers, hotdogs, etc. At the very back, behind the bowls of potato chips and potato salad: the big jar of kimchi.

I made myself a plate and sat at the table next to Sung.

That’s when I heard my brother’s blaring voice.

“Yuck, what’s in this? FECES?!

I turned around and saw him in the kitchen, sniffing the kimchi.

Embarrassment burned through my body. I was furious. He was 22 years old with a college education. Zero excuse for such disrespect.

I glanced at the circle of pink faces around the table. They all seemed blissfully ignorant of my brother’s comment, preoccupied with talking and eating.

Were they oblivious, or pretending to be? 

Next to me, Sung bit into his burger. I knew he was pretending he hadn’t heard.

My brother plopped down in the empty chair on the other side of me. I leaned over and hissed “what the F did you just say?”

He was silent.

“How about you shut the F up” I muttered.

His blue eyes did not meet mine. For a second, I thought I detected a glimmer of distress behind his brash exterior. But it faded as he began to devour his meal.

Our sibling relationship has not been the same since May 2020. There’s no animosity. We just don’t really talk. We’d already been growing apart, I guess. His arrogance and lack of self-awareness exhausted me long before the kimchi comment. But that’s the one incident my mind won’t let go of.

Sung and I laugh about it now. I told him that was the worst birthday dinner he’ll ever have with me.

Honestly, if your palate can’t appreciate kimchi (or any culture’s beloved dish), that’s fine. No one cares. All the more for those of us who do enjoy it! Just don’t be like my brother, announcing his ignorance to anyone within earshot. Not every thought should be shared.

52 thoughts on “Worst first birthday

  1. If your brother doesnโ€™t want the kimchi, pass it to me. Iโ€™ll have it! ๐Ÿ˜†But yes, what a rude and uncultured thing to say for real. Iโ€™m glad you called him out on it. I bet Sung really appreciated that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve never cursed at my brother before, but it was at that moment I realized a hard glare was not going to be enough…
      I hope he took it to heart. Hopefully he will try kimchi someday and realize what he’s been missing out on!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Reading a room is an important social and survival skill to develop. Maybe a few years in the brutal, post-college world will bring your brother back down to earth.

    Kimchi smells like garbage, in my opinion, so I kind of understand your brother’s reaction. But I think it tastes very good, in spite of its smell. If he declined to try it, that’s his loss.

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    1. I didn’t get to try kimchi until I was in my 20s, and I initially didn’t like the smell or taste. Now, I can’t eat dinner without it!

      So I do understand my brother’s gut reaction. And I wouldn’t expect him to try it, since he’s quite picky. That’s ok. But I find his disrespect of another culture’s food disheartening. It would have been easy to just leave the jar alone…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. a very wise point here, respect others traditions and foods!

    I love all Korean food and got to enjoy much living in a small Indian village with quite a few Korean neighbours attending a local dance school :)

    Liked by 1 person

      1. ha I’ve travelled heaps and lived in several different countries so I prefer foreign foods, oz is so multicultural I can usually get whatever I like :)

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      2. How cool! I miss when I lived in Los Angeles and could easily enjoy global cuisines. Now I live in rural northern California, and there are not many options, especially not for Korean food.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. My son loves Kimchi and always has it in his refrigerator. I’m not a fan but that’s because I can’t handle the spice. It is too bad that you and your brother have been growing apart. Perhaps he is maturing socially and emotionally…

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    1. If you enjoy the fermented vegetable, Baek Kimchi is made without gochugaru (the spice)!

      Yes, I have hope he will mature. As his big sister I love him no matter what. It also just feels like we’re in completely different phases of life right now, even though we’re both in our twenties…

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  5. What a beautifully written story. I have relatives like that too and I try to stay away from them. Somehow I feel that your brother could be a better person if he is under better influence, for example, more contact with people from you. Same as my relatives. I just gave up on them after a while and didn’t make the effort to educate them–they laughed at me anyway and considered their shallow views wonderful and their ignorance endearing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I’m sorry to hear it’s so relatable to you…
      If your relatives are older it’s doubtful they’ll change. It’s best to do what you did and not waste time trying to educate someone who is happy to be closed minded.
      My brother is still young and I think his main problem is saying every thought that comes in his head. Like you said, he needs to be around people who are a good influence. I don’t know who his friends are. I hope they’re people who would call him out if he says something ignorant.

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  6. Ah… Kimchi’s a delight! Sad your brother’s American taste disproves of it.
    Asian food is just awesome (I can say that living in India). It’s way too spicy, and probably you won’t get through the meal without gasping and wheezing. My sister is studding in the States, and she says American food is bland and tasteless. That’s why we equipped her with a ton of spices! Haha!

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    1. It is so delicious! I love all Asian food, especially Thai and Indian food. Luckily I do enjoy spicy food but my face turns bright red when I eat it haha!
      Your sister is right, American food is usually either bland, or very sweet. Glad you supplied her with spices so she can still get some flavor. ๐Ÿ˜ In some US cities it is easy to get good Asian food, it just really depends on the area.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s awesome she is studying at Rutgers! My husband actually grew up near there and says it’s very multicultural area. I’m glad that includes Indian food ๐Ÿ™‚

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  7. Especially in that way. It was like he was doing his best to make sure no one ate whatever was in the jar. I’ve eaten stuff I didn’t like at potlucks but I have never arrogant and loud in regards to something I didn’t like. Ya know what’s funny I love sour kraut but a hard time liking kimchi.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think if you don’t grow up with a food โ€”especially fermented foodsโ€” they are an acquired taste. Only after I ate kimchi frequently did I begin to truly enjoy it. I did grow up enjoying delicious homemade sourkraut!

      Yes a potluck is exactly what that dinner was like. No one was making him put kimchi on his plate! I think that’s why I got so mad, it was like he went out of his way to express his disgust.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. I think brothers are meant to make us sisters stronger and better people. ;) Great story about how the little things can actually reveal a lot about a person’s character and outlook. These mirrors help remind me to keep my impact on others in check. :)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I like your view, yes I certainly wouldn’t be the woman I am today without the influence of my brother!

      Yes indeed, whenever I see a shortcoming in someone else, I see it as a golden opportunity to examine myself. Like you said so beautifully, those small moments are like mirrors that reveal our inner characters.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. OMG Lizi Rose, let me say first off that I love your term โ€œroom illiterate.โ€ We got to pass that one on to Webster’s. You know, aside from what your brother said, it’s sad that people miss out when they don’t experience the essence of the flavors of other cultures. I know some people who are adamant about not trying something other than the same ole, same ole, same ole things. We miss out on so much when we don’t experience other things from different cultures, whether we have a stomach for it or not.

    But, to go over to someone else’s house, and blurt out something negative about an ingredient or an item that they are not familiar with, whether it was Asian, or Italian or German, or Soul Food, you would be disrespecting that individual’s house. That episode was so unfortunate. ๐Ÿ˜Œ As my mother used to tell us, don’t knock it until you try it. Hopefully, he will one day see the error of his ways and come back around as a better, mature, and more grown-up version of the sibling you remembered growing up! ๐Ÿค—๐Ÿฅฐ๐Ÿ’–

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Kym! first of all I’m sorry to respond so late to your lovely comment!
      I couldn’t agree more, it’s really a shame if we can’t try at least a bite of a dish that we’re unfamiliar with. I know I can always push myself to be less picky. Fermented vegetables are easy for me to enjoy but often I struggle to appreciate meat dishes from other cultures. If it is a part of the animal I’m not used to I will have to force myself to sample it haha!

      I love the wise words of your mother: “Don’t knock it until you try it.”

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No problem LiziRose. Listen sweetie, we do have a life aside from our blog and social media accounts, so there’s no need for an apology my dear. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Life teaches us many things, no matter how old we get! LOL ๐Ÿ˜œ Hopefully such lessons will make us wiser!

        Have a FANtabulous day my friend! ๐ŸŒž Stay safe and continue to celebrate this awesome gift of life! ๐ŸŽ‰๐Ÿ’–โœจ

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh LiziRose I appreciate you and honey child, I am so loving “splendorius.” Girl, you are so FANtabulous! Love your word creativity. That’s magical! ๐Ÿ”ฎ๐ŸŽ‰โœจ

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  10. As someone’s who’s made so many mistakes he’s not proud of, I wonder if that’s one such moment for your brother. Maybe he thinks about this too, and maybe that’s exactly the event that needed to happen for him to change. I for one know that the mistakes I’ve made have changed me for the better.

    But now I’m curious what his reaction to durianโ€”a delicacy of Malaysia known for its pungent odourโ€”will be.

    Thanks so much for sharing this story, Lizi!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My guess is he would NOT be a fan of durian, however, maybe he will surprise me! Perhaps the lesson for me is to keep an open mind to peoples’ capacity to grow, just as I hope people will keep an open mind to foods unfamiliar to them.
      Thank you for your optimism and your kind comment. Much appreciated, as always. ๐Ÿ™‚

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    1. It is really good! Although it took me a few tries to fully appreciate it ๐Ÿ™‚
      It’s delicious with just rice and meat, elevating a simple meal. Also good cooked too, in fried rice or stew!

      Liked by 1 person

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