Kitchen God’s Blessing 2015-07-12
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When I was growing up, my mother used to tell us that we should conserve even the freely flowing water in the stream. That way we would receive blessings from Heaven. She constantly reminded us not to leave even a grain of rice after every meal. My mother poured a spoonful of water into my rice bowl and scraped the remaining grain that was stuck here and there inside of the bowl. I was a very picky and slow eater. Therefore I couldn’t finish whatever was placed in front of me. She said if we discarded leftovers into the drain while doing the dishes the Kitchen God, called JoWangNim, would watch over it in dismay until it was completely dissolved, and that takes a long time. Of course there would be no blessings coming upon us during that period.
My mother loved to talk about a story that circulated among her relatives. One of the richest men in town had several sons and they all lived together like almost everyone did in those days. This rich man’s wife kept on telling her daughters-in-law not to waste food, but she spotted discarded food in the kitchen waste pail which would later end up in a pig pen. So she collected the food by using a strainer and rinsed it and ate it in front of her daughters- in- law. Icky! I know. But from then on the waste stopped. No matter how frequently one told the kitchen maids not to throw out leftovers they would not heed the instructions because the Kitchen God’s Blessing was only bestowed upon the members of the house hold. So we must scrape the bowls in the room before sending them out to the kitchen.
My mother also did not let us leave the lights on if they are not in use. She passed away over forty some years ago, but her words still live with me as if they are mixed with the air I breathe. Wherever I go, I run back to turn the lights off if I realize the last one who left the room did not turn off the lights. I retrieve tossed paper from the waste basket so that I may reuse them by scribbling on the blank portions. I tell my children to be thankful to their employers for giving them their jobs and show their gratitude by using the back of paper as well. On a family vacation my daughter fished out one of my mended socks out of the laundry, and holding it up high in the air shouted towards me, “Mom! Are you doing this to make us feel bad?” O.K., I’m just trying to pass on my mother’s legacy, not realizing it, I guess. Or I love to collect Blessings.
When I first came to the States and saw all the magazines, newspapers, cardboard boxes, glass bottles and aluminum cans tossed in the garbage dumpsters, and I couldn’t stop babbling about all the waste. I remembered seeing young and old people in Korea going from house to house, searching the streets and looking in trash cans to collect scraps for a living. Now I feel good seeing the recycle bins lined up, not only on our streets, but also at many business establishments. Whenever I see some of the fast food restaurants without recycling bins, I feel that something is missing. I bring the plastic water bottle I finished with me as I leave a place without recycling bins to toss it into mine at home. My dishwasher racks are frequently stacked with yogurt cups, Campbell soup cans, takeout food containers and sauce bottles. By the way, my kitchen discards go into the garden diligently.
Come to think of it, it wasn’t only my mother who taught her children to conserve. Most of my friends also try to use disposable drink cups over and over by labeling their cups when we eat meals together. We love to talk about how often we ran to turn off the running water at the public bath spigots when some customers left them run carelessly. Here is a story I heard from my friend who cared for her toddler grandson. One day, her grandson ripped a paper napkin in two and tossed the unsoiled other half into the trash can. She asked him why he threw away a perfectly good fresh napkin. His answer was, “Grandma, you always cut the napkin in half!”
Hearing her grandson’s response, my friend laughed. Maybe the Kitchen God was laughing too.
SYK 쎈터의 모든님들 사랑해요, 그리고 항상 건강하세요 ~~~~ 제니

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