The Sense of Unity and Family in Food

In Café Seoul, Jun, a Japanese freelance writer travels to Seoul to find inspiration for his article. As he searches for a restaurant deemed worthy of recognition, he stumbles across Morandang, a small Korean bakery that is struggling to stay open since the mafia wants to take the shop’s property. By writing about this shop, he discovers its family history of the shop. This sweet shop has been within Sung- Woo’s family for generations and Sung-Woo, being the oldest, took over after his father’s death and when both of his younger brothers left home to pursue their own dreams. After Sung-Woo injures his arm, Sung-Hyuk, the second brother, returns to the shop while Sung-Woo recovers. Throughout this time, Jun decides to extend his stay in Seoul to help rebuild the brother’s relationship and to restore the quality of the shop.

Sung-Hyuk and Jun baking together

Even though Jun is Japanese, whereas the rest of the characters are Korean, the culture difference is not noticeable in the film. Jun also comes from a family that owned a sweet shop of their own by selling rice cakes. Food becomes the bridge that connects their cultures together. The ability to work together and to create a blend of cultures is evident throughout the film. As you look at the picture above, Sung- Hyuk and Jun work together to recreate the dishes that has once tied Sung-Hyuk’s family together. Food creates unity among them and erases any strangeness they may feel between them. Although Sung- Hyuk and Jun have only met a few times and they speak two different languages, they still manage to come together as one as they bake. The food is used to communicate to each other, which allows it as a way of acceptance and a form of friendship.

Sung-Woo, Sung-Hyuk, and Jun reminiscing about their family

Food is universal and it connects people together through feelings and emotions as they cook and eat. The food itself becomes the representation of memories and the past. It brings the brothers and Jun back to an important part of their lives, family.  This screenshot  shows the two brothers and Jun standing next to each other as Jun describes a memory of his family. This scene is a representation of the three of them as a family. Family is more than being blood related. In this case, food creates a bond between them that they see each other as one of their own.

The mafia leader acknowledges the taste of the norunji to the three brothers

In the end of the film, Sung- Hyuk competes against the youngest brother in a food competition to determine if the shop will remain open or succumb to the mafia. The boss of the mafia, being the judge, has a change of heart after eating Sung Hyuk’s nurunji that brings him into a state of nostalgia. The nurunji causes familiarity of when the Sung’s grandfather used to give it to the mafia’s boss when he was younger. Food has the ability to soften hearts and bring forth cheerfulness and hope. As it is seen in Café Seoul, food is a powerful source of tying the past and the present, and people and memories together.

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