Podcasts
How Food Shaped One Family’s Pursuit of the American Dream
More than four decades after immigrating from Korea, three siblings’ memories of adjusting to their new lives in America involve food.
12-17-2020
Bridget Lancaster

When Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee and her family immigrated to America from Korea in the 1980s, there was lots of change. The one constant? Food. More than four decades later, all of Lee and her siblings’ memories of adjusting to their new lives in America involve food.

There’s the first bite of American food—a bright, yellow-orange brick of cheese—that they tried while still in Korea. The coveted bananas that they were given on the airplane on the flight to America. The Hungry-Man frozen dinners that felt luxurious after they settled in Los Angeles. The Chinese food their mom snuck into a movie theatre while the siblings were watching Star Wars. The peanut butter and banana sandwiches that they ate for lunch. And finally, after five years in America, the fancy steak dinner that their father had dreamed about—which they had at Sizzler, complete with an all-you-can-eat salad bar.

In this episode of Proof, based on an essay Lee wrote for Eater, she and her siblings recall their first few years in the US, and how food shaped their family’s pursuit of the American Dream.

Season 6, Episode 3

Proof Podcast Sizzler and the Search for the American Dream

In this memoir, Cecilia and her siblings recall their first few years in the US, and how food shaped their family’s pursuit of the American Dream.

More From This Episode

Hae-Ran, Sang and Cecilia Hae-Jin at a playground in Korea in 1976
The family at a first communion

From left: Hae-Ran, Sang and Cecilia Hae-Jin at a playground in Korea in 1976; the Lee family in the parking lot of their church in America after Cecilia Hae-Jin's first communion, 1979.

The Lee family at the beach in August 1977, just before moving to America.

Hae-Ran, Sang and Cecilia Hae-Jin with their cousins, who immigrated to America at the same time.

Cecilia Hae-Jin's 11th birthday, in 1981

Cecilia Hae-Jin's 11th birthday, in 1981.

Photos provided by Cecilia Hae-Jin.