We held Wallie's Korean first birthday celebration or dol yesterday. It was lots of fun and we were all exhausted by the end of it. At first I thought the only variable of the day would be Wallie's health (which turned out to be a non-issue), then the weather looked like it wasn't going to cooperate. But as it turned out, the curve ball came from where I was least expecting it.
We ordered all the food from a Korean market and deli in Beaverton known for their rice cakes. Rice cakes are tradition at many special Korean celebrations and no first birthday would be complete without them. J. was 30 minutes late getting back with the food because the rice cakes weren't quite ready when he got there. When he brought the food back I looked in the tray and noticed that the bulgogi and the pork were not cooked. Guests had arrived and lunch was raw. In hindsight, I should have known better. No way would Koreans pre-cook something for a party. Even my mom once admonished me for precooking kalbi for a dinner party. ("What? You aren't going to barbecue them so they are nice and hot for your guests?!") Of course, the meat was uncooked. Tradition dictates that it be freshly barbecued, especially for such an important occassion. I should have known better
So, sis fired up the barbecue and that is what we did. She and AfrindieMum (aka honorary Korean auntie) cooked 20 pounds of paper-thin meat non-stop. (Thank you!) Lunch was delayed by an hour, but everyone got fresh-cooked meat thanks to them. We also served chap chae, kim bap, kim chee, three kinds of namul, and kim (seasoned, toasted seaweed, Bunny's fave—she eats them like chips.) Everything was delicious—especially the just-made rice cakes. If anyone needs a recommendation for a good Korean market in Portland area, I can certainly hook you up.
Part of the dol celebration consists of of laying things out on a table or mat and seeing which item the baby will choose. Each item holds special significance. We laid out a brush (good with hands/artistic), a book (a scholar), some yarn (long life), silver chopsticks and spoon in a special bag (good cook), jujubes or dried Korean dates (many descendants), and rice cakes (wealth, but also signifies child will not be smart!). After much careful consideration, Wallie chose...the jujubes. She will apparently have many decendants. And that's nice to think about.
We ended the party with an incredible chocolate truffle-esque cake with caramel mousse, caramel drizzle, and whipped cream frosting (my fave) which Bunny did a taste-test and declared it fit to serve. It was so good it was stupid, declared Auntie D. (If anyone needs a recommendation for an amazing cake maker in the Portland area, I can hook you up.)
I have to acknowledge two special bloggers with ties to Korean culture who provided assistance, advice, and even pictures for me to review...because, believe it or not, even though I am half-Korean, the only other dol I ever attended was my own. And I don't remember it. (Though my mom tells me I chose a pen.) So thank you to the women who blog Weigook Saram and Baboon of Magnesia. I have never met either of you, but I am so happy that we have this special cultural link in common.
It was a beautiful party shared with equally beautiful friends. I am delighted that we have these memories to share with Wallie.
She's one! Can you believe she's already one?!