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Home Is Where the Heart Eats

Charlies Main Street Cafe

Photo: Matthew Staver for The New York Times

When Americans think of home cooking, they often think of little dinners that offer a taste of American-style cooking: chicken-fried steak, ham & eggs, shakes.  What makes this bit of Americana at Charlie’s Main Street Cafe interesting is the owner is from Seoul and has her family working in the kitchen.

Meat and potatoes – That is a tradition of the Middle West. I want them to carry on. I don’t want to come here and disturb their tradition. I don’t want to modify it. I want to enhance it . . . I want my customers to feel this restaurant is theirs.

and the patrons of her restaurant seem to agree.

The owner, Geewon Anderson, feels very much as if her role is as cultural “bridge”, which makes sense to me at least.  As she says:

I cannot totally live with Koreans; it would drive me crazy, . . . I cannot totally live with American people; it drives me crazy. I love being in between and being a bridge.

The excellent article by John Eligon is here.

About the author: Psst, want to buy some used marble cheap?

  • http://www.facebook.com/DonotLetThemEatMe Craash Beck

    stake ?  have Americans changed the spelling of that word too?

  • http://www.bcarr.com/ Brendon Carr

    I wonder what visa enables Ms. Anderson to import six Korean family members to the United States to fill six jobs which would otherwise be filled by Americans. I’m sure they’re great people and all, but I have to wonder if they’re abusing visa-free entry for purposes of tourism.

  • RElgin

    hehe, sure . . .

  • gbnhj

    According to the article, she gained citizenship in 1987, so sponsorship of those family members is a possibility. Hmm - I wonder what H.Schmidt would make of it.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    Safe to say the guy will be (as big as) a bridge if he keeps eating meat and potatoes. I be he loves his gravy, too…

  • RElgin

    Same here: more vegetables, no beef or fast food. 
    I still eat plain toast.  Rice is mostly 현미.That Americana diet is to die for – literally.

  • http://www.sperwerslog.com/ Sperwer

    Under the sponsorship immigration regulations, in-laws (like Ms. Anderson’s brother -in-law “chef” are NOT eligible, and even preference family members such as her sisters generally have to wait an average of 11 years to get an immigrant visa (non-citizen spouses generally take 4 years).  Given the volume of would-be Korean immigrants and the applicable annual country quotas for green cards and given that Ms. Anderson only seems to have purchased the cafe in May, it seems unlikely that her relatives are working there under any legitimate visas.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    I eat a couple spoonfulls of rice at lunch at most at the company and try not to eat as much of it at for dinner at home. I eat 2 slices of toast a day: a tuna or chicken breast sandwich on my way to the gym in the morning before work.

    I have snacks mid morning and mid afternoon: I eat an energy bar and low fat milk. I also supplement with protein shakes 3 times a day: 22g of protein, almost nil carbs and nil fat. I will pick up my carb consumption though when I can get back to running and biking outside.

    Fish in Korea is very cheap. Mackerel is a great fish and its super cheap: I picked up 2 large mackerel at Lotte Mart for 4,400 won. Awesome price. Also, I know where to get 500g of smoked salmon for 12,000 won. Chicken breasts are cheap, either fresh or in a can, depending on how much time you have to prepare the food.

    Avoiding carbs is the key and they should be consumed only if youre going to be burning calories by the hundreds (or thousands) in a single exercise session.

  • Creo69

    ” cannot totally live with Koreans; it would drive me crazy, . . . I cannot totally live with American people; it drives me crazy. I love being in between and being a bridge.”I enjoyed a few nice three ways in South Korea myself.

  • Creo69

    Funny…I have just always had this image of your mother preparing your meals for you.

  • gbnhj

    I only note it as a possibility for her family members (and, I agree, not for her brother-in-law), given that twenty-four years have passed since she was granted citizenship. As I understand it, the sponsor need to demonstrate a capability to provide sufficient financial support, but is not required to provide a job.

    She seems to have some money. She and her husband both work, and apparently have done so for years. I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that her family had given her financial gifts in the past. She bought the building in which the restaurant is located – a commercial property which includes eleven apartments.  I’m not a lawyer, but I believe that the requirement works off of the federal poverty guidelines (125% * poverty level for relevant-sized family) , so it’s not impossible. The limiting factor in this case would seem to be the maximum number of such visas granted annually, but again, she’s had many years to work on it.

  • YangachiBastardo

    I  enjoyed a few nice three ways in South Korea myself

    Thanks for sharing really…but i guess between me bragging about all the people i brutalised and many other posters bragging about the most absurd shit, i guess almost none of us can claim a clean slate 

  • will.i.aint

    Hmm . . . only 81 miles from Minot to the nearest US/Canada border crossing station.

  • keyinjpop

    Good one. Looks like I’m not the only one who loves being in a human sandwich.

  • wangkon936

    Brendon,

    Those family members might have come via E-2.  Dependents of E-2 visa holders can file for work permits.  Also, not sure how many native born Americans are gonna be thrilled about washing dishes or cleaning bathroom jobs.

  • JW

    Yeah besides Brendon, you really shouldn’t be so crass and deny people’s natural human rights, which should always take precedence over obtuse legalism. 

    “the human right of individuals to move across borders whether for economic, personal or professional reasons or to seek asylum and refuge is guaranteed by Articles 13 and 14 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

  • flyingsword

    I am sad, first thought this cafe opened in Korea….not in why not, Minot, ND.

  • flyingsword
  • flyingsword

    So a 40 year old man goes to his doctor and says, “Doc, I want you do to some test to see if I will live to be 100.”  The Doc says, “Ok, well let start with some questions, Do you drink?” Man, “no,” Doc, “Do you Smoke?” M-”No.” Doc, “Eat meat or tasty food?” M-”No.”  Doc, “Have sex?” Man, “No.”  Doc, “So sir, why do you want to live to be 100?”  YOLO

  • http://www.sperwerslog.com/ Sperwer

    Anderson and husband are citizens, not holders of E2 visas which, in any event only allow the derivative immigration of spouses and dependent children (not sisters, brothers-in-laws and mothers, as in this case. We could speculate that the ex-”banker” brother-in-law has an E2, but the article doesn’t say so and even his having such wouldn’t explain the other sister and the mother. I’m guessing they will all rue the day the opted for their 5 minutes of fame when the INS investigation gets underway

  • http://www.sperwerslog.com/ Sperwer

    Tell NK regugees about the Universal Human Rights that permit them to leave NK, sojourn in China and resettle in SK.

    There are no such things, only the actual rights attendant upon memership in a particular political community, each of which is free to regulate immigration as it sees fit.

  • JW

    What the hell are you talking about? “Such things” matter when taking a moral stance as Brendon Carr clearly seemed to be doing, by saying things like “abusing visa-free entry”.  There’s no abuse here because their universal right ought to take precedence over any visa rules which merely serve a practical purpose of keeping out all possible migrants from coming in at the *same time*.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    The mackerel sold in Korea is blue mackerel, if Im not mistaken.

    http://www.foodsmart.govt.nz/whats-in-our-food/chemicals-nutrients-additives-toxins/specific-foods/mercury-in-fish/

    this site says that for pregnant women 3-4 servings of blue mackerel a week are OK, and if 3-4 servings a week are OK for pregnant women, or rather developing fetuses, then I would think that 3-4 sevings a week, which is about how much I eat, are OK for grown men.

    Blue mackerel is a small fish and generally the smaller the safer since toxins acumulate through the food chain: the larger the fish the more smaller fish it has eaten and has stored lots of mercury. Thats why for canned I prefer chicken breast over tuna (which is a large fish) and for fresh fish I like mackerel and salmon.

  • YangachiBastardo

    Agreed: the very concept of human rights is completely fictional, there are no human rights, there are American rights, Korean rights, Japanese rights etc. And no country currently adopt a free-for-all open border policy cos it’s simply suicidal

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    More than that, the concept of Human Rights is a trojan horse aimed directly at your individual rights.

  • MichaelMurakami

    the large tuna are expensive and are sold to sushi restaurants; the kind of tuna that is canned is much smaller and does not contain large amounts of mercury.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    Yes, but chicken contains zero mercury.

  • Mr Yu

     Yes, and mercury contains zero chicken so it all comes out in balance.

  • 3gyupsal

    Pork tenderloin is pretty low in fat and super cheap.

  • 3gyupsal

    Bream are pretty good too when you fry them up.  They aren’t cheap though.

  • wangkon936

    As an economist (and a business person) I view immigration differently than perhaps say a Mr. Carr or Sperwer.  I don’t view immigration policy as set of laws meant to keep people out for some nativist’s dream of keeping the unwashed masses in their original countries.  I see immigration, if properly implemented, as a means to strengthen the institutions and businesses of our country (or any country for that matter).  

    Immigrants hungry for a better life are drivers of economic and social development.  Furthermore, big countries do not get big unless they have a policy for integrating other core peoples.  China became big by having a policy for integrating other East Asian people into what is now called the steaming “Han” pot.  Russia is big, but large parts of it are undeveloped.  Unlike the U.S., Russia could not convince people to settle and develop Siberia like America was able to convince Germans and Scandinavians to do the same to the American Mid-West.  You don’t get big and powerful if you can’t conquer or convince people to move into your country and play an active role in it’s development.  Rome I see as a failure in immigration policy and that became a significant factor as to why they fell.  The barbarians wanted to be a part of Rome, but Rome just wanted them to stay in the untamed boundaries.  They used their men occasionally as mercenary troops to fight against other barbarians, but that only gave all the barbarians formal Roman military training that they used against the Romans later.  However, the barbarians only did this because Rome lacked a non-military policy to to deal with them socially and progressively.

    America has been very successful in integrating non-Northern European and non-Protestant religion peoples into a cohesive social group that has bought into, buy and large, a Federal government system.  This is the envy of the world.  It took China hundreds of civil wars to get what the U.S. has been able to do in just one civil war.  Europe, and their history of wars against each other, still do not have a Federal system nearly as great as Americas even with the establishment of the European Union.  It probably never will.

    America’s continued success does not lie within.  Just as the Japanese, who shun immigration.  If you look at immigration long-term it has been additive to our culture and success.  I would much rather eat pizza (Italy) and hamburgers (Germany) than those horrible native English foods like beef stew and eel pie.  I would much rather eat tacos and burritos too.

    However, do we let every Juan, Kim and Maria into our country?  Of course not, that’s not what I’m saying.  Not all immigrants are the same or can immediately contribute the same.  I believe at the end of the day we should have immigration reform.  Our current immigration policy is convoluted, inefficient beast of a piece meal Frankenstein monster because there is so much emotional partisan bickering on the matter.  Because of this companies like Google and Apple can’t hire the engineers it needs in order for them to stay globally competitive, rich Middle Easterners end up investing their millions into China or Canada rather than the U.S. and Asian kids end up going to college and grad school in Canada or the UK instead of America.  This is horribly inefficient and damaging to our economy.  

    Additionally, there has to be a better way for people with good educations, social backgrounds and skills to make it into America legally.  These type of immigrants are hard working risk takers that tend to move into underdeveloped or neglected parts of our country and take a stab at success where natives may have failed.  You see this with Indian and Middle Eastern immigrants in parts of the Rust Belt, Koreans in depressed areas of Los Angeles, and Vietnamese in depressed parts of the South.  Honest and hard working immigrants find niches, they generally don’t displace native populations.  The whole argument that immigrants take jobs away from natives is as old as the first Hessian solider that deserted his mercenary army to try his hand at life in the first 13 colonies.  It is generally not a valid argument and serves more as a red herring for xenophobic natives, if anything else. 

  • dlbarch

    No doubt, Koreatown and its industrious (if insular) Korean community is HANDS DOWN the best thing to happen to Central LA since the Ambassador Hotel hosted the Academy Awards in the 1930s!

    DLB

  • http://www.sperwerslog.com/ Sperwer

    Contrary to WangKon’s unwarranted, unsubtantiated and cheap ad hominem canard, as the son and grandson of immigrants, I favor legal immigration – by immigrants who respect the rules. The alternative implicitly argued for by WangKon involves fostering a disrespect for law on the basis of sib and ethnic sentiment. Those are values fundamentally at odds with the civic culture of the US (what’s left of it). There already are plenty of countries in the world based on such ideas, including Korea; we don’t need to have the US regress into another one.

  • wangkon936

    Sperwer,

    IMHO, as the world changes, laws need to change with those changes.  This happens all the time and laws change as they get archaic.  The world is a changing my friend.  With globalization I believe that labor needs to be more flexible.  Where would we be if we didn’t give Jewish and Eastern European physicists an immigration pass in the late 30′s and early 40′s?  Where would we be without German rocket scientists?  

    The world is now globally competitive, much smaller and with a rapidity of the movement of resources and information never before matched in human history. Why can’t we make the flow of beneficial labor move a little more efficiently as well?  We are not just competing against the Russians any more.

    Talk to any immigration lawyer in the states and you’ll see that our immigration laws are the messiest of sausages out there.  People we would want in this country can’t legally get in and people we don’t want into this country can get in too easily.  It needs an overhaul.  I’m arguing this for the benefit of the country.  I hope you realize that.

    What is “legal” is never set in stone, nor should it be.  Furthermore, you can’t call ad hominem every time you see something you disagree with.  Just because you don’t agree with it doesn’t, by itself, make it a logical fallacy.

  • RElgin

    I must agree somewhat with this notion since to pursue it further pushes into Science Fiction; global governments that employ people from many different regions that adhere to a Terms of Service rather than a loyalty pledge to a country.  
    One sure thing, IMHO, is that, collectively, government will become much worse before any real improvement is made. 
    One small case in point:

    Lawmakers need to overhaul the tax code completely in order to reduce the “significant, even unconscionable, burden” placed on taxpayers just to file a tax return, the Internal Revenue Service’s ombudsman told Congress on Wednesday(link).

  • http://www.sperwerslog.com/ Sperwer

    Yeah, WangKon, the immigration system needs reform – starting with, among other things, elimination of anchor babies and implementation of comprehensive enforcement against illegals and those who illegally employ them.  Something also needs to be done about the many long-term illegals who, because of lack of prior effective enforcement, have established lives in the US as productive members of society; the Shrub’s immigration reform proposals were a good start on that, but look what happened.

    But, as usual, you’ve changed the issue under debate, which is whether the Anderson-jok should be subject to enforcement action (assuming they are in violation, as appears to be the case).  The fact that the system is broken does not justify contributing further to the disrespect for law by failing to enforce on the grounds of ad hoc exceptionalism.

    Also, per your usual MO of always imputing some disreputable personal motive to anyone who says anything remotely critical of Korea or Koreans, regardless of the facts and arguments that are adduced, you started out your response by pre-emtpively derogating my position as “nativist’.  When you stop the irrelevant ad hominems, I’ll stop calling you on it.

  • wangkon936

    Well… At least we agree that the immigration system needs reform.  But, if you are to go after companies that illegally hire undocumented workers, then you have to give those companies a legal alternative to hiring the low cost workers it needs to sustain its business, right?  Do you want 30% more expensive fruit or 20% more expensive clothing and a bunch of out of business small to medium sized businesses literally overnight?

    “But, as usual, you’ve changed the issue under debate… The fact that the system is broken does not justify contributing further to the disrespect for law…”

    If the system is broken, then the laws need to be changed.  I am not changing the debate, I am trying to find a solution, one based on the sound principles of economics.  It’s also similar to arguments penned by prominent economists:

    http://www.freakonomics.com/2011/10/06/immigration-elasticity-and-why-americans-wont-pick-onions-yet/

    http://www.freakonomics.com/2010/06/22/gary-becker-immigrants-should-pay/

    Also, per your usual MO of always imputing some disreputable personal motive to anyone who says anything remotely critical of Korea or Koreans, regardless of the facts and arguments that are adduced…

    That is an ad hominem and this is a warning to you to refrain from ad hominems.  You have no specific evidence (or do you offer any) that I have “disreputable personal motive[s]” other then just declaring that I do via fiat.  That is not enough, thus I consider it an ad hominem attack.  Furthermore, I am not blindly offended by “anything remotely critical of Korea or Koreans..”  Do I look like pawi to you?

    This is your last and only warning.  Stop it with ad hominems otherwise you will get moderated.

  • http://www.sperwerslog.com/ Sperwer

    Well… At least we agree that the immigration system needs reform.  But, if you are to go after companies that illegally hire undocumented workers, then you have to give those companies a legal alternative to hiring the low cost workers it needs to sustain its business, right?  Do you want 30% more expensive fruit or 20% more expensive clothing and a bunch of out of business small to medium sized businesses literally overnight?

    Yep; part of the Shrub’s plan, as I recall, was to provide for a system of legal, amanged immigration of immigrants into the low wage labor markets, so that was implicit in my earlier approving remark

    If the system is broken, then the laws need to be changed.

    Yep; but that doesn’t mean that pending enactment of new policy you don’t enforce existing law.  The frustrating thing in this case is that there was a very good proposal on the table with a reasonable implementation plan that would have minimized disruption to the existing migrant worker market during the transition to the new system; but it was all torpedoed by those who regard the US as their perosnal and/or the world’s iron rice bowl.

    I am not changing the debate, I am trying to find a solution, one based on the sound principles of economics.

    Look, I don’t dispute the importance of the larger immigration issue/problem, nor do I begrudge you the privilege to discuss it.  But the simple fact remains that you turned a post about situation of one family (of possible immigration violators), whose situation and significance is distinctly different and inconsequential vis-a-vis the the migrant labor markets  - into something else.  

    That is an ad hominem and this is a warning to you to refrain from ad hominems.  You have no specific evidence (nor do you offer any) that I have “disreputable personal motive[s]” other then just declaring that I do via fiat.  That is not enough, thus I consider it an ad hominem attack.  Furthermore, I am not blindly offended by “anything remotely critical of Korea or Koreans..”  Do I look like pawi to you?

    ROTFLMAO. Time to bone up on your logical fallacies, sport.  Insofar as ad hominem is an impermissible fallacy, it is an attack on a person and/or his character that is designed to deflect consideration of his views on the merits; it is not simply personal attack or invective.  Nor, is it involved, as in my remarks, in pointing out another’s ad hominem.  In this case, i not only didn’t derogate the substance of your views on immigration (as you did mine by labelling my position nativist in your opening line), I agreed with your position.  As far as my criticism of you is involved, I did not say you had a “disreputable personal motive”; I complained of your having attributed one (nativism) to me.  I also alluded to the fact that you have in the past repeatedly accused me of racism and repeatedly disingenuously inquired about what traumatic personal I MUST have had in Kore or at the hands of Koreans to be so allegedly anti-Korean, instead of just taking my comments about/criticisms of Korea and Koreans at face value and dealing with them as such.  (and no I am not going to waste any time combing through the archives to quote chapter and verse; it simply isn’t that important).Your current pose as the indignant and puffed-up would-be martinet is just laughable and more than a little sad – and evidence that you don’t have the temperment to be a moderator at all.So if you don’t have sufficient self-confidence and in your own position and courage to let this post stand, let’s see how long that and your moderator status last.

  • wangkon936

    Sperwer,

    The problem with using personal, inflammatory and condescending language is that it inhibits thoughtful discussion and debate.  You have a habit of doing this.  You are not the only one that does this, but you have your days where you are one of the worst instigators.  You make good points, but I believe your points are not only diluted, but obscured by your habit to make biting personal remarks and parting shots.

    My goal as a moderator is to filter the wheat from the chaff.  I know I will not be completely successful at it.  Honestly, I don’t have the time to fulfill the role and completely as I would like.  I’ve told Rob that ideally, several people would need to be moderators.  In any case, it is difficult to respond to your comment because it appears as if it is full of a lot of personal indignation and the only advice I can give you is that you shouldn’t take things so personally.  This is a blog and comments on a blog.  It isn’t the end of the world or the complete surrender of your ego.  Maybe that is why your comments often drip with so much condescension?  Any one who disagrees with you must be less of a person in your eyes.  I am not completely sure if you think that way or not, but your writing style and how you express your views certainly creates a situation where one can come to that conclusion.  Again, attack the idea, not the person.  Try to leave the person out of it as much as possible, otherwise you run the risk of flinging an ad hominem, whether intended or not.

    In terms of me commenting on a person’s background when they are negative on Korea, I think I may have done this a couple of times.  I tend to do this when their arguments make no logical sense (in other words, seem more like rants rather than presenting their complains in an organized manner) and are overly emotional.  If I can’t understand what the complaint is, then I’m going to question the person’s background.  Why?  Because if there are special circumstances in the person’s background, then is there merit in their complaint?  Do a couple of bad experiences mean that an entire nation of 50 million people experience universal scorn?  I don’t think it should.  In my opinion, it isn’t a matter of defense or protection, it is a matter of fairness and balance.  Shouldn’t there be people around to offer contrarian viewpoints in a free society as long as those viewpoints are logically  presented?  I think there is.  The last time I may have made this kind of comment was to some Canadian commenter named “Bob” something or other. I don’t remember doing it to you. If I did it must have been awhile ago. Please be sure to remind me if I have directed it to you. A hyperlink to the offending comment will be sufficient to pique my memory. If you can’t provide that then I can’t admit to something that I don’t remember. Any ways, as I’ve said before that’s just not how I resolve arguments. A good example would be my interaction with someone like Gerry Bevers.  He offers a fairly dispassionate overview although a lot of people disagree with him.  When we talk, he never goes after me with insulting and condescending language and I never respond back in kind.  Things are different with you because of they way you have chosen to communicate.  You know what they say about assholes, right?  If you met one asshole throughout the day, it means you met one asshole.  If you met a lot of assholes throughout the day then it means you’re the asshole.  Not saying you’re an asshole because I hear a lot of good things about you offline, but I do think you can be a pain in the ass sometimes because of your confrontational writing style.  It doesn’t bring out the best in people, you know.

    Lastly, you would seem to imply that I am a inexperienced moderator.  I am not.  I use to moderate a web site that has been banned in the PRC due to its free discussion on alternative views of Chinese history that the Communist Chinese government does not want their citizens to see.  I was moderator for two years and then I resigned.  There isn’t a greater challenge to moderation when everyone’s scared cows are at stake and it was on that site on a DAILY basis.  I got tired of it and I quit.  The mostly overseas Chinese forum administrators and commenters had nothing but good things to say about me and missed my presence.  If I do half as good a job there as I do there, then I think I’ll be around for awhile, sorry to disappoint you.  I’ve already been a guest blogger since 2007 or so anyways.  I don’t see the keys being taken away from me any time soon.