Chemistry, Conflict, and the Red Bean Bun

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So ubiquitously sold in the streets of cold breezes of winter in South Korea, a red bean bun brings deliberate warmth and joy to many people. Sold at a price of only forty cents back in the 90s, the red bean bun was more than just a snack; it was a cure, an ecstasy that helped many people resist and recover from the benumbing of the winter’s chill.

Unfortunately, though, the common snack brought me something other than warmth and joy; it brought me remorse and failure.

I did not know it was my fault. When my mother was taken to the hospital after falling down on the floor during a dinner before Christmas, I had no idea I was going to make her diabetes worse.

I saw my mom lying down on the hospital bed so feebly that I could not dare to lay my own hands on her. After the doctor had left the room, my dad and I gave the biggest smile trying to comfort her, and asked her if there was anything she wanted to eat. As soon as she spitted out the word ‘red bean bun’, my dad and I ran out the hospital to get a red bean bun, without knowing the fact that the type 1 diabetes was greatly aggravated by sweet food. I thought it was going to bring the same comfort and warmth to her like it did to me. I had no idea that the chemical effects of the sugar from the red bean and the alloxan that made the white bun so clean and pure just like the doctor’s gown, could make my mom so much worse that she had to elongate her stay in the hospital.

As a six years old boy, I had no idea what the doctor was yelling at my dad about. But I knew instinctively that it was my dad and I that made my mother have another needle in her arm and take extra pills before she ate her daily meals.

I couldn’t tolerate the guilt of hurting my mom so naively, and so ignorantly. Only if I had known more chemistry back then, had not given her food that acts as a poison, and rather if I had given her something biochemically helpful to her body’s inability to control the insulin level, I would not have hurt my mother, and scarred my own heart.

Since then sweet food and any flour made products became a taboo on my dining table. Learning the biochemical effects of sugar to my mother’s body, I realized that studying chemistry was the only answer to make up for my mother, and if I could somehow, amend the scar that still places a big part of my passion and ambition towards chemistry.

Fifteen years after the so called ‘red bean bun’ incident in my family, my family members and I make jokes about how my dad and I were so stupid and laugh about it. But I can still see the small glimpse of dullness on my mom’s face, and I plan on giving my best to turning that expression, to warmth and joy.

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