Jul 13, 2021
Michelle Zauner is better known as the musician Japanese Breakfast, who has drawn acclaim for her genre-bending rock and indie pop. But she’s also a food connoisseur, especially of the Korean variety, inheriting a love of the cuisine from her late Korean mother.
In April she published her much-anticipated “Crying in H Mart,” what she calls a “food memoir,” about her early family life, her troubled teenage years and her process of reckoning with her mother’s early death from cancer—all paired with her intense and complicated relationship to Korean food, which acts as an unbreakable tie to her mother and eventually a tool to help her heal. H Mart is the Korean supermarket chain with over 80 locations across the U.S.; an essay Zauner wrote with the same title appeared in The New Yorker in 2018 and had her swarmed with attention from the literary world. (She had written about food before, though, and even hosted a short-lived food show for Vice’s Munchies vertical.)
Her love of eating, of course, is also present in her stage name. About that name: A decade ago, Zauner had a Tumblr that she would upload her music to, and she found aesthetically pleasing images of Japanese breakfasts to accompany each song. At that point, she says she had never been asked about her Korean heritage, and she wasn’t keen on talking about it. But if she could start over, she’d choose a different name today.
“I am waiting for the moment that someone leads a tirade to cancel the shit out of me,” she tells Brooklyn Magazine. It’s going to be a while.