“Food Is: LOVE”

A micro-series on the anecdotal study of people and their perspective on Food.

It’s 5:45am on the easternmost edge of Seoul. The autumn air is thick with silence, and the sun lay dormant behind the short summit of the neighborhood hill. Most of us are still asleep starring in dreams, hoping to catch the finale before we wake. But a few have already begun their day, liberally disrupting the fading darkness of dawn with activity.
The light and noise in our home comes from the kitchen, where our great aunt’s been preparing breakfast for the past hour. And with the crescendo of varying clinks and clanks, my eyes flicker open like flames beneath the stockpot. In a few moments, my sister and I will hear our names knocking on the bedroom doors…“애린아~, 애릭아~”. It’s our wake up call, and an invitation to breakfast.

A hundred years ago, chicken for dinner meant going out to catch, kill, clean, and prepare a chicken. Today, that process has largely been reduced to reading instructions on a box before popping dinosaur-shaped nuggets into a microwave. Through the decades, we’ve exported domestic normalcies, like cooking, to corporations in exchange for a collection of conveniences (time, money, freedom, etc). But there’s an irony to this mass exportation, that’s singular to outsourcing our meals. Because the more time we abandon in the kitchen, the more time we spend thinking about and watching people cook our food.

Other mundane activities we identify as daily drudgeries aren’t elevated to social or cultural heights. Probably why you don’t see reality TV shows on America’s Next Top Laundromat, or find Master Mechanics fashionably pumping oil on the centerfold of GQ magazine. So what about food and cooking is different that makes us consciously aware? Why do we champion chefs, as culinary heroes that deliver us from insatiable tastes and textures?

For many, the answer lies in the early experiences of food, illustrated by memories of our mother’s and grandmother’s cooking. The performances with fragrant spices, and the rhythmic orchestration of pots and pans. These memories are scored into the fabric of our childhood, as impressions of joy, love, happiness. And perhaps are the early annotations we revisit, while watching a dish -that we can’t even eat- rustically pieced together on the television screen.

To this day, I’m reminded of the powerful imageries of food that linger from my great aunt’s home. The extravagant breakfast spreads. The imposing size of her rice bowls. The repetitive chants of “eat more” (every grandmother’s favorite phrase). But I’m also left with a deeper appreciation for her time spent in the kitchen. Because to my great aunt, food was more than just something we ate. Preparing it was a quiet, yet powerful act of her unconditional love. With the liberation of aroma from each ingredient and the overflowing contents of each dish, she expressed nurture and care for us. And though her movements and speech began to slow with age, her breakfast spreads were always full. Full of Food. Full of Love.

Food is Love.

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Grandma’s Kimchi Jigae

Prep Time: 20–25 mins| Cook Time: 1 hr | Yield: 4 serving

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of pork or anchovy stock
  • 1/2 lb of pork belly
  • 1 lb of ripe kimchi + 1/4 cup of brine
  • 1 medium onion thinly sliced
  • 2 sprigs of green onions chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1 green pepper cut -bias
  • 1/2 packet of firm tofu cubed
  • 1 tbsp of gochujang
  • 1/2 tbsp of gochugaru
  • 1 tsp of sesame oil
  • 1 tsp of salt

Procedure:

  • Heat sesame oil in sauce pot
  • Add pork belly and/or ribs, and sear until brown
  • Remove meat for later use
  • Add the kimchi in the same pot and lightly caramelize
  • Deglaze pot with kimchi brine
  • Add meat, onions, garlic & green onions into pot with kimchi
  • Top with gochujang, gochugaru, & salt
  • Pour stock into pot, bring to boil, then simmer for 45 mins
  • Add tofu to kimchi jigae, and simmer for 15 more mins
  • Garnish with green onions & serve hot with rice

Like many braises and stews, kimchi jigae gets better with time. And leftovers are preferred. Remember to bring it to a boil regularly, so it doesn’t go bad too quickly.

T.H.B.


Sources:

  1. Pollan, Michael. Cooked: a natural history of transformation. N.p.: Large Print Press, 2014. Print.

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