Monday, December 14, 2009


Delicious. Bold. Distinct. (see also: Smelly. Spicy. Scary) It's true, not everyone likes kimchi. Then again, not everyone likes soju. Or chocolate for that matter. If you detest kimchi, I weep for you. Moving on.
Kimchi for me, kimchi for you
Yes, I'm being biased. Of course I am. I frakin love kimchi. It's comfort food. It goes with any dish. It smells good. It's dynamic. It's essential. What was my life before kimchi? We don't speak of that time...

My history with kimchi is a sad one. We got off on the wrong foot - kimchi and I. See, when I got in trouble as a small boy, my father used to say to me, "You're in deep kimchi now, mister". Well, it didn't take much for me to put two and two together to assume that kimchi was something bad (in this case, a substitute for the word that we affectionately know as the "S" word).

Don't get me wrong - my dad is well-rounded in terms of cuisine. He's from Texas but his palette has traveled to the far reaches of the globe. Being from an army town, it's pretty easy to get Americanized versions of just about any dish - to include Korean food.

Speaking of worldly cuisine, Germany has a national food called Sauerkraut that has crept its way across to other European nations. Kimchi and sauerkraut share a few commonalities including a vaguely similar vegetable base, pickling process, and (most importantly) a strong division between sauerkraut lovers and haters. In the same vein, one either loves or hates kimchi.

Most generally, Americans know more about sauerkraut than kimchi. So, when prompted with the standard question of "Hey goofball Matthew, what is kimchi?" I usually just say "Screw you It's Korea's answer to sauerkraut" even though the love affair with kimchi runs deeper than the red-headed stepchild of Germany's sour cabbage.
Kimchi makes its way into cross-cultural conversations daily. Other than some Koreans being freaked out that some foreigners actually know how to use chopsticks, kimchi makes for a frustrating topic at times. If you're a foreigner eating Korean food, when you pick up a portion of kimchi to place in your mouth, you might get a few hundred people asking you in English "Wow~ Do you like Kimchi?" at which point you can either give them the stink eye and say "Why else do you think that I am eating it??" or you can choose the even more sarcastic reply of "Nope, I'm just trying to figure out what's wrong with your taste buds. Still haven't figured it out yet."

I should go easy. I mean, these are the wonderfully masterful people who took what all other people on the planet would consider salty garbage and turned it into a staple in Korean refrigerators worldwide.

Thanks kimchi. You complete me. No wonder you went into outer space.
Space Kimchi