Sun Hee Yoon
When I'm tired, I eat Kimchi. When I'm sad, I eat Kimchi. Tonight I talked to my mom over the phone, and her voice brought me a reminiscence. As a ritual, I pulled out a jar of Kimchi and had some.
Whenever I eat Kimchi, I eat my memories. With one bite, I go back to my mom's kitchen.
I see a girl who's waiting for a newly-made Kimchi of the year. There are more than 5 boxes of Napa cabbage which have been marinated in salt water through the night. Next, I see a bucket of freshly grounded chili pepper that has red velvet texture with yellow seed sprinkled. I smell of minced garlic, chopped spring onion, sliced radish and the essential ingredient - fish extraction. My mom mixes all these ingredients into a thick paste. She uses her bare hands. She used to tell me the best taste of food comes from bare hands and sincere heart. Her magical hands paint the plain Napa cabbage into red leaves one by one, from sturdy outer leaves into soft, tiny bud. These red cabbages remind me the red rose petals. Finally, I see a girl who’s hoping her mom would give a little piece of Kimchi into her mouth.
“Do you want to taste it?”
“Yes, yes! Please!”
My mom folds the tiniest and softest layer of kimchi and slided into my mouth with smile. That was the taste of my mom’s love.
When I visited USA for 2 weeks in 1993, the first thing in my mind as soon as we arrived was having Kimchi. I desperately wanted Kimchi stew with rice for a dinner, but instead I got a fried chicken with Coke. That night, I cried for Kimchi for the first time. I realized how big its existence was in my life. It was the case of wake-up call; when a thing is absent from us, we realize we took it for granted to be there.
In 2002, I studied abroad in Australia and New Zealand for 6 months. Among 60 members of international exchange students, I wasn’t the only one who was hungry for Kimchi. Someone told me they would go to Korean grocery to buy a jar of Kimchi. It took us more than 2 hours to get to the store, but it was all worth it in the end, especially when we laid a slice of Kimchi on top of steamy ramen noodle.
We even attended the Korean church while we were studying in New Zealand because we could have decent meal with Kimchi at the end of service. When I didn’t have money to buy a jar of Kimchi, I was longing for Sundays.
Yes, I'm a Kimchi folk. I grew up with this strong scented food, and it became part of my identity. Now, I live 5000 miles away from Korean peninsula , yet whenever I smell of Kimchi, I’m home. Kimchi has been an invisible yet strong thread, which connects me with my culture, and it reminds me where I'm from.