After traveling to the next subway station where my bank is, so I could set up foreign remittances automatically through my ATM, I stopped and treated myself to a payday dinner!!! Looking around Boemgye and trying to find someplace affordable that served food for one, my choices seemed to be pizza, bratwurst, or TRADITIONAL KOREAN PORRIDGE. That sounds horrible, but the pictures looked okay, and the price was right.
Amazingly enough, they ACTUALLY HAD ENGLISH DESCRIPTIONS ON THEIR MENU. Because I was being cheap I eliminated the porridges with seafood, and I ended up choosing one of the only ones that wasn’t white and didn’t look like rice congee. Black bean porridge is what I chose. It was a huge bowl, full of black bean soup – no beans visible, just totally cooked down to the perfect consistency, in a mixture of about 70% bean soup and 30% rice. It had some soft rice flour dumplings floating in it as decoration – too soft for eating, in my opinion.
Anyway, it tasted like black beans with rice. Pretty bland. Pretty boring. But then I looked at the other tables eating and I noticed they were taking what was in their side dishes and adding it to their soup. Ah ha! And what were my side dishes? Shredded beef marinated in soy sauce, garlic chili sauce, kim chee, and what looked like a cup of cold clear consomme, garlic and vinegar infused with two matchsticks of pickled daikon radish. So I spooned all of the above (except the kim chee – I just ate that) in light distribution over my soup, and it transformed that blandness into the most tasty and interesting yet comforting bowl of goodness ever. Something about the tiny amout of the intense side dishes with the huge body of soup added just the right accents to make that soup sparkle when eaten. Warm, slightly sweaty, and satisfied, like all people should be after they’ve eaten home-made soup, I reached for what I thought was tea but it turned out to be cold sweetened grape juice. What a perfect finish.
I went home happy. I got paid, I can ride the subway again. I can pay my bills in America. I ate a yummy satisfying dinner. My classes went well today, and the weekend will be interesting.
I don’t want to eat at subway. I don’t want to eat mostly American food. Neither do I want to only eat Korean BBQ. The Korean resident adoptee does not want/can not spend their life running from what should have been theirs/what once was theirs, to the safe haven of what shouldn’t have been theirs but is. The Korean resident adoptee instead needs to learn about what should have been theirs/what once was theirs so they can eat and live in a manner that reflects ALL the things they were/are. It is impossible to only be American. It is impossible to only be Korean. I am both. I am fusion. I deserve to know enough about that other half to be able to not only represent it, but also because I deserve to enjoy it.
There’s too much to learn to waste all my time in Itaewon at the foreign restaurants doing the foreign things I have always done as a foreign person. I long to eat/see/experience what I know deep in my heart is familiar from when I wasn’t a foreign person. This porridge reminded me that I long to eat the simple, basic things I know I once ate: mulkogi with bop (fish with rice), stew, porridge, cabbage soup, and on a really poor day, just rice with peas. Back when the “new town” where I am living was nothing but vineyards. Back when I was in that poor mountain town eating simple country food. Back when Korea was too poor to eat beef every week. Yes, I am projecting here. But I know it too, just like I knew what i peu da meant.
I have had this porridge before.
It comforts me.
One thought on “Comfort Food”
lovely post. I clicked on your link to the other “Remembering in Korean” story and WOW!so amazing… I bet more stuff like that comes flooding back, and that one word was the key that unlocked it!