Last year, our friends Henry and Phillippa seemed to always have a refrigerator full of kimchi. “Where do you get it all?!?” I would ask, amazed by how foreigners could amass so much spicy cabbage without robbing a Korean grandmother.
But now, a year later, we are that couple. I can’t even close the fridge without slamming it, shoving Tupperware on top of each other and hoping the red gochu sauce doesn’t leak into the milk or coke, the only two other products we keep in there. You can’t open and close the door without the smell (my mother would insert”stink” here) of kimchi wafting out in a quick breeze.
It doesn’t help that it is kimchi season right now. Every Monday, I ask my students what they did over the weekend. “Teacher. (Duhhhhhhhh) I made kimchi with my grandmother.” It’s harvest season for cabbage so every grandmother in Korea is busy as a bee smothering the green leaves in red pepper and fermenting it for the winter.
The kimchi gifts all started with Han-na’s mom. She would drop by with a smile, a hug, a few Korean words, and a warning phone call: “Annyong, Linjee. Han-na’s mom. Kimchi? Ship bun. Chip. Kimchi?”Lucky enough for me, I knew that meant she was coming to my house in 10 minutes. With kimchi.
It started stacking up quickly as I think Hanna’s mom misses her daughter in America and, in her appreciation for those who help her daughter in a foreign country, she has taken us under her wing. (She is also the one who so graciously offered her oven for Thanksgiving.)
Then, my yoga teacher took an interest in feeding me. Maybe she saw how miserable I was at touching my toes and discombobulating my body into that terrible Lotus pose that I can’t even get close to without looking like I’m sitting on a chopstick) and figured if I ate more kimchi and fewer French fries it might become easier. So about once a week now, she also brings kimchi.
And then there are parents. Parents who see us and want to thank us in the only way they know how: Kimchi.
Whit brings a Tupperware of kimchi home about once a week from a parent. And tonight, I also came home with more.
I have so much kimchi in unmarked Tupperware that there is no way I will ever be able to return the plastic to whom it belongs.
So what are we doing with it? Well, at first, we were just putting little bits in a bowl to eat with our usual delivered meal. But as you can imagine, that would have taken us ten years to go through.
But, then, it was like God was speaking to us: IF YOU DON’T USE THAT KIMCHI TO MAKE KIMCHI JJIGAE (stew) LIKE YOU ORDER EVERY NIGHT ANYWAY, THEN IT’S YOUR FAULT PEOPLE ARE STARVING IN THE WORLD.
So, I did it. The easiest recipe in the world: Kimchi. Water. Green Pepper. Tofu. Tuna. Boil for 20 to 30 minutes. Serve with rice (which we also have been receiving as presents from every Korean mother we know.) Price of total dinner: $1.50.
It tasted exactly like (if not better, says Whit) what I ordered from the diner. And tonight, when I got another large Tupperware of kimchi, I didn’t have to force a smile and hide a grimace. I couldn’t wait to get home and cook up more stew!