Family History with Food: Kimchi and Beyond

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Family history with food: Kimchi and beyond "What's that smell?" When a non-Korean first encounters kimchi, his or her reaction is often one of surprise, shock, even slight disgust. However, in my eyes kimchi is the food of my homeland, the food of my family. It is every bit as important to me and part of my upbringing as the potato chips that an American child puts on his tuna fish sandwich or the perfect pasta an Italian grandmother cooks for a Sunday dinner. I am now beginning to see containers of kimchi in American supermarkets, so it is possible that the food is beginning to gain some cultural traction in America and people will not regard it as so strange in the future. But I still hear jokes about kimchi. It has a very strong, pungent odor and smell. Fermented cabbage, which is essentially what kimchi is, is not only indigenous to Korea. Many cultures have cabbage dishes, spanning from coleslaw at American delis to Irish corned beef and cabbage. Kimchi is something special in the Korean food tradition. My mother says that every Korean family has their signature method of preparing kimchi. Our family's kimchi alters slightly, depending on the dishes that we are preparing and my mother's mood. However, there is usually the traditional cabbage, with added radishes, scallions, and cucumbers, which are then tossed in a brine with hot spices, ginger, garlic, and some kind of fish sauce, then left to marinade. It makes a wonderful condiment on almost everything. I

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