This week, I’d like to introduce you to Eric Kim, author of the instant NYT Bestselling cookbook Korean American, columnist at the NYT Times Cooking Desk, ASMR YouTube pioneer, and former up-and-coming pop star.
I was introduced to Eric through one of his essays–in fact, his very first piece for the Times: “Think of Kimchi as a Verb.” As I’ve discussed in a prior podcast episode, kimchi is more than just pickled cabbage to most Koreans and Korean Americans. I mean this literally of course, since, as Eric’s piece does such a good job of demonstrating, “kimchi” can signify several different kinds of vegetables (not just napa cabbage) and flavors (not just spicy red pepper). But it’s more than just the fact that there are hundreds of different kinds of “kimchi” out there. Eric’s words reminded me of how my mother would look at the the large, round purple radishes nestled together in wooden crates at our local farmer’s market and immediately wonder out loud: “I wonder if we could make kimchi out of these…?” I was thus so heartened to see another Korean American writer who viewed “kimchi” as not merely something within the confines of a specific food, but as dynamic and adaptable as the hands that have salted, pasted, and packed kimchi for hundreds of years.
Notwithstanding Eric’s thoughtful essay on the topic, as you’ll hear in this week’s interview, the feedback was instant, but negative. Another Korean American food writer wrote to Eric’s editor (i.e., boss), claiming that the article was riddled with errors. Eric would soon learn that this was, unfortunately, a part of the job–navigating the often unsettled waters of “representation.” What “representation” means, looks like, and effectuates are not as black and white as the words printed in a newspaper, however much some might wish it were. Sometimes, the concept of adequate representation may not align with fair representation. And I worry that we’ve been suffocating under the cloak of invisibility for so long, we’ll do anything, say anything, be anything for even the possibility of being “seen.”
Food is, of course, a vehicle for all sorts of discourse, including political discourse. I’ll bet you can recall one-too-many uncomfortable conversations at Thanksgiving or Aunt Helen’s birthday where Uncle Bob got a little bit loud about something he saw on Fox News or read in the local paper. And, as Senator Cory Booker delves into during his recent conversation with Rich Roll, food is, itself, a subject of policy, legislation, and ginormous lobbying dollars. But what about the politics of identity? Who we are as individuals that form a nation? How we relate to each other today versus how we aspire to see each other tomorrow?
At bottom, politics is about power. And power has historically been about defining those who have it and those who do not, on the premise that there isn’t enough for all. But what if this is a lie? What if we start believing that there’s plenty for everyone?
Hear my interview with Eric Kim!
This Week’s Recipe Inspo – Kimchi!
Since we’re talking about kimchi, I figured why not make some? I’d suggest that NOW is the perfect time to get that summer batch ready, before it gets too hot to perfect your kimchi squat! If you have my book, then you already have the recipe. But you can also watch this YouTube instructional video, featuring my very own mother!!
That Time I Went To The White House.
As you may have seen (and as I mentioned last week), I had the distinct honor of spending my birthday at The White House!! Somehow, the State Department saw it fit to invite little ole’ me to a pre-press event with the First Lady and Chef Edward Lee! I got to hear directly from the First Lady herself (who is as eloquent as she is elegant–think Jackie-O, only approachable), and also got to chat with Chef Lee about his menu and the excitement of preparing for such an important event. Indeed, the ROK First Couple’s State Visit is only the second of its kind that the current Administration has hosted.
We headed to DC and it was pretty cool to walk up to the Secret Service person guarding the barricades and say, “Hi. I’m on The List.” He took our IDs, used his walky-talky to check with someone, and then said, “Yup, you’re on the list. Come on in.” WOW!!! We were provided with press badges and then escorted to the press area, where a bunch of reporters and camera crews were setting up. Shortly thereafter, I met up with my friend Remy (who took the photo of me above), along with Kaiti Yoo, another Korean American content creator for YouTube.
Afterwards, we were taken into the State Room, where the First Lady’s staff had set up a couple of mock dining tables so we could see how the State Dinner would be decorated. It turns out that her staff retained a Korean American designer to craft a uniquely welcoming ambiance for the State Guests, down to the table linens (which were embroidered with bamboo trees). The First Lady explained how her mother taught her that, “setting a table can be an act of love.” Next, we heard from Chef Lee and the White House culinary team, and let me tell you, I nearly fainted when one of them said they would be drizzling a “DOENJANG CARAMEL SAUCE” on President Biden’s lemon ice cream bar!!!
THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES ATE DOENJANG!!!
Later, we had a chance to speak directly with Chef Lee and he was kind and generous and funny and lovely.
Later that evening, because it was my birthday AND we were in DC, we headed to an Indian restaurant recommended by one of the reporters we befriended while hanging around the press area: Rasika. Apparently, the Obamas also favor this restaurant and Anthony pounced on a 5:30 pm reservation (we love the Senior Citizens dinner hour….!). We decided to go with the 7-course pre-fixe menu, which was made entirely vegan for us. We left feeling TOTALLY STUFFED, but quite satisfied with a very short, very productive, and very memorable trip to our nation’s capital!
THE FIRST LADY OF SOUTH KOREA IS A FAN OF VEGAN FASHION!!!
I know many people are over the MOON about the [made to look] impromptu Karaoke night (featuring “American Pie”), and my own parents were thrilled at President Yoon’s address to Congress, but guess what I was most excited about…
My mother actually told me about how the Korean First Lady had a “vegan bag” and I was so EXCITED to find confirmation of this! In fact, I headed directly to a website selling the same exact bag and purchased one for myself! You can find Marhen.J’s bags here!
We were a little delayed in publishing the YouTube version of last week’s episode due to all of our travels, but here it is! In this episode, I tackle one of the questions I most frequently receive regarding my own fitness transformation: How I stay motivated to continue working out and running day in and day out. To help answer this, I look into the science behind habit formation, and how it has helped me (and will hopefully help you!) develop and maintain a consistent fitness regime.
And that’s a wrap! Talk to you all next week!