I’m doing a lot more cooking lately for health reasons. By doing so, I expected to expand my cooking repertoire, to improve my self discipline when it comes to eating and preparation, I expected to get healthier, I expected to save money, I expected to have some fun…
I did not expect all the memories and thoughts that spring up in my mind while cooking. The textures, the smells, the sounds–they really do transport me. Cooking is a largely right brained activity for me, like driving…especially when I’m grooving in the middle of a very familiar, oft-cooked recipe.
And it just so happens that those are the dishes linked to some old memory.
I made a Korean radish soup tonight. (Using watermelon radish from the farmer’s market! They’re very similar to daikon radish except…they’re MAGENTA inside! Almost flourescent pink, really. So I am made this very PINK Korean radish soup).
Usually, when I make Korean food, my head is full of thoughts about my mother, all comfort and love. I compare how my food tastes against hers, and try to match, match, match. But it never really does match exactly. Sometimes I make Korean food when I miss her, especially North Korean dishes handed down through our family.
I also remember summers spent in Korea, traipsing through the streets of Seoul, through the markets, riding the crowded buses, so unlike the Greyhounds and AC transit buses here in the States. Snacks on the street bought on the way home to my grandmother’s house. The air so humid I’m not surprised that even when I stand still, my skin’s glistening from both perspiration and…just the WET AIR.
I wonder about the culinary traditions of Korea, and how so much is wild mountain greens, how so much of it can be dried and then rehydrated in cooking. There are rich and fatty foods of course, but I imagine wartime and picking greens in the hillside, foraging for dinner. I wonder if they’re doing that in North Korea.
I usually think about things Korean. But today, as I looked at the radish soup, thinking that the brilliant pink of the watermelon radish made this dish somehow…no longer LOOK Korean…I thought of my mother-in-law, who died last year.
Whenever I think of her, I feel a stab of pain in my heart. I’m not sure if it’s heartbreak or regret or what. Even when I/we laugh at something she’d find funny (and believe there are many things she found funny), the pain is there. It’s so prevalent in my thoughts of her that the thought of my parents dying is unbearable–how insufferable will the pain be, then?