23 Jan

When I see the peppery hot kimchi I think of the slight tingle it has in my mouth from it being pickled and the sweet crunch it makes. I can smell the fish, but beneath that is a stronger smell. It’s something about the hot-sweetness of the peppers that draws me back. Not just the cabbage, but other kinds as well. Nabak Kimchi (Watery Kimchi) and whole radish kimchi, daikon kimchi… even occasionally squid kimchi.

I know some adoptees hate kimchi–even some Korean Americans who came here and never really tasted it. It’s the fishy smell, especially the South Korean Northern version of Kimchi which uses dried shrimp rather than the version of the south which uses fish sauce. But something about the kimchi is addictive. Is it the adrenaline from the sweet-hotness or the fact that I like the tingle it leaves behind something like a milder version of Poprock candy in my mouth?

I use it as a medicine and prevention from colds and the flu. Koreans have a saying when someone has a cold, “Didn’t you eat your kimchi?” My parents never had to worry about vitamin C deficiency with us. Just put kimchi in front of us and we’d eat it. We ate our vegetables without fuss because Koreans eat vegetables. I only got sick maybe once a year when I was younger.

I know that Koreans accustom their children to kimchi. They start young and wash off the pepper, so that the child can get past the fire in their mouths and slowly build them up to normal pepper levels. By the time they are five they see no difference.

At my four o’clock snack of kimchi and rice like clockwork my dad said the smell was overtaking the kitchen and to put the kimchi jar away. Ironically this was usually when I was watching cartoons even though I was long a teenager by then. Japanese cartoons. (Since the Korean industry didn’t start doing animation yet.)

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