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kalbi chim

Today as I pulled into the parking lot of New Seoul Garden, I sang a little song to myself.

“…kalbi chim, oh kalbi chim – I will eat you, kalbi chim…”

I love kalbi chim and yooke jang and bibimbap. I like them even better than mashed potatoes when I’m feeling run down though I certainly don’t have to be sick to enjoy them.

Here is The Boy, sucking on the bones.

kalbichimboy

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girl, nurtured.

Mitten has never been a big eater. When she was a baby, I’d do any number of ridiculous and desperate things in an effort to increase her calorie-intake but none worked as well as what follows.

During mealtimes, I started telling her a story while trying to maneuver the spoon into her mouth. I got tired of the standard “Choo-choo! Here comes the train” bit very quickly.

So I came up with this: Here’s the train! It’s filled with little children and teachers and parents on a field trip. Look, it’s chugging up the mountain and the children are having such a fun time! But wait, Oh my gosh – no – suddenly from a cave in the center of the mountain an ancient and nameless evil rears it’s head. It’s hungry and innocence is savory – it’s coming for the children in the bus! The children and the parents and the teachers see doom approaching and scream! Ahhhhh! Nooo!

At that point, Mitten (playing the part of the ancient and nameless evil) would happily and ferociously chomp down on the spoonful of children. We’d go through endless permutations. Train, bus or boat – going up a mountain, through the desert, across an ocean. Her enthusiasm never waned.

Chicken and carrots, unappetizing. Unwilling human flesh? Hilarious and tasty.

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Cooking was never a high priority for my mother. True, she was raised in part by my great-grandmother, an old school Italian who used to hand roll spaghetti noodles but this wasn’t enough to offset the influence of my half English, half Norwegian grandmother, an orphan (barely) raised on institutional cooking. I adored the woman (we shared a birthday and many interests) but her idea of a good meal was black coffee and a cigarette. Maybe if she was really hungry, a slice of toast and half a grapefruit. She famously said that she would prefer if her nutritional needs could be met just by taking a pill.

Everything I ate growing up was either bland or over cooked with a few notable exceptions (Chicken Paprikash, yum). Consequently, I was never really interested in food. I loved sweets but I think that was due largely to my chronically low blood sugar. During high school, I got addicted to Thai and Indian food but I still didn’t eat well at home. After I had Mitten, the low blood sugar that I used to be able to ignore got so bad it would trigger migraines. I had to eat regularly but I still didn’t really enjoy it.

I met my husband when Mitten was 2. On our first date, he made me a frittata. On subsequent dates we visited MacKinnon’s (duck breast w/ crispy skin), Ruth’s Chris (filet mignon and giant shrimp), D’Amatos (tea braised pork w/ scallops), The Whitney (Remy Martin XO and dark chocolate), Lily’s Seafood (Sander’s Hot Fudge cream puff and handmade creme soda). I never knew food could be so good! At home, Halim made everything from Korean bbq to 40 clove garlic chicken. Our Thanksgivings were epic. On our wedding day we served our guests crab seviche, Danish lobster tails, filet mignon and ahi tuna steaks with pureed celery root and lemon cake w/ cream cheese frosting.

We love food and food loves us. All this time I watched my husband cook, sometimes I helped and sometimes I would bake. Before the birth of our son, I made banana bread and snickerdoodles almost every other day. Still, I held back from making my own entrees because I thought I couldn’t cook. I was sure I’d burn the roast or make everything taste like feet.

Then something illuminating happened. I went to my mother’s for dinner. She was trying to make my husband’s 40 clove garlic chicken recipe for my sister’s birthday and things were going wrong. I got in the kitchen, took a look at the dish and realized that I knew exactly what I needed to do to fix it. I did and dinner was good.

Now I make dinner whenever I can get a free hand. My husband still loves to cook and I don’t fight him for the pleasure unless a dish has really caught my fancy. I know which spices finish a dish, when things are done by smell and I can make a perfectly tender tri-tip.

Apparently, over the last 7 or so years, my husband has taught me how to cook.

“Gourmandise is an impassioned, rational and habitual preference for all objects that flatter the sense of taste.”
Jean Antheleme Brillat-Savarin, The Physiology of Taste

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