Monday Meal Review: South Korea

THE SCENE: My Wake Up Call

I almost didn’t have anyone over for our South Korean Global Table. I was living in funk town and not sure I’d be great company. I tried to climb out of my shell – I went for a sunshiny walk and even put a smile on my face. “Fake it til you make it” says Joy the Baker. Sage advice.

Still – I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: I’m a pretty shy gal. I like people and people like me, but I’m not very good at cultivating friendships – at making best friends. The last time I did it with any lasting success was in college. Something about being thrown into a stressful environment together practically guarantees lifelong friendship.

To be honest, I don’t usually worry about it. I hang out with people now and then. We laugh. But at the end of the day, I spend most of my time with my wonderful husband and daughter. I go to bed happy.

Last year, though, I had a wake up call.

One morning I found Keith sitting in the shower struggling to breathe. Moments later we were rushing to the E.R. We thought he was having a heart attack. Both his grandfather’s died young of heart failure. His mom already has a pacemaker and his dad has had five stints. With a family history like that, things at the hospital got very real, very fast.

I was a mess. Scared. Crying my eyes out. And… sweet miss Ava – a tiny toddler, dancing around, was happily oblivious. Oh boy did she need lots of attention and I was in no place to give it. My stress was through the roof. I had no plan, no help. Yes, I am lucky enough to have family but they all live far away. Keith’s side is three hours and my mom is several flights away in Boston. As I tried and tried different numbers, just ringing and ringing without end, I crumbled up inside. Everyone was busy or unavailable.

I have never felt so alone.

It’s almost been a year and I still struggle with a lonely, deep depression that started that day. Depression surrounding the “what if” of it all. Of having to do it on my own.

Thankfully he was okay and we were back home that night.

I waited until fairly recently to open up with people about what happened. Here’s the good news. Once I did share my feelings, I recieved an outpouring of understanding – and not just the superficial “nod your head”  kind of understanding. You would not believe how many people struggle with the same aloneness – perhaps with family an ocean away, or friends who moved on to another town, or even separation caused by death.

Bottom line: many people don’t live near family any more. Many people have to make and remake friends, reinventing themselves after each big move. This is a global culture we live in. If this is the case for you, it’s time to get thinking. What will you do in an emergency? Who will be there to help you?

Reach out. Don’t wait until the tears blind you. Trust me.

In an attempt to take my own advice, I did give in this week and invited some friends over for our South Korean Global Table. As our screaming hot bowls of sesame oil crackled under the addition of rice, everyone’s eyes got big and we shared a moment of awe. It was fun, a little scary, and delicious. By the end of the evening we were a little closer and the world felt just a little bit smaller – a little bit friendlier.


Bibimbap [Recipe] made with Korean Saute Sauce [Recipe]

What I liked most about this dish:

Using the special bowls was the best part of the bibimbap – I want to serve all my food in sizzling hot stone bowls. Even after sitting there thirty minutes, the bowls were still warm to the touch – the food never got cold. I highly recommend buying a set – they aren’t very expensive. I paid about seven dollars each for mine. (Side point – while also from the Korean market, the one pictured is a large soup bowl, but in the video you’ll see the bowls we actually used).

What I liked least about this dish:

Just one thing – the bowls were so hot they burned rings into my potholders. I would be very careful what you put the bowls on – a trivet is probably your best bet. If you have a woodworker in your home, you could even make 1/2″ wooden blocks to set the bowls on.

Quick, Magical Kimchee [Recipe]

What I liked most about this dish:

First of all, this is a uniquely simple dish to throw together. While the idea of so much shrimp paste did not excite me, I was pleasantly surprised at the sweet aroma. In addition, other than chopping, grating tossing, the hardest part was waiting.

What I liked least about this dish:

I was not looking forward to having Keith, my Mr. Picky, try this one. The best thing to do when having someone try fishy-tasting food for the first time is to serve it with fish. This way, the entire shock of it is diminished.

Ava’s Corner:


  1. Pingback: Global Table Adventure | Monday Meal Review: Kosovo

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