Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Kimchi Inspiration

Half-black, Half-Korean ... No. I don't have any children. That's one of the many descriptors I've been using to describe the lovely Mrs. Marja Vongerichten (the other descriptors include The Kimchi Chronicles and Jean-Gorges). Although Ryan had met her previously, I had the pleasure of meeting her briefly at an event promoting The Kimchi Chronicles at The Korea Society in NYC. What an incredible woman with an amazing story... and funny too!

Her book, The Kimchi Chronicles: Korean Cooking for an American Kitchen, has been sitting in plain view since I arrived back home. I have it to blame for my intense cravings for Korean food this week; however, it has inspired me to really learn how to cook Korean cuisine. And this is coming from someone who, ashamedly, can burn a bag of popcorn. Everyone has his or her gifts...

I did buy a Korean cookbook previously. After all, I would like to be able to cook Korean dishes for Ryan one day, but that one sits in the cabinet with the other 2 American cookbooks that I own and have never used. Marja's book has not found its way to the back of the cabinet yet because I keep going back. Her book is just as personable as she is in real life!  I couldn't put it down when I first started reading it because in the introduction she shares her personal 'coming-of-age' story along with pictures. Call me nosy, but I was dying to know the details. I am dating a Korean-American boy after all. As I continued to turn the pages, there was something so enticing about the vividness of the beautiful food photography (see previous post regarding my love of photography) coupled with detailed, yet simple explanations of the seemingly foreign ingredients contextually placed within a familiar American setting. I thought, "I CAN DO THIS!" This is not just a cookbook... it is a storybook jam-packed with history, culture, and of course, many inviting recipes and accompanying pictures to make the perfect Korean drink and dish within my own home! 

 'How To Throw a Korean Picnic' is actually a page in her book! I took Ryan on his very 1st picnic in Central Park a little over a year ago. I attempted to do my part and make some small snacks, but the main course of our picnic was wings from KyoChon in K-town. See evidence below....

Not quite sure why I took this pic...

Little did I know our Korean-themed picnic might actually be legitimized one day with authentic dishes made by yours truly! 

Marja, I have you to thank! I never thought I'd be the type to win my man over with her cooking, but maybe... just maybe...

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

America the Beautiful(l of Diversity)

Over the past fortnight, I was reminded of how much diversity surrounds me in my everyday life. Mind you, as healthcare professionals, Nicole and I are no strangers to diversity, continuously dealing with a parade of patients from all different backgrounds, languages, smells, and socioeconomic status.

Speaking of parades, don't you think diversity makes them more robust, more fulfilling to watch? You pick one -- Mardi Gras or a Ku Klux Klan march? The Opening Ceremony of the Summer Olympics (the United Nations of athletes) or that march at the Winter Olympics (only those athletes who are -asian: Caucasian or East Asian)? Well, you get my point.

Having recently re-relocated to New York City, I was again reminded of the tremendous diversity here in this crazy metropolis. I was running late to a college admissions event, and I certainly did not want to deprive overly-ambitious high school kids (of all different colors and fashion styles, of course) from sucking up to me in the hopes of getting into my alma mater. So, like a good New Yorker, I hailed a cab. Sidebar: I was merely a volunteer without any say in admissions decisions, but it was funny to hear squeaky-voiced high schoolers suck up to me anyway.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

'Racist Cameras'...Still?

I LOVE pictures and the art of photography! However, I want to preface this post by saying that I admittedly know VERY little about photography. I am trying to pick up a few things here and there, but I do not claim to be an expert by any means. (There seems to be more science involved than I thought. I oftentimes crave the blissful ignorance of a point-and-shoot.) However, I can tell you that I noticed VERY early that even the art of photography is limited by its natural tendency to segment according to race and color. When helping shoot an after-prom party, it was really hard for me to capture the natural skin tones of the couples who were not of similar complexions. (...I also had to take many breaks because my weak wrist apparently couldn't take the weight of the lens.)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Pigmentation (Over)designation

If you had to describe yourself, what words, adjectives, or phrases would you use? Your age? Profession? Hometown? Alma mater? Religious background? Marital status? Height? Size of your private parts? Food allergies? Race and/or ethnicity?

Early on in our relationship, Nicole and I noticed how I (the 1.5-generation, 'model minority immigrant') always used "Korean" or "Korean-American" when describing myself to someone else. Similarly, I would always throw in her race ("Black" or "African-American") when I found myself describing her to a friend, a colleague, a stranger, a homeless dude on the street.

Often, a person's race or ethnicity has been, continues to be, and will most likely remain the FIRST adjective or descriptor (if not 2nd or 3rd, albeit only in those rare occasions when some other characteristic is so damn unique) I use in describing or referring to someone.

"Remember my friend Manny? The Hispanic kid you met a few months back, the one who quit law school to join a start up?"

"Yo man... Chan-soo has some crazy ups for a Korean kid."

Monday, June 20, 2011

"You don't shower everyday?"

Ryan: Did you shower?

Me: Of course I showered!

Ryan: But your hair isn't wet. How did you shower?

Me: Black women don't wash their hair everyday. It's not good for our hair.

Ryan: So you don't shower everyday?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

(Mis)matched Labels

"Don't rely too much on labels, for too often they are fables."

According to Charles Spurgeon, the famous 19th-century British evangelist who muttered the above words, labels were nothing but unreliable assumptions and oft-baseless fabrications. Labels, nevertheless, are also the very things we humans often use to characterize each another, are they not? You're fat and I'm skinny. She's an Ivy-Leaguer and he's a high school dropout. My neighbor is a closet racist and your janitor is an undocumented alien. So on and so forth...

But what happens when we deal with pairs or combinations of labels? Sometimes, mixing labels simply does not seem to work because they are a contradictio in terminis regarding our expectations and preconceived notions.

Some examples? An intelligent blonde sounds almost like an oxymoron, largely due to media and cultural slants. A bible-thumping liberal sounds strange, doesn't it? How about a Caucasian NYC cab driver or a Harvard grad working at McDonald's? Not exactly folks you run into on a daily basis. Better yet, how about an Asian guy dating a Black girl?

Friday, June 3, 2011

A Day in the Life

"His parents are going to hate you."

"Did you give up on black men?"

"Yeah, but is she really black?"

"Do you have Yellow Fever?"

"Don't worry. It's just a phase."

"Is he from North or South Korea?"