Korean name for water parsley is “mi-na-ri.” Minari is a sign of spring. When you see dishes made of minari on the table, you know that spring has come.
New school year starts in March in South Korea. Forsythia starts bloom everywhere. Everything feels spring even if the weather is still a bit chilly. I went home, South Korea, this year in March. Taking advantage of the fact that I’d left my regular office job past November, I went for a whole month. I got to see spring flowers bloom, people put their heavy winter coats away, and surely ate lots of dishes made of minari.
Water parsley pancakes (minari jun) taste like spring. Fresh, light, a little airy, and juicy. It’s not that it’s especially yummy, but just the fact that it’s on the table makes you think, “Oh, it’s spring…finally!”
This would be probably one of my earliest memories – looking at my mom enjoying a piece of morning quietness with her late breakfast after my dad went to work and my sister went to school. It was before I started kindergarten, so it must have been one of those days she didn’t go to work. Her breakfast was often very very simple. A piece of white bread, dipped in coffee. Just a plain white bread, not toasted, with no jam or butter, no cheese or ham. Even as a kid, I thought it didn’t look delicious at all. When I asked mom why she was having it, she smiled and answered “This is most delicious.”
After years and years and years passed, out of nowhere, not knowing why, sitting alone at the kitchen table in Queens of my current home, I tried what my mom used to have – a piece of plain bread dipped in coffee. Coffee had to be made with instant coffee, prima, and sugar. And that – was delicious.
Plain bread soaked in sweet coffee must be a bit similar to dunking a sweet donut in black coffee, which a lot of people enjoy, but the former somehow has a bit more modest and fragile sentimentality. Donut doesn’t break when it’s dunked in coffee. It holds itself strong enough. But a sliced bread, thin and often fluffy, has only a few seconds of chance to hold between getting soaked in coffee and landing safely in the mouth. But when it does land in the mouth, you can taste the softest and sweetest, melting in the mouth, coffee soaked piece of bread. Most delicious.
As the name of this blog suggests, I usually draw based on my memories. I want to say I’m not that nostalgic, but rather very future-oriented, or at least present-oriented. But in truth, I can’t deny I actually am very nostalgic. Hence, I draw food related to my favorite memories, re-living the moment.
But this time, what I draw, Chicken Soup – or Chicken Porridge, in Korean name, is what I was very longing for less than a week ago, and still kind of. Out of the blue, I came down with this horrific flu last weekend and suffered for almost an entire week quite intensely. For first couple days, I couldn’t really eat and had a zero appetite, but I knew I had to put something in my stomach in order to have some medicine at least. I longed for something soft, warm, and nutritious that will go easy with my flipped stomach. It wasn’t until later that I remembered this chicken porridge my mom used to make.
You use a whole chicken for a pot of chicken porridge. After boiling it for a very long time, with rice and some cloves of garlic, you cool the chicken down and tear it into smaller pieces. By the time the porridge is done, chicken is so soft, it melts in your mouth. You can go as fancy as you want, adding all sorts of ingredients to the porridge, but my mom’s chicken porridge was simple, basic, and so delicious. Just a simple bowl of white porridge, with almost no seasoning. We would have a small bowl of salt and pepper mixed, on the table, so that we can season our porridge to our own taste. Kimchi is always a nice addition to the porridge.
I’m 100% well now, but this time, I decided to draw this delicious simple meal that I wanted to have! Since I’m not big on cooking, drawing out something I want to have does give me a satisfaction of actually eating it – in a way. 🙂
Things didn’t go quite as I had planned, but I stuck to my original schedule and went to Korea. I arrived on Monday evening, and three weeks later, I left on Sunday morning. It was the most relaxing and happy time I had in a very long time. Partly because I was under a lot of stress, it really comforted me to be with my family who loved me unconditionally and it cheered me greatly to reunite with friends who were always there for me. It was the priceless trip during which I rested thoroughly and this would support me throughout my life as some of the previous trips had.
Most of all, having breakfast each morning with my mom sitting at the kitchen table was my favorite time. Most of days, our breakfast was consisted with a homemade toast (mighty bread machine), a perfectly boiled egg (mom had her system), butter and homemade fig jam, couple of fresh strawberries, and a cup of instant coffee. The simplest, the heartiest, the most delicious. Having this delicious breakfast with mom while the sunshine sipped through the window was the food for my body and soul that I would never forget.