Right now, Korea is cold. We all knew that was going to happen soon enough, what with the winter months and all, but this is a kind of cold that pierces through any layers you have, and makes you shake. When I first arrived, I remember having a conversation or two about how the summer months were hot and humid, and the winter months cold and dry. This dry cold isn’t something I’m really used to, though. So much so, that I almost give up layering, and accept that I’m going to be cold when I walk outside. It’s a strange acceptance, but in no way an approval.
I’m not the only one that’s feeling the bitter blanket of winter; most of the conversations I hear around me – in the office, on the street, in the cafes – are all about how “Oh! It’s so cold! Cold cold cold.” Granted I assume that these pleasant strangers are talking about more than the temperature, but I know “cold” in Korean and it comes up quite frequently.
On some occasions, it’s been so cold that all I want to do is go to the little kitchen – not restaurant, rather a kitchen with a room attached with a TV, two tables, and three refrigerators, one of which I assume to be the owner’s personal fridge – across the street and grab a quick soup. Or rice. Or anything, really, for dinner. Not because I don’t want to cook, but rather because I don’t want to walk the six blocks from my apartment to the grocery store. And until yesterday, my refrigerator was home only to kimchi, garlic, and dwenjoeng paste. Am I lazy? Maybe. Or is my mind secretly protecting my body and keeping it warm? Less likely.
Last night, though, I didn’t want to just give in and buy a whole meal. Rather, I wanted, note wanted, to walk to the store, grab some produce, come home, and cook myself a dinner who’s smell would remain lingering in my apartment for hours and make me hungry throughout the night.
Fed up with monochromatic dinners of tofu, bean sprouts, eggs and rice, sweet potatoes, garlic, that is winter fare, I wanted to create spring on my plate. They say that the wind can put color in your cheeks, but Korean winter winds just make you numb. So why not have that winter wind put color on my plate?
Gathering some of the rainbow from the grocery store (as much as I could based the season), I came home thinking of the combinations of flavors, what spices I would toss in, and what sauce I might drizzle over the dish. Salt? Sure. Pepper? Of Course. Curry? Not tonight (no butter…). Soy Sauce? Haven’t had it in a while, why not.
What came out of a Spring-time plate in the dead of winter was chopping, dicing, sautéing, mixing, listening to Daughter’s “Run” (check it out, it’s a great song), carrots, broccoli, garlic, greens, yellow bell peppers, tofu, and soy sauce. The textures, and fresh flavors coming through in this simple dish were scarfed down in less than one chapter. I’d say I’m ready for Spring-time.