Have you ever seen a food item that you didn’t recognize? A rush of curiosity (and sometimes fear) can overwhelm you as you ask yourself “Should I try it?” Oftentimes fermented foods, or foods that are processed using bacteria, are divisive for their pungent smells and flavors. We’re talking sauerkraut, kombucha, cheese, and if you’re at a Korean restaurant – Kimchi.
Kimchi is a staple Korean dish consisting of fermented vegetables (often cabbage) known for its fiery flavor and health benefits. There are hundreds of varieties of Kimchi which can be prepared in different ways.
Growing up in Korea, I used to eat Kimchi with nearly every meal, with every batch having its own unique nuances of flavor.
On our third show of Innovator’s Kitchen, Eliza makes a traditional kimchi out of cabbage as we reflect on Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. We draw lessons on embracing new experiences and letting curiosity triumph over fear.
We present to you from our May Menu, Homemade Kimchi!
Eliza chose to make Kimchi not just to connect me to my roots (sorry mom, I didn’t know how to make kimchi until this episode), but because to her, kimchi represents moments in her life where she learned to approach things with curiosity and excitement.
In our chat, Eliza revealed that the first time she tried Asian food was at a sushi restaurant with her dad who intentionally ordered the most exotic dishes to her, as a Pennsylvania native.
She talks about how her curiosity was running wild as roll after roll of unique textures, flavors, variety hit her plate, and shared that while she was a bit nervous, she was more curious!
I was particularly inspired by Eliza’s ability to let her curiosity triumph fear of the unknown, or different. And as someone who is so weary of raw fish that my family jokes that bringing me to a sushi restaurant will be cheap (because I won’t order a lot), I was also inspired by how Eliza brought the same curiosity to Innovator’s Kitchen that she had at the sushi restaurant to her work as a chef.
We often do that to ourselves don’t we? We let fear of our work, things, or even people manifest itself into truth.
We all have the capacity for fear, but we also have the capacity for curiosity, which should always come first when approaching a challenge or something different.
As Eliza chopped away at the cabbage, telling her story about her experiences with Asian cuisine, I could not help but be reminded of my own culture shock coming to the states.
Eating at U.S. dining halls, where steak and potatoes replaced the vegetable-filled Korean cuisines I was used to, was a shock! It reminded me just how influential food is in our everyday life perceptions
We’re all running through work and life so fast that we often don’t take the time to think about our everyday meals. Let’s look at the things in our everyday routine — how can we inject a little more curiosity and diversify our experience? As Eliza shared, “The opposite of love is indifference. Being able to shake it up is what keeps you propelling forward.”
And as we celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, I hope it’s a reminder to diversify your experience intentionally and constantly.
At the end of this video, you might think “Yay! I know how to make kimchi!” But the truth of the matter is you’re only scratching the surface on the myriad of ways kimchi can be prepared and flavored. And that’s okay!
As Eliza shared, “I will never be able to be an expert at Asian cuisine – and the same can be said about people… there’s just so many nuances and differences.” The sensitivity and curiosity to understand more deeply will help, but it’s also equally important to know that we aren’t ever going to fully get it!
But as we celebrate AAPI Heritage Month, let’s toast to knowing that there’s always room to be more open, curious, and inquisitive, but also to being okay with not knowing everything.