But no longer, because now I have my very own Kosovan version!
Not only is kimchi great as a side dish, but Sam and I also discovered that it makes the best taco topping in the entire universe. Behold: the Korean taco. Full of bulgogi-style beef and heaps of kimchi.
I apologize in advance for causing you to covet.
Before the glory of those Korean tacos, I had to wait a week for my kimchi to ferment. It sat on my counter in a big glass jar, getting bubbly and delicious. And every morning, I checked on it, pressed the cabbage down into the brine, smelled the ripening flavors.
The scent brought me back to South Korea. During our sophomore year of college, my friend Sharon invited me to travel to Seoul with her. It was one of the most eye-opening experience of my life.
Though I'd traveled abroad before and had a keen interest in racial and cultural relations, when I arrived in Korea I soon realized just how little I knew. First of all, I knew nothing about being a racial minority. I was shocked by how self-conscious I became, how desperately I wanted to stop being the tall, short-haired white girl. Though I knew my situation was temporary, and though Korean women regularly told me what beautiful skin I had, I felt enormously awkward.
And then there was the culture. Sharon's tactful translation saved me from many a verbal faux pas, but nothing could hide the fact that I was totally out of my element. What surprised me even more than how helpless I felt was how angry that made me. I tried to brush it aside, knowing how ridiculous and pouty I was becoming, but it wouldn't budge.
It was then and there that I got a good look at myself: white, American, privileged, and entitled to being informed and in control. At all times. Or else.
All my life, I have had white privilege and Western privilege, and sometimes that makes me do stupid things.
I hate that this is true, but it is. I have been insensitive, ignorant, and downright arrogant. I have assumed that I knew what was best for people, even if I had no previous cultural or racial understanding of them. I have insisted upon my way and allowed others to be uncomfortable, because I didn't want to be uncomfortable.
And I'm really sorry. For the small part that I see, and for the blind spots I have yet to uncover.
I could spend the rest of my life working towards this one thing. And I hope that I do, because it's so important.
Kimchi isn't made in one day. You have to let the ingredients sit together, all squished up in each other's space, for a long time. And then you get something beautiful. Something special.
With people, it's not so different. We need time in each other's space. We need to have our egos fermented away. But eventually, beautiful friendships can develop. Ones in which everyone is thriving and nobody is getting boxed in.
I hope that you, like me, want to work towards that. Starting in our own hearts.
May you have abundant grace in the process, and maybe a little kimchi as well. (It helps, I promise.)