on kimchi


JEJU-DO—I’ve been meaning to respond to a reader of my post on weird Korean stuff, who suggested that I should have included kimchi. There’s a good reason I didn’t. For every item on that list, I’m sure you could find at least a few Koreans to vouch for its weirdness—someone to say, “Listen, I agree with you: It’s a little off that my kid wants to stick his finger up your ass.”

I don’t believe there is a Korean person alive or dead who would concede that kimchi is weird. Nor, having lived in Korea for more than a year, am I able to do so. (Smelly, yes; weird, no.) In Korea, kimchi is more than a foodstuff. It’s a national icon, a cultural treasure, a palpable expression of the country’s feisty spirit and determination throughout history to grow and protect its own unique soul—to resist wholesale assimilation into the more megalithic cultures of Asia, through culinary defense. It’s a cure-all, a protective shield, a magic balm and a goddess of plenty. Without kimchi, Korea would not be the same country—there might be a nation in the same place, and it might even be called the same thing, but it would not be Korea.

more from The Walrus here.