The best advice I can give
Friends, it’s been real. I’ve had a ball in Korea but the time has come for me to pack up my game and head out west — way west, back to the ol’ USA to be a full-time writer and, of course, to eat all the food: avocados and kalamata olives, kombucha, hummus, whole wheat flour and vegan cheese, lasagna and Cuban-spiced sweet potatoes and roasted beets will all be mine, along with a serious dose of real Mexican food — in the beginning it might be a daily thing, honestly — and one big fat bowl of Golden Grahams.
But returning to my homeland won’t come without losses, and one of the heftiest among those is my removal from your monthly Groove perusal. Who will I sass about pasta? When I get stupidly excited about leeks, who’ll be there to go, “Oh, totally, those are super sexy”? And donuts?! Who’s gonna eat ‘em all with me? I’ll miss you more than I can say, especially as I dream of you with a black plastic bag full of Korean food I’ll likely never taste again, all you living in a swank metropolis with your disposable income and your public transportation. It’s a good life.
Seoul Veggie Kitchen is officially closed, but before I go, let me spout a few tidbits I’ve learned from my own meandering experience. May they help keep your head on straight for at least a little longer:
Evidence touting the amazing magical qualities of breakfast has been mounting for years, but there are still people who haven’t figured this out yet. I won’t lay out all the reasons here — ahem, breakfast-eaters are way less likely to be fat — however, I will judge you for not making time to give your bod a life-giving bite when all it takes is an apple and a handful o’ nuts. Look into this. Don’t skip breakfast.
Stop obsessing about recipes
Some of the worst cooks I know are people who love their recipes, and the reason is simple: They haven’t learned anything. Anyone can follow a recipe step by step and feel great about it (in the beginning, you should! Most definitely!), but just like music, cooking is a hell of a lot more than ink on a page. Let yourself deviate, experiment, invent, create and express. Thinking about what you’re doing will make you a chef, a really, really good one.
Make friends with weird stuff
You already know that life in Korea depends on adaptation. Food is no exception to this rule, but I completely understand — some of the food here looks downright gross. Kimchi has a wet rag thing goin’ on sometimes, seaweed can easily be mistaken for a sodden sponge thing and is it just me, or does burdock root look exactly like muddy shoelaces? Yeah, it’s weird, but you need to get over it. Learn how to cook these oddities properly and make them a part of your foodie life; it’ll be a lot easier to say no to crap you don’t need when you’re feeling satisfied with the local cuisine. In the end, this is what expats do.
There’s nothing more important than eating. What else do you do three times a day, every day? Food is your essence, your whole friggin’ life, so do it up right. Never get so lost in the fray that you forget to feed yourself well. You’ll thank yourself later when you’re still healthy and nubile, still happy, still able to walk up the stairs without turning into a dripping mess or a cloudy-eyed crankster. So keep cooking, and all the world will be yours.