Got Kimchee?

“I sustain myself with the love of family.” – Maya Angelou

I was raised by in the Land of Cream of Mushroom Soup and Hamburger Hotdish and so,  for this Scandinavian girl,  Kimchee, a Korean side dish made from fermented cabbage and radishes laced with red peppers and garlic and buried in a crock in the ground for months is, well, a culinary stretch, to say the least.

We have just returned from a week at culture camp (www.kampkimchee.org) and I’m happy to report that I dodged the kimchee bullet for one more year.  When I was a younger mom, I used to put a little on my plate every day at lunch.  I guess it was my feeble attempt to appear tolerant and adventurous and at least somewhat “with it” culturally in front of the rest of the parents who were actually eating and enjoying it.  Then, I’d make pleasant conversation and eat around it.   When lunch was over,  I’d rush to put my napkin on top of it before throwing my plate in the garbage can.  This worked unless I happened to be having lunch with one of my brown-eyed darlings who were masters at hiding things THEY didn’t want to eat on their plates at home and would say (loudly)  “Mom!  You didn’t eat your KIMCHEE!!!!!!  You need to try it!” while I stammered and blushed and cursed the slimy mound of wet cabbage bubbling and giving off toxic fumes under the napkin, mocking me.

Through the years, I have grown to love and even crave many of the  Korean dishes that are served at Kamp.  Gochujang, a condiment made of red pepper paste,  tender, grilled strips of beef called bulgogi,  shiny black beans, and other delicacies that I would never have tasted had it not been for Kamp are some of my favorites now.   But Kimchee?  I’ve tried to like it, really I have.  Sorry, Korea.  Sorry, Kids.

I think I finally became okay with this parental flaw of mine when I realized a few years ago that it wasn’t the food, or the language lessons, or the fan dance that kept us coming back  to a tiny elementary school in Baxter, Minnesota every July for Kamp Kimchee.   It wasn’t the evening pizza parties or the waterparks or the meals out every night that made the week magical for my kids.

It was the friends who became like family through the years for us all.

In Minnesota, our family looks different from most families for 51 weeks  out of every year.  We are reminded of  this whenever we pull out of the driveway and venture out into the world.  However,  At Kamp, we match just fine.  For a week, nobody asks us if we are “together” when we are clearly together in a restaurant or a store.   For a week, sweet kindergartners are carried on the backs of handsome young men and lovely young women who were once kindergartners at Kamp themselves.  I am grateful to a group of adoptive parents who, more than three decades ago, had the foresight to dream and plan and work on a singular goal: to form a community for the kids they’d adopted and were raising in predominately white, rural communities in Minnesota.  That community lives on at Kamp Kimchee.

I have accepted the fact that I may never learn to love Kimchee… but because of this family, this community, I will always, always love Kamp.

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