My earliest memory of food as an abstraction, as experience to be pursued, is the old “Great Chefs” shows from public broadcasting in States. A lone European man in sterling chef whites demonstrating how to make a dish my mouth and mind couldn’t comprehend. This far-off gaze continued as an infatuation with the original Japanese version of Iron Chef which led me to research sushi etiquette before diving in at the local hibachi chain’s sushi bar. I still remember the bar – it was shaped like a wooden boat. I’ve run after off-kilter food my entire life, undiscovered bites and the allure of the unknown fueling many a solo dining experience – all the better to chew on my thoughts.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to appreciate my home region of the American South a lot more. Fried chicken, BBQ, and meat-and-three were just Sunday food when I was a teen, food representative of Paula Dean and all the dumb backwardness I wanted to disavow. However, time and travel have helped me to truly cherish the food traditions of my home.
I’ve been living in Seoul for the better part of seven years as of writing this in 2019. Seoul is a mega-city with all the inherent possibilities. I’ve embraced the range and rhythms of eating of my adopted home. As happy to dislodge pork neck bones in gamjatang as I am to sit down to the Korean-Chinese trinity of jjajjang, jjambbong, and tangsukyuk, I eat and breathe like a Seoulite, right down to my often very powerful desires for Japanese ramen or a smashed patty burger. I do also appreciate haute-cuisine and if someone would like to pay me to eat it, I’m sure I could very ably describe the meal.
I’ve been a food writer here for over two years and was food and drink editor for over a year for Groove Korea, Seoul’s longest running English language print magazine. I also used to write about music for Tiny Mix Tapes. All of this is to say – “I like to eat and can describe it well enough.” Follow me and you won’t be hungry.