My aunt is convinced that most Korean men do not know how to cook and it is up to the women in their lives to feed them. She may have been talking about some men of her generation who were dependent on their women to take over the cooking and other domestic duties while they were out bringing home the bacon. But this designating of roles among men and women is nothing new as we, most likely, got this behavior handed down to us from the days of the mastodon. It’s just our reaction to these gender roles that may have evolved since then.
It’s true that my mother did most of the cooking when I was growing up, but I remember my father putting dinner on the table on occasion and making his sujebi special whenever he was so moved. What I don’t have memories of is my mother demanding my father share more of the cooking duties as one might think would have been the case back in those Gloria Steinem ’70’s. Could be she didn’t have a problem with being in charge of dinner and I’m certainly glad for it.
Speaking of being in charge of dinner, I have been finding Lucinda Scala Quinn’s Mad Hungry: Feeding Men & Boys cookbook quite handy with its inspirational and practical recipes and tips for preparing the occasional non-Korean dinner (yes, sometimes I make other things). Her writings on the joys of feeding her men (3 sons, 1 husband) real, wholesome food made with everyday ingredients are touching and remind me of my mother. She’s even put in her own take on bibambap.
One of the things I like to make for the Boyfriend is a simple rice, egg and kimchi concoction which we ate a lot at my house. It is just as simple as putting those three ingredients together in any form you like. You top your rice with a sunny side up egg (or however it makes you comfortable) and serve alongside kimchi. I think it’s missing something without a drizzle of sesame oil and then there’s the soy sauce and sesame seeds to consider…the tomato slices were the Boyfriend’s idea and a pretty good one, too.
Or you can go for the egg drape effect…
Cooking for others, men or women, friends and lovers, is deeply satisfying. When I feed you stuff I grew up eating, I am sharing a bit of my history with you, revealing something of my true self. It’s my way of saying I trust and care about you.
I care about you.