Hands at 81

MPH that is!

My aunt at 81 is a powerhouse, especially her hands.  She still makes her own kimchi, cleans the living daylights out of dishes, still washes her clothes by hand, and will always make me a little something to eat when I come to visit…

In the Garden of Noodle

Like a mountain of noodles! (Make it yourself by checking out my post, My Darling, My Noodle)

She approaches her cooking as she does her life with a finesse and grace that feels very Old World, most likely manifested from a life full of joy and tragedy, not always in equal measure with the latter oftentimes taking the lead.

I am the closest family she has left besides my mother and, since August of last year, I have been taking over many aspects of her life: arranging doctor’s visits, filling out paperwork old people need filled out, talking to all the agencies that offer senior services, buying and schlepping up groceries to her apartment in the Bronx, and whatever else there is to get done.

She is mostly appreciative of all that, but she is also rueful of having to relinquish these aspects of her life.  And the things that were once routine are a bigger deal now.  Like getting an eye exam. I took her to get one last week and lived to regret it. Mostly because the hospital had us waiting for 2 hours, a by-product of over booking patients (duh, don’t do that!)  And when it was our turn, she refused to let the attending doctor put in any eyedrops, storming out of the examination room leaving me and her rollator in the dust.  All that we really found out that day is that my aunt is not seeing 20/20 like she’s constantly insisting…oh, far from it.

No stoppin' her!

No stoppin’ her!

Neither am I seeing 20/20 in this business of taking care of my Old Ladies.  It’s easier to keep us all busy with grocery shopping and appointments rather than to focus on the road that we’re on, the road that leads us into the (near) future where more aspects of my aunt’s life will be given over to me, given over to time.

In the meantime, here is my aunt’s recipe for Japanese radish kimchi:

The ingredients

1 bunch of Japanese radish

2-3 cloves of garlic, slivered or sliced

red pepper flakes (Korean or the kind you sprinkle over your pizza)

sugar, about two spoonfuls

salt, about one spoonful

water, about 1/8-1/4 cup

fermented shrimp paste, about one spoonful, optional

The steps

1. Wash your radishes before peeling and trim off any yellowed/browned patches on the tops (my aunt would think me remiss if I didn’t advise you of this step). Slice off the radish greens and chop them up, then slice your radish.

2. In a large bowl put in both radish, greens and garlic.  Sprinkle with salt and mix.  Add sugar and mix.  Add red pepper powder and mix.  Pour in the water and mix.*  Add your shrimp paste if using. My aunt uses her hands (in rubber gloves)––never a spoon––to mix her kimchi and I advise you do the same. It’s the best way for radishes and greens to get coated in the marinade. She also tastes along the way to guard against blandness and I think that’s a good idea, too.

*Note: I’ve also seen my aunt dissolve the salt into the water before adding.

3. Put your radish mixture into your kimchi danji if you have one or large glass jar with a lid that’s tight (I recommend a Bormioli Rocco Fido Glass Canning Jar, a liter and a half is plenty of room for a large bunch of radish).

4. Let sit at room temperature for about 3-5 days and then finish the process in the refrigerator.  My aunt starts eating hers after about a week, but you can wait longer if you’d like.


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