Straight outta the garden!
Growing up Korean in New York City meant your diet was going to be Korean and everything else. I mean diverse. From lasagna and collards to japchae and oxtails––we ate everything! Making the most of our local A&P and faraway Chinatown fish stalls. Hence, the equation that explains it all: Mom’s global cooking + growing up in NYC = my open mind and open mouth. I love food. Period. From Oaxaca, Chengdu, Provence and Vietnam…it’s all good.
And from these diverse regions and climes, I verily admire the vital vegetarian traditions that spring up, most likely out of necessity, engendering genuine creativity in cooking the leaf, stalk and root. Much of the world lives moo, oink, and cluck-free leading me to believe that I could do the same. It’s a fantasy I have, that one day I will join the ranks of the bright, alert, healthy Vegetarians. Specifically, the non-judgmental Vegetarians. I have met too many of the Holier-Than-Thou variety and I am not interested. Vegetarians who wear leather shoes and tote around leather purses while lording their non-meat eating ways over you? What’s that all about? Why aren’t they wearing hemp shoes and toting around Channel Thirteen’s canvas tote bag if they care so much about not partaking of animal product? For reals.
I have a good relationship with vegetables. I’ve been a community gardener in Brooklyn for over 12 years and I know a bit of what goes into growing something to eat. It’s a perspective you can’t get just by pushing a cart down the supermarket aisle. And you don’t have to be a vegetarian to understand that your food choices have economic and environmental impacts: eat less meat and fewer resources go into processing it; buy your lettuce and radishes from small farmers who don’t grow with pesticides and support ecologically sound practices.
Koreans are hardcore farmers, in an ancient blood and sweat pact with the land that has sustained, and continues to sustain, their families and villages throughout these centuries. Even through the Japanese occupation when they were forced to give up three-quarters of their crop, they didn’t stop believing.
It’s a good thing to remind myself that I’m not an obligate carnivore like my cats, Leo and Sasha. I can take the steak off my plate to make room for more veggies. Well, I can try, can’t I?
P.S. Eat more veggies, namely zucchini, with this recipe.