Monday, October 04, 2010

Where's all the kimchi??

The other day I breezed through my cafeteria's buffet line, filling my tray with the usual rice, soup, and usual assorted side dishes. When I reached the end of the table, I was confused. Had I missed the kimchi? I went back for a second look. It wasn't there. The other teachers must have eaten it all, I thought. I checked the student line. Still I found nothing. A wave of disappointment crept through my body. I've been in Korea too long, I decided.

Kimchi is, needless to say, a staple of the Korean diet. They don't eat meals without it. It's taken for granted that when you visit a Korean restaurant, you will be given a never-ending side dish of kimchi. It was unnerving to see a Korean meal without the fermented dish. When I sat down I asked another teacher about it. "Kimchi has gotten too expensive these days," she said. "The school can't afford it." More expensive than pork? I asked. It was one of the side dishes that day. She told me people are joking that when you go to a restaurant, you order kimchi and they give you samgyeopsal (roasted pork) for free.

I've heard two theories about the recent skyrocketing in price.

1. Typhoon season destroyed a lot of the cabbage and lettuce crops.
2. President Lee's "Four Rivers Project" is razing the countryside and causing too much degradation of farmland and nature.

Whatever the reason, I miss my kimchi.

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