Today’s writing challenge response comes from Julia Ahn, age 12.
Julia took the challenge from our March 2020 Ink Splat with Ernesto Cisneros. The challenge said:
Take a sheet of paper and fold it in half. Now take THREE minutes to complete a list of some of your favorite foods. Then, on the other half, record all the memories you associated with each item. You will probably discover that your favorite foods are somehow connected/associated to your favorite memories. With that said, you are now free to write a scene including that food item. Notice how much more meaningful the item now becomes.
The air in the house is thick with smoke – the good kind, the kind that appears when you’re grilling meat – and the tantalizing scent of sweet, garlicky Korean beef ribs, kalbi, cooking on the stove pervades the house. I inhale deeply, then exhale. Golden evening sunlight cuts through the haze.
There’s the clink! as chopsticks and spoons and plates and glass cups filled to the top with ice cold water are set down on the wooden table. The dishes are cool in my hands, and begin to fog up from the heat and smoke and moisture that hangs around me. I set them down gently, not wanting to be too loud.
My siblings… are not so careful.
Once all the places have been set, rice – called bap in Korean – on each plate, napkins and all, the food is put out.
Steaming plates of caramelized meat and the banchan: the little side dishes. Delicious fermented spicy cabbage kimchi. Sliced cucumbers. Braised bean sprouts with sesame seeds and green onion called kongnamul. Gim – roasted seaweed to wrap rice in and devour.
It’s a feast.
We’ll be eating this for days, I think. As it always is with Korean dinners.
My family and I each take our seats. Dad clasps his hands.
“Anyone want to pray?” I start to raise my hand, then lower it. Not really… “Ok, I’ll do it,” he says. We close our eyes and bow our heads, and I peek and see my 3-year- old brother, eyes open wide, making funny faces while standing on his chair. I giggle quietly. Dad says, “Amen”, then we dig in.
The meat is still hot, but my sister’s already taken the tongs, so I grab the kalbi ribs with my bare fingers, though it’s still burning hot.
I heap banchan on my plate and stack gim next to my rice.
Then I take the first bite – mm, heaven. The grilled sliced beef ribs are tender and sweet and salty all at once, and I pick off the bits of meat from the bones when I’m done, then shove kongnamul and bap and gim and kimchi in my mouth.
“Compliments to the chef,” I tell my parents around my mouthful of food, and Mom smiles.
“Why, thank you.”