When life gives you kimchi

by Alissa

Ace spent 18 days in Korea in August. He hobnobbed with the international mathies and video chatted with us while eating sweet bean buns and room service bibimbap.

In math culture highlights, he attended the award ceremony for the Fields Medal, where the first female recipient received her prize (given to mathematicians under 40 with extraordinary achievements) from Korea’s president (also female).

And he ate 64 meals in a row made by someone else. Not that that’s novel for him, but I was counting. Plus, all that kimchi!

Meanwhile, I spiralled into blunt survival mode with the small people. On day one, we made a calendar to mark the days. Each night we all went to bed at 8. On day three, I started feeding the baby solids most of a month earlier than recommended because she was vaguely interested and I needed an avocado’s worth of physical relief. I stopped driving, so as not to be a traffic hazard with my sleep deficit and car-sad baby. Days 5-8 I contemplated flying alone to Europe with the girls and felt briefly empowered. Day 11 I realised that those 40 hours awake and nursing would be disastrous. Day 12 I felt very sad and utterly stuck. Then we worked upward toward Ace’s return.

We had another long stint where Ace was away for work this year, but my mother came and kept us fed and laundered and O entertained and me Scrabbled and essay writing for six weeks. We missed him sorely, but it was the most rest I have had since that time O and I moved in with Emily and Dan in transit to Oz. Two grown ups at home all day is truly a gift.

18 days solo-parenting was absurd. What started out as a maybe 10 day trip turned into a double conference plus an add on turned into 18 day tickets before either of us really realised what was involved.

What saved me: My friend Jo delivered a vat of butter chicken that lasted the better part of a week, and my friend Shinko brought us homemade sushi.

What saved Ace: He came home with a hanbok gown for O (“They will think I’m Korean!”), and a sampler pack of assorted kimchi for me.

For the record, Ace thinks my mother’s kimchi-esque kraut is better than anything he had in Korea. It is delicious. But O and I have deeply enjoyed nibbling on the things he brought home.

Best of all, we made kimchi pancakes yesterday. Sour and golden, warm and crispy with pungent kimchi bites. These ones turned out fairly standard pancake textured, between the kimchi and cheese inclusions. If you like something more crepe-like or closer to an omelette, add less flour, more egg.

Kimchi Pancakes
1 c kimchi
1/3 c flour
2 eggs,
long splash of water
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 c cheddar bits (probably not traditional, but it seemed like the right thing to do at the time)

Mix egg and flour, add water to pancake batter consistency. Add soda, stir through kimchi and optional cheese. Heat butter in pan and cook your cakes a couple of minutes on each side, turning when golden.