As I lay in bed at night, my mind buzzes with the day's events, my to-do list for tomorrow, and something that always occupies my mind in the late hours of the night. You guessed it, food. I am not just talking about any plain old food here, I am talking about the food of foods. The food that puts all other foods to shame. Bibimbab (비빔밥), kimchi-jjigae (김치찌개), and jjajangmyeon (짜장면) are just a few, but the list goes on and on. I am definitely not exaggerating when I say that Korean food is delicious, ask any Korean and they will tell you straight up. If you have not tasted this magnificent delicacy you will not be living until you do.
Being Korean American, I have grown up eating Korean food my entire life. It became such a normalized aspect of my daily routine that it almost became second nature, it was almost all I ate. I did not realize the phenomenal impact food had on me, not only in my mood but also in my identity, until I came to college. At first, I was very open about eating in the dining hall and getting a real taste of that "American cuisine." After all, college is all about new experiences, right? It wasn't until I tasted the dining hall's impersonation of "Asian food" which basically consisted of dry "teriyaki" chicken and unseasoned crunchy soba noodles, that I began to realize how much I took home-cooked meals for granted.
If you were to perform a survey in which you asked college students their opinions on dining hall food, a majority would probably say that they've eaten better elsewhere. Because of the fact many people grow up eating a certain style of food, depending on their culture or where they grew up, a part of this preference for certain foods is also tied to their identity. For me, after eating authentic Korean food my entire life, it was strange to taste a different interpretation of what others consider "Asian food." I suppose the same goes to those who are Chinese and eat at an "American-style" Chinese buffet or Latino and try an "American-style" Mexican restaurant. Having lived in Seoul, South Korea most of my life, I also experienced similar situations there when eating at "westernized" restaurants. A Korean interpretation of an American burger tastes nothing like an American burger. We all have our own personal expectations of food and these expectations will not always be met because of the diversity of our preferences.
Photo by Maria Snodgrass
College students come to the realization very quickly that what they say is true, you really don't appreciate what you have until it's out of your reach. I have definitely gained a greater appreciation for Korean cuisine now that I am not able to eat it, and am counting down the days until I am able to indulge once again. My free time is definitely not spent googling images of "Korean food." In the meantime, I have chosen to make the most of my culinary experience while at college and opening up to different kinds of food, but definitely staying away from the "Asian" style for now. To all my fellow college students struggling out there, know that you are not alone, we all cannot wait for those home-cooked meals once again. But until then, try something you've never tried before, and make the most of your experience. Remember, there's always google images.