Kimchee Bokkeum Bahp (Fried Rice), Cleaning Out, and How I Spent My Summer Vacation, Part 1 of TBD

The memory has been stored in my mind, safe forever, like the last bit of kimchee in the dirty, cloudy jar at the back of the bottom shelf of the refrigerator.

And after sitting there all this time in my sick little psyche, it’s probably safe to say that the memory has fermented into just as fetid a gurgling, rotting mess as cabbage, pepper, and bacteria.

My Blood Runs Cold, My Memory…

He was laughing. Perhaps he thought it was actually funny. Or perhaps he was nervous that I might turn out to be some sort of freakish packrat cougar precougar who has trunks full of mix tapes and jean jackets with shoulder pads in the attic.

He was referring to a book in my bookshelf, and by the version number in the title, it was very clearly outdated. Not outdated in a charming, nostalgic, sentimental “this is my high school yearbook and I will probably look at page 134 again like I always do around this time of year to remind myself of what it was like to be a smart, PYT-in-my-own-mind cheerleader” way, but in a sad, clingy, melodramatic “10 year old textbook that is outdated before the class is even over because that’s how fast programming languages change” kind of way.

“You don’t throw anything out do you?” is what he said, pointing at HTML 4, copyright 1998.

No. No, I don’t throw anything out.

“We’re going to have to change that. I don’t live like that,” he said, laughing again. This time I knew exactly what kind of laugh it was, but back then, I guess I just let myself ignore it.

Later, he would mention the CRT computer monitor in the corner of my bedroom, the stereo with dual cassette deck, the six bridesmaid dresses, my baby blanket “binkie,” each subsequent mention with increasing irritation.

Saving Private Writing

I have kept so much more than I should, so much more than any sane person would. I am not sure why I hold onto things so tightly and for so long, but that is part of a long, twisted therapy session I award its own blog post about “abandonment issues” rooted in teenage years spent almost entirely in isolation. Sure, I’ve gotten rid of a few things here and there. I just have a particularly clingy attachment to products of my education – from books *ahem* to lecture notes to exam booklets to reports to essays. Particularly essays.

They are words that I have written and I guess I like to hold onto those.


Pintxo, my group’s business plan for an LA tapas restaurant at Anderson? In a D-ring binder, bottom shelf of bookcase.

Guns and Butter: The Perfect Recipe for Economic Growth, a term paper for my major at Cal? File cabinet, passenger side of my bed.

Sir Gatsby and the Green Light: A Thematic Comparison of The Great Gatsby and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight from 11th grade English? File box, top shelf, clothes closet. (I got an A. Obviously. Just the title alone…)

Every creative writing assignment from junior high? Every book report I ever wrote in elementary school, including the Call of the Wild report that my teacher read aloud in class and looking back now, I realize may be the single greatest academic achievement of my entire life?!

Buck my life.


I kept them, still have them all, but there is one essay I do not have. Don’t be so quick to point that finger of inconsistent hypocrisy at me! I kept all *my* writings. I don’t have this one because I never wrote a “What I Did on My Summer Vacation” essay. (Did you really think I would have written such a glorious history at any time in my illustrious child- and early adulthood and at some point discarded it?!) Not sure why any of the many, many school systems in which I spent short, stability-reducing periods of time never made that a standard essay to ease students back into the classroom.

But, eh.

So, anyway, I’m writing it now.

How I Spent My Summer Fake-ation

Of course, I realize that it is technically no longer summer in LA. It is, however, summer somewhere, some-southern-hemispherical-where…where they’re eating panzanella. Let’s also be real. Realistically, it is year-round summer in LA, save that one day in late January when it is 50 degrees during the daytime.

And it rains.

Okay, sprinkles. And even “when it sprinkles,” that’s just cupcakes, because let’s really be real now. There is no precipitation in this urban desert that is LA.

But! I am reserving those precious thoughts of LA weather for a future post entitled “Eternal Flaming Fountain of Youth Syndrome,” and return to the lecture at hand, which is “How Sarah Spent 2009 Summer Fake-ation.”

Summer started on June 21 then unraveled for three months thereafter, accordingly:

  1. Celebrated my thirty-*cough cough* th birthday
  2. Launched the first ever direct ad campaign on TasteSpotting
  3. Applied for my dream job
  4. Had my job dreams crushed
  5. Spoke on a panel at the Dwell on Design Conference
  6. Showed up for Jury Duty
  7. Attended a (blogger) Prom
  8. Exploded out of the blogging closet
  9. Got sick
  10. Retreated back into the blogging closet
  11. Mourned my grandmother’s passing
  12. Planned a baby shower
  13. Welcomed my new nephew
  14. Interviewed Frank Bruni

Posts about these somewhat notable events are sure to come. Maybe. At the very least, I’ve got to write about the adventure that was jury duty. I almost got arrested at the Airport Courthouse. It involved Tapatio.

Oh, now you’re paying attention!

…My Memory Has Just Been Sold. Or at Least Recycled.

Parallel to the stream of (surprisingly few) singular events of Summer 2009, there was that slightly erratic undercurrent of “regular life.” I spent time with family. I met a lot of people, made new friends, got reacquainted with old friends, for one is silver and the other gold…I cooked a little. I dined out a lot. I worked harder than I’ve ever worked in my life.

And I threw out a lot of “things.”

The first pass was through my clothes closet. Though it was easy to clean out, I almost destroyed my couture confidence when a secondhand store rejected the four foot high stack of semi-designer jeans as “not very stylish.” So, they were at least 10 years old. Have they never heard of “retro?!” But it hurt even more to hand over to Goodwill what was the equivalent of three thousand dollars-worth of denim when new.

The computer monitor was gone with the second rev a few weekends later, which included other electronics that I had to convince myself would never sell for more than a shipping cost on eBay. I balked at myself, “What do I mean no one will want this Palm Pilot? It was the top of the line…in 2001!”

It was difficult to let go, but I eventually tossed it onto the Out pile.

The third cycle started some time in late August with plastic trash bags and a paper shredder. I attacked every file cabinet in my house, sneezing through decade-old dust that lay like a protective trapper keeper cover over all my papers. I pulled out course syllabi, lecture notes, scantrons and shredded them semester at a time. I was the picture of textbook efficiency. Literally. I pulled every textbook out of the bookshelf and, well, okay, I couldn’t do it. I slid most of them right back into their same spot on the shelf. I mean, what if I need to some day look up the Hotelling model?!

I don’t trust this invisible “information highway” on the “internet.”

Never Forget, But Finally, Forgive

The last wave was the hardest. No, not “was”; it is the hardest, as I am still in the midst of it, albeit crouching at the tail end of the slow, cathartic tornado that actually started months before I ever stumbled across a box of cell phones that bore the logo for LA Cellular (pre-cursor to Cingular, the precursor to ATT), then spun nearly out of control at just about the same time as that paper purge. I shredded photographs, destroyed videos, and threw away almost every physical thing associated a relationship that took three months to end last summer, and eventually, yes, finally, a year to forgive.

“Things” are easy to discard. Things with some memory attached to them are not as easy. The memories themselves, impossible.

The memory will always stay with me. I never forget. Memories are eternal. It’s the unresolved emotions, the festering feelings, the leftover hurt haunting my head and all the other little chopped up pieces of my heart from that I finally pulled out of my life this summer and threw out.

But the HTML 4 book is still in my bookshelf.



Kimchee Bokkeum Bahp (Fried Rice) Recipe – 김치볶음밥

Though the whole point of kimchee is that it rots to the point of a food safety hazard, there may come a day when you have to “use it up” in order to free up that giant, near-empty jar’s airspace in the refrigerator. There are a few ways – aside from the lazylicious way of just eating straight out of the jar with and extra long pair of chopsticks – like kimchee jjigae, but Kimchee Bokkeum Bahp, or fried rice, aka the universal sign for “Asian leftovers,” has the added benefit of using up any and all leftover vegetables and meat that may be teetering on the edge of compost in your refrigerator.

Ingredients for Kimchee Bokkeum Bahp

3-4 tablespoons butter or cooking oil
enough kimchee, chopped
1 tsp minced garlic
½ onion, chopped
½ green onion, chopped
any other leftover vegetables you need to clean out of the fridge, chopped
any leftover cooked meat, chopped (bacon? spam? I used ham)
1 egg, lightly beaten
4-5 cups leftover cooked rice
2-3 tablespoons soy sauce
2-3 tablespoons kimchee juice (from jar)
drizzle of sesame oil
sesame seeds

Directions for Kimchee Bokkeum Bahp

In a large frying pan or wok, heat ~ 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat. Add chopped kimchee and saute until kimchee is cooked and looks (but isn’t actualy) “crisp” on the edges. Set cooked kimchee aside.

Heat another ~ 2-3 tablespoons of butter. Add garlic, onions, and green onions. Cook until soft. Add other chopped vegetables and cook until soft.

Add cooked kimchee and leftover rice to pan. Pour egg on top, and stir fry gently but quickly to combine rice with kimchee and vegetables, coat the rice with egg, and heat rice through.

At some point during stir frying, add the soy sauce. Just before removing from heat, drizzle once with sesame oil and sprinkle with sesame seeds.


Make More Kimchee Bokkeum Bahp Around the Web:

~ Mattatouille uses butter in his version
~ Food and Wine has a very simple recipe from Julia Yoon, who runs Seoul on Wheels Korean Food Truck in SF
~ Maangchi includes a recipe for bulgogi
~ in the Japanese “chahan” style, eggs and rice are combined first (more similar to how my Mom does it)
~ one word: bacon. ok, two words: bacon + spam at TastyMealsAtHome

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  • Jacqueline Church

    Nice story telling, and I had to laugh at: fried rice, aka the universal sign for “Asian leftovers,” – even the Aunties laugh and shake their heads at the MIL’s “Holiday Fried Rice” which surprised me. Munch, munch…”Um, Mom are there CRANBERRIES in here?” She did the non-answer laugh.

    But at least now I know two things: 1) I should be in charge of holiday leftovers; 2) what to do with that little last bit of kimchee that was soo good I can’t throw it away but maybe it’s not good enough to just enjoy with hot bowl of rice.

    See we can teach old dogs new tricks.

  • Sarah J. Gim

    ah, but the last bit of kimchee with bowl of plain rice IS a delicious thing!

  • TAO

    Kimchee has always vexed me. I know I stand with the vast mass of people afraid of it. It’s not like there isn’t good reason, some are alluded too (“rots”, “safety hazard”…wait, that’s not alluding!) in the article above. Still, I get this feeling that I’m missing something. Every fiber of my being is yelling “NO!” at me when I think such a thought. Well, not quite every fiber. There’s this rather squirrely fiber, more like a filament, that likes to swim against the…er…fiber current. It’s the one that made me like blood sausage and it doesn’t let me forget that. Luckily I’ll not have to make this decision for a long time since the nearest Korean food is probably a line of longitude away from me.

  • Sarah J. Gim

    TAO: i like to think of kimchee as a spicy sauerkraut – which basically, it is. of course, don’t force yourself to like it. it is not possible for a person to like everything. personally, i have likely the same reaction to southeast asian fish sauce that you have to kimchee.

  • jo

    If cleaning out the fridge produces such a delicious concoction, I had better start cleaning mine out too. Delicious fried rice.

  • Sarah J. Gim

    jo: just as long as your fried rice doesnt have, oh, say, leftover salami, quince paste, and brie cheese, which is what is leftover in my refrigerator right now.

    wait, WHO SAYS you can’t have salami fried rice?!

  • e*starLA

    Sarah I LOVE kimchee fly lyce.

  • Tangled Noodle

    Givin’ your kimchee fried rice some love! 8-D This dish is a perfect way to build up a taste for kimchee.

    I can’t bear to part with anything – if it weren’t for my husband, I’d eventually turn into one of those hoarders on TLC or the Tyra Show (or is it Dr. Phil?) You’re right that memories can’t be discarded but sometimes, it’s nice to be able to hold the material object while you reminisce.

  • Sarah J. Gim

    e* ~ from now on, i am reading you in the e*star-ese accent.

  • Sarah J. Gim

    Tangled Noodle: that is exactly something i had written out in even further, excruciatingly painful detail at the end — about how some “things” are the only representation of a memory so you HAVE to keep them, e.g. photos, words, etc. — but the post got so long, I felt like I was writing a master’s thesis.

  • MyLastBite

    Dear S.
    The next time you visit my humble abode, do NOT look at the top shelf of closet near my desk… 15 years of html books, software and even Zip drives I can’t seem to part with… poor Peter!

    And, now I’m hungry.

  • Sarah J. Gim

    MyLastBite: at least you’re progressive enought o have zip drives. there is a stack of 3.5″ floppy disks on my desk in the bedroom. i don’t know why i can’t throw them away. maybe because i am afraid of what’s on there but dont have any way of finding out. i mean, who still has a 3.5 floppy drive?!

  • Craig

    I grew up in a family where my dad made fried rice and put ketchup on it, while the hot saltiness of the rice mixes well with ketchup, most people I tell this too, recoil in terror over the combination.

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