For those of you who follow our blog, you may remember a woeful post I wrote about a year ago lamenting the difficulties of procuring a decent meal in our then-new city. Perhaps it was because I was pregnant, hormonal, and constantly hungry but, cooking was the biggest culture shock that I experienced upon moving to Korea. For whatever reason, I suddenly felt lost without my Pillsbury crescent rolls and pre-bagged salads. I wandered the grocery aisles panic-stricken looking for something from my dinner arsenal: Bisquick, basil, buttermilk… and that’s just the B’s! Soy sauce, yes. Rice, most definitely. But, rice soaked in soy sauce doesn’t actually taste that great, no matter how you prepare it. Trust me. So, dinner for the first few months of our time here vacillated between spaghetti, stir fry, soup, and probably spaghetti again.
I used to love cooking. That love is probably more deeply rooted in my more passionate love for eating. When we lived in the States, I used to enjoy going to the grocery store and dreaming about what we might have for dinner. Foodnetwork.com and allrecipes.com frequented my browsing history. But, moving abroad changed that. Filled with recipes including boxed cake mix, canned soups and ready-made bread dough, searching for dinner options simply reminded me of everything I couldn’t find in my Korean grocery store.
But then, slowly but surely, something began to happen. Really, it started with my mom’s visit when the babies came. She would go down to the same grocery store whose name had become synonymous with anxiety for me and come back able to prepare a variety of delicious meals, not one of them spaghetti. So that inspired me to experiment. I started to ask around and see what other ladies put on their tables and what recipes worked for them. I wasn’t too surprised to learn that, instead of Pillsbury and Bisquick, most ladies’ recipe boxes were filled with recipes that actually included flour and yeast. The words “from scratch” had always carried an imposing connotation for me. Anything made at home had to have taken hours of laborious measuring, kneading and mixing to produce the pristine final product that grandmothers around the world would be proud of. But, I decided to give it a go. A good friend offered a bread recipe that promised to be easy and versatile. You know what? It was easy! I was inspired. What else do I need from my American grocer that I can make here? Bread, done. Pie crust? A cinch. Cake and icing? Simple. Buttermilk… well, okay that one didn’t turn out as well but at least I tried. I even went so far as to try my hand at home made puffed pastry last weekend. I don’t think I am selling the recipe to Pepperidge Farm any time soon but it did the trick.
I am happy to say that allrecipes.com has once again reached the top ten browsing history and the kitchen has returned to its former glory of “happy place”. A happy kitchen means happy bellies. Happy bellies means a happy family. In conclusion, homemade bread = happiness.