Tuesday, July 28, 2009

reworking Mom's meals

As Mom's personal chef, I have to adapt to her changing state of mind. Lately, Mom has stopped eating the Korean way: instead of picking bits out of her side dishes and integrating them with bits of her main course, she's been attacking each individual dish or bowl one at a time, often lingering obsessively over a bowl after it's been emptied, using her chopsticks or her spoon to try to clean the bowl out as completely as possible. It's only when I take away the empty bowl (or dish) that Mom starts on her other dishes. She usually eats the main dish first, then tackles the side dishes (called ban-chan in Korean).

Korean side dishes are usually pickled, which means they're salty and strongly flavored. They're not meant to be eaten straight, a bowlful at a time. Instead, you're supposed to scoop up a small amount of the side dish, place it atop whatever qualifies as the main dish, and eat both together.

How, then, to solve Mom's problem? I see two possible solutions, a French one and a Korean one. The French solution would involve feeding Mom a full meal, one little course at a time. This might work best with Western food-- say, spaghetti and salad and garlic bread. It would still be a bit strange (most folks normally prefer their garlic bread alongside their spaghetti), but it would allow Mom to focus on one thing only while keeping the components of the meal separate. Since Mom sometimes mixes incongruous items together, this is a good approach to follow.

The Korean-style solution would be to use bibimbap (rice mixed with vegetables and red pepper sauce, often with a fried egg, and sometimes with some sort of meat or seafood) as a template for plating and service. Contrary to the French-style approach, I would take every component in the dinner and lump it all together in one plate or bowl, bibimbap-style. Again, Mom would have only one item on which to concentrate, but every component of the meal would be in front of her, for her to mix and match as she pleased. The obvious catch here is that all the components would have to be in harmony with each other: two incongruous items, if mixed, could produce some nasty, mutant flavors. But that's not usually a big problem with Korean food: the very nature of the side dishes ensures a general harmony.

So Mom might be in for a few changes in the meals to come. She's in a state where she rolls with the punches, eating pretty much whatever is placed in front of her, so I'm pretty sure she won't care about the upcoming paradigm shift.

Improvise, adapt, overcome. I love that motto.



Stockton Hercules said...

Hi Kevin. Thanks for your comments on my blog. I read through a fair bit of your blog, and it is enlightening to look through from the other side. I will certainly poke back in from time to time. Thank you for doing this. If you have a generic medical question I can answer, shoot me an email (from my blog there's a link). All GBM patients should be lucky enough to have a son like you. -SH

Kevin said...

Thanks, SH. Much appreciated. All you guys keep up the good work. I know that my father and I will be visiting your blog often.