South Koreans are experiencing a crisis that affects nearly every person in the country. A shortage of Napa cabbage, the main ingredient in kimchi, and a spike in the price of available heads — as much as $14, up from $2.50 — is making kimchi scarce. Now, to most Americans, that doesn’t seem like such a big deal, and some might even see it as a blessing; kimchi is certainly an acquired taste. But all Koreans have acquired it: kimchi is so ubiquitous that most Koreans eat it daily, many at every meal. A story in today’s New York Times chronicles the horrors.
I can’t think of anything in this country to compare. No food is so ingrained in the daily diet of such a large part of the population. Not grits, nor Boston baked beans — not even having “fries with that.” Sure, there are lots of things that many of us choose to have regularly, I suppose even daily. I, for example, begin almost every day with a single hard-boiled egg. But that’s just me. I doubt there are many others in my neighborhood with the same ritual, let alone the entire country. And even though there are millions of people in the U.S. who undoubtedly include eggs as part of their daily diet and would be affected by a shortage (indeed many were by the recent salmonella outbreak), to have it compare with the kimchi shortage the entire population would have to be eating the same style egg every day as second nature. And, to make it even more comparable to kimchi, those eggs would have to have to be spicy-hot and have a startling pungency from long fermentation.
What do you think? What foods are part of your daily diet that you’d miss if you had to give them up?