Magnified Procrastination

August 16, 2015
By Holly Jennings

I thought I was way past it: that thing of avoiding doing something a little bit, and then a little bit more, and then again and yet again, until the thing you’ve left untended and the space of silent absence that surrounds it becomes magnified and more awkward to return to by the day. I’m like that wayward parent who skips out on a child’s rearing, not stepping back in until years later. That’s me, stepping back into this blog one year and seven months from my latest posting.


I just vanished. The truth is I succumbed to full-time job and then to magnified procrastination.


It’s not a coincidence that the date of my last posting coincides with the same week that I started a full-time+ work-from-home editing job. I don’t know how some people find the energy to blog regularly (when those blog postings include recipe testing and development, writing, and photography) and keep a full-time job, let alone have children or any kind of social life. It’s impressive! I don’t have children or a hugely active social life. No, it was working full-time at a job at home alone that requires sitting in front of a computer and making heavy use of my brain that made even the idea of sitting longer still in front of the computer to write and post those writings, rather than getting out and about and speaking other humans, entirely unappealing.


That was then and now, happily, I’ve been able to cut back a bit on my day-job hours, so I’m ready to end the vanishing game.


For the time being I will not be resurrecting the cookbook club exactly as it was when I lived in Vermont; instead I will write periodic postings about the food of my surroundings, the Piedmont region of Virginia and sometimes beyond (most likely with the compass pointed a little bit east or west or further south). Books will continue to play a big role; they are how I make my living, one of the things I love dearly in the material world, and one of the things I love to share with you.


I will leave the information about starting and running a cookbook club in place on the blog for others to use who might be thinking of starting a cookbook club. I highly recommend participating in a cookbook club. It’s a fantastic way to learn tons more about food and cooking and to expand your skill set, all the while enjoying the company of others. And by the way, I apologize to those dozen or so people who signed up to become members of the club during the last year and a half(+) when I was a deadbeat. I hope all you found another club to join, or better yet started your own right where you live with friends nearby.


Before I can begin to use Dowdy Corners Cookbook Club as a mouthpiece for the food of the Upper South, however, I need to finish up some unfinished business.


I’m embarrassed to say that I never posted the review of The Korean Table, even though it was already written and edited when I vanished. What’s more embarrassing is that it was written a club member, Tamera Breckenridge, who had just joined the club. I was really glad that Tamera was willing to write the review because being part-Korean, I knew she would be able to put the recipes and the book into the context of her own life and experience in a way that I could not and because I edited The Korean Table, making it inappropriate for me to write the review for that particular book.


And now the review and the introduction I wrote for Tarama way back when. Finally.


January 22, 2014


korean table coverTHE KOREAN TABLE
From Barbecue to Bibimbap
by Taekyung Chung and Debra Samuels
Tuttle Publishing
160 pp. $27.95




I’m very happy to be introducing guest blogger Tamera Breckenridge to you. Tamera is a member of the Dowdy Corners Cookbook Club, and is a spirited eater and cook. My sense is that she’s willing to try anything (I told her about Prince’s Chicken, and before long, on a return trip from Georgia to Vermont, she’d made a [big] side trek to Nashville just to try it). Her true love, though, is Korean food. When the club picked The Korean Table, I asked Tamera if she might like to join the club, hoping that the book’s subject matter, close to her heart, would entice her. It did, and after working her way through the book, I asked her if she would like to write a synopsis of the book for this blog. Normally, I write a review of each book we pick, but since I edited this book, how could I comment objectively on its merits without looking as if I’m simply trying to promote my talents as an editor? (Because I do, after all, think The Korean Table is wonderful.) Thanks for stepping in, Tamera, to take on the role of book reviewer.


My Take on The Korean Table
By Tamera Breckenridge


Many years ago, when I was first out of college and starting out in the world, I came across the first cookbook I ever fell in love with. As I stood there in the bookstore, turning the pages and imagining the recipes coming to life in my kitchen, I began to talk myself into the purchase. It would be the only cookbook I ever needed. I would not need to buy any others, ever. Needless to say to all of those who understand about the urge to cook good food for ourselves and others, I could not leave the book behind. The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook served me well since then and I have never regretted the acquisition. However, it was only the first of many, many cookbooks I have collected over the years.


I have traveled to different regions of the United States and spent two years living in South Korea. I have always sought out cookbooks from my travels as a way to bring different cultures and experiences into my life. I own more Korean cookbooks than I care to disclose. They range from simple books with little instruction to complicated interpretations of common Korean dishes. I have my favorites among them and have learned something from all of them. One of the difficulties in fully embracing Korean cuisine and becoming adept at creating Korean food in my own home has been understanding the ingredients and achieving a level of practical application. The Korean Table: From Barbecue to Bibimbap by Taekyung Chung and Debra Samuels has changed that and given me a more complete Korean cooking education. After having spent an intensive period of time with this book, I feel transported to a new level in my abilities to create good Korean food. Over the years and through various sources, I had managed to cultivate only a few recipes that were winners. I always wanted to recreate the tastes I had discovered in Korea. It wasn’t until I began using the recipes in this book that it began to come together for me.


The authors have taken the approach of making Korean food accessible to all by creating recipes with ingredients that are easily obtained in the urban United States. Ingredients are explained in detail and invaluable information is given on how to stock a Korean pantry. One of the features of this cookbook is that all the recipes were made with ingredients and cookware found through locally obtainable resources. The necessary components to begin to cook these Korean recipes are easily gathered. Perhaps a variety of cucumber is changed from those readily available in Korea to a similar type obtained locally. Other such substitutions are identified. These days, most large urban areas have Asian markets where must-have Korean ingredients can be found. For those living in more rural areas, the internet is a great resource. I know for a fact that it is possible to have kimchee, that beloved dish central to Korean cuisine, delivered to your doorstep with only a few clicks of a mouse.


I was fortunate enough to have taken part in an inspiring evening with other members of DCCC when we came together at a potluck featuring recipes from The Korean Table. We had to bring in an extra table to hold all the dishes brought to the feast and it was with delight that we savored each dish. Taekyung and Debra as well as Taekyung’s husband and sister were the guests of honor and it was a great pleasure to share the meal with them and to hear them speak about their cookbook writing experiences.  It was important to them to create a cookbook that those of us not living in Korea could use to make authentic Korean food with what resources we have available. Taekyung and Debra met in Boston and, over a two-week period, developed and prepared all the recipes in the book from what they could locally obtain. This approach created a cookbook with recipes easy to reproduce, regardless of where you live. It was especially important to Taekyung that the recipes be authentic—so that not only would we be able to successfully obtain the ingredients, we would also be able to achieve the tastes of Korea. I felt inspired to have spent an evening with these two remarkable women. I feel fortunate to have discovered the wealth of information in The Korean Table. I am awed by the work that went into producing the book and will be forever thankful that it was created.


The most valuable part of this book is the section on sauces. These basic sauce recipes, we are taught, become building blocks in creating the unique flavors of Korean food. By making batches of these sauces and keeping them on hand, it becomes possible to make everyday Korean dishes simply and deliciously. I had never been able to capture the true flavor of Japchae as I had tasted the dish in Korea until I used Sweet Soy Base Sauce as the foundation. Sweet potato noodles, beef, and simple vegetables come together in a satisfying blend of salty and sweet. Delicious hot or room temperature, Japchae is a dish that can be served at parties, as a side dish, or as a main course. In Taekyung and Debra’s version of the dish, the sauce is what makes it so spectacular. Just don’t make the mistake I made—when I first made this sauce, I chose the mini version of the recipe. After discovering how versatile it became in my kitchen, I immediately made the large batch.


I have tried many of the recipes in this book and, without fail, they have been well received by those I prepared them for. I was pleased that I could easily recreate the flavors that I had enjoyed in Korea and I look forward to many years to come with this cookbook as a resource. The range of recipes is wide. There are main courses, starters, popular favorites, sides, soups, snacks, and desserts. Many useful and helpful tips are given. Did you know that if you soak cloves of garlic in water for twenty minutes, it is easier to peel the paper skins off?


The Korean Table is a must-have book for those who already love the cuisine of Korea and for those who are just starting their love affair. It doesn’t matter how many Korean cookbooks you might already own, this one is not to be missed. Do not leave it behind. The photography alone makes this book a treasure. That the authors created a guide for those who wish to prepare Korean food easily and successfully makes this book indispensable.

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