Matrilineal Artifact “…WITH Your Recipe

Everyone who makes kimchi in my family changes their method of preparation, depending on the season and what types of foods they know we are likely to be eating. Sometimes the recipe is slightly hotter, other times more sour. Kimchi is altered suit the more delicate flavors of spring and the more robust flavors of fall.

However, no matter how much the recipe may be tweaked, it is always unique. I love this artifact, this incomplete recipe, and the tradition of preparing kimchi itself because it is unique to my family, yet connects me to a wider Korean heritage. I also know that preparing traditional foods is very important to the women in my family: cooking a good meal is an essential part of their sense of self. My mother is a strong and independent woman, but also takes pride in traditional feminine tasks like feeding the family.

The real knowledge of how to prepare this artifact can only come with watching the women of my family. But that is true of any artifact: its significance only becomes clear when you see people using it, in real life. Artifacts from a family heritage are part of a living tradition, not static objects in a museum. The fact that kimchi is almost impossible to find in America makes passing down the tradition of making it and my grandmothers guidelines even more important. However, if people do not continue to make kimchi in the family, the tradition will be lost: it is a tradition (like quilting or cake baking) that is more oral and visual, than written..

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