The tale of kimchi fried rice

There was a girl who always ate bread with every meal. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner, all her family would sit down together and enjoy some delicious homemade bread. Even though there were various kinds of food available in stores for many years now, this family would stick to the tried and true recipes passed over for generations.

One day, that girl left her village and set out on a faraway journey. She wanted to travel across the whole world and see how other people live. As it turned out, in the faraway lands there were many people very much unlike herself. Their faces looked differently, they dressed up in very different clothes, and very few of them ate any bread at all. Even though they had all sorts of food products available in their shops, most people would have rice for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, just like their parents did.

The girl was quite sceptical about rice at first, having never tried it before. But after being invited to many wonderful feasts, with steamed rice, and fried rice, and rice noodles, and even rice cakes, she started to appreciate the variety of flavours this faraway land had to offer. From time to time she would get homesick for some delicious, freshly baked bread, but she learned that a rice meal can nurture her body just as fine, and delight her with new flavours she had not known before.

After many years, the grownup woman this girl has become came back to her village. She was delighted to see her family and friends, and to taste some freshly baked bread again. Since her family organised a feast upon her return, she decided to return the favour by cooking them some kimchi fried rice, a recipe she brought all the way back from overseas. But when the family came over to dinner, they turned they heads around in disappointment, for they were worried to see their daughter stray away from traditional, nutritious meals.

— What are you doing?—They asked.—I’m not seeing any bread on the plate… Don’t you know that a proper meal needs to have some bread in it?

— I thought so too before I went on my journey—she replied.—But I went to faraway lands where they never eat any bread at all, and got to watch their customs, and to learn some of their recipes. Some of the things they eat can sometimes taste very strange, but I got to love this dish called kimchi fried rice, and I want to share this discovery with you so that you can enjoy it too.

— Enjoy it?—the grandmother shook her head in disbelief—How can we enjoy eating something that has no nutritional value? I bet these people in far away lands are very sick all the time, if they only get to eat these miserable pulp instead of a proper loaf of bread.

— No, grandma—the young woman explained politely—these people are not sick, for rice-based dishes have been nourishing them well. If they didn’t, these people wouldn’t be able to survive for so many generations without knowing bread at all.

— Oh, so they never heard about bread!—said the father—If they tried it once, I bet they would never get back to this poor man’s meal again.

— Actually, many of my friends there have tried eating bread at least once, and some of them eat it every once in a while.—the woman explained again.—I even have a friend in the faraway land who bakes her own bread at home, and it tastes almost as good as the one we have here. Still, even those people who have tried bread or eat it regularly prefer to eat rice-based dishes most of the time, like their parents and grandparents did it before.

— And what about you?—her mother had this puzzled look on her face.—Didn’t your parents and grandparents teach you how to nourish your body and soul? Isn’t the real bread, the tradition of your family, good enough for you that you must seek exotic tastes?

— You all did teach me well, and I’m very grateful for all that I learned from you. This meal that I cooked for you is a sign of my gratitude, and a hope to pay back and enrich your lives in return.

— I don’t think you can call this a meal.—said the grandfather, who had been sitting quietly in the corner so far.—You know that strange foods can be extremely dangerous, and I don’t see why you won’t cook a proper, healthy, homemade bread if you know it can feed you much better than this. I’m disappointed that you’re chasing some exotic trends and losing your mind for this madness. This is not how we raised you…

— I understand your concern, grandpa, for poisonous mushrooms or fruits can indeed be deadly to someone who eats them. I can see how fried rice can look suspicious to someone who had only eaten bread in their life so far. But rest assured, this meal I have cooked with my own hands, after practicing this recipe many times over several years, and the result was both nurturing and delicious each time I prepared it.

— I won’t touch any of this rubbish, or let you ever do the same.—Shouted the grandfather, suddenly offended by what she said.—Don’t you remember that God taught us to pray for our daily bread, and the scripture says that only those who eat the Bread of Life will be accepted at Heaven’s gates? You’re fooling around making fun of our sacred tradition, and acting as if this fake stuff could nourish you just as well as real food. No, it will not, dear kid, and you’d better throw it all away at once, for you don’t understand the health hazard that comes from eating suspicious things.

— I respect your choice not to eat the fried rice, grandpa—responded the woman peacefully—and would never dare to tell you what you should or should not eat. However, I cannot accept your request to throw all this food away, as there are many people starving to death out there on the streets. You know the scriptures and prayers were written by people who only knew bread as a nutritious food source, so it is no surprise that they don’t mention rice, plantain, or corn. Had these people had access to all the delicacies from different corners of the world that we have now, they’d be sure to express gratitude for all these varied blessings that Life has offered to us at this exceptional time.

— How dare you speculate what scripture Authors would or would not do?—The whole family started raising from the table and heading back to the door.—We’re not going to sit here with you at this table while you speak such blasphemies…

The woman didn’t run to stop them even though her heart was breaking. She sat still at the table, and spoke to the whole group as they were leaving:

— May you always have enough food that nurtures you, and may you find peace with other people who seek to have the same. For on my journey I have met people with many different body types, and food allergies, and dietary habits, and autoimmune diseases, and each of them needed a different diet to flourish. I have met entire nations with lactose intolerance who couldn’t consume any diary, and other folks with such serious peanut allergies that even a speck of peanut dust could kill them. There were people with so called celiac disease, allergic to the very same bread that nurtures you all so well. Rather than force them to eat bread and suffer, I’d much rather see them find a different source of food that won’t cause them inflammation and pain.

And as the family left, the woman walked out to the streets, and invited several strangers sitting under a tree for dinner. And they sat, and enjoyed the delicious kimchi fried rice, and sang and laughed in gratitude, for they never had tried anything like this before.

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