Virginia marks first Kimchi Day to celebrate Korean American community


For those who still make it the traditional way, November is the month after the cabbage harvest when families and friends come together to make a year’s worth of kimchi, smearing a spicy red paste on the cabbage folds and scooping it into jars. so that it ferments . The jars are either buried in the ground or, in the modern era, stored in a special kimchi refrigerator. The resulting dish, ubiquitous in Korean cuisine, is salty, sweet, spicy, sour, and has a hint of umami.

In Korean culture, kimchi is much more than that. It tells the story of the history and persistence of the Korean people, of the geography and climate of the peninsula. It is a source of pride. It brings families together, and some still come together to prepare dozens of heads of cabbage each fall.

For these reasons and many more, Virginia will celebrate its first Kimchi Day on Tuesday, to recognize the centrality and importance of the dish to Koreans, and to celebrate the growing Korean American community in the commonwealth.

On Saturday, in recognition of the milestone, the Korean Association of American Women hosted a kimchi festival at the Evangelical Church of the Good Shepherd in Springfield, recreating a family ritual. At folding tables in the church cafeteria, a mixed-race crowd of about 150 people had the chance to make their own kimchi, wearing plastic gloves and smearing the paste, reddened by gochugaru, Korean chili powder, into the folds of the kimchi. cabbage.

Virginia Kimchi Day was established when Elaine Shin (D), the first Korean American woman to serve in the state House of Delegates, proposed a resolution to make it official in January. Passed with bipartisan support.

“We are home to one of the largest Korean populations in the country. The communities of Annandale and Centerville in Northern Virginia are vibrant and bustling population hubs and centers,” Shin said, perplexed by the ruling during a Rules Committee hearing, according to WAMU/DCist.

Northern Virginia, and Annandale in particular, is home to a strong Korean community, where signs display Hangul letters and Korean restaurants, churches, grocery stores, bakeries, and beauty shops abound. Ties between the region and Korea are so strong that the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority has an office in Seoul.

Mark Keam, who is Korean-American and recently retired from the House of Delegates to serve in the Biden administration, said Kimchi Day recognizes an important cultural export and the way Korean culture is being embraced in the United States. Joined. Keam, who moved to the United States as a teenager, said he was shy about sharing Korean food and culture growing up, worried he would “clash with mainstream American culture.”

“In fact, it’s the complete opposite,” Keam said. “By coming and bringing our stuff here and using it and making it mainstream, we’re actually helping to create American culture.”

President Biden and Vice President Harris welcomed the popular Korean boy band BTS to the White House in May to speak out against anti-Asian hate. Korean food has also become more ubiquitous, with items like kimchi now available in many grocery stores. Yumi Hogan, the Korean-born wife of Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, installed a kimchi cooler in the governor’s mansion. “Crying in H Mart,” the memoir of a Korean American musician who questions her biracial upbringing, is a bestseller.

But it was not always like this. When EunSook Loiland, 60, moved here more than three decades ago, there wasn’t much of a community.

“I could never have imagined this,” said Loiland, a professional pianist, looking around the room at people with plates laden with Korean specialties: noodles, dumplings, meat and savory pancakes with kimchi. “I’m very excited about this.”

Loiland grew up in Korea, moved to London, and then on a trip back to Seoul for a fall festival, she met an American soldier stationed there. The two fell in love, and she moved to Virginia to be with him on a fiancée visa. But her dislike for kimchi jeopardized her relationship. When he asked her to stop eating it, she almost gave up on him.

“Why should I marry him? kimchi is my life”, he said, remembering what he was thinking at the time. But he got over it and now he consumes more kimchi than his wife.

And on Saturday, the long-married couple arrived at the Church of the Good Shepherd with their son to make kimchi.

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