Cultured Guru Fermented Kimchi | A Fermented Food Inspired by the Kimchi of Korea | Addressing Cultural Appropriation
Culture and Kimchi
The internet is filled with criticism and negativity, of course. I mean... I just spent four whole hours trying to learn more about cultural appropriation... in tears wondering if I am guilty of negatively appropriating Korean culture by making and selling kimchi. It's something that weighs on my mind often. I mean... you have to be uncomfortable to grow out of your own ignorances, right? I can accept that. However, I was still upset at the thought of disrespecting anyone else's culture, and the thought that until this point, I haven't done the Korean culture and their creation of kimchi justice.
I've even been sitting here wondering if we should stop selling kimchi or change the name to "Kinda Like Kimchi"... which actually isn't a terrible idea.
Apparently there are positive, kind and healthy ways in which cultures share elements and "appropriate." Not all appropriation and sharing of culture is negative. Moral of the story is that through my reading on the controversial subject matter, and googling "is it okay for white people to make kimchi?" I've been compelled to write this blog about our most popular product...
On our kimchi labels, the first line of the product description is "inspired by the flavors of Korean cuisine" but we couldn't shake the feeling that this simple line is just not enough to do the Korean tradition of kimchi justice. Because it is not enough. In order to be inspired by a culture and make a food product from that culture in a positive, healthy way, adequate credit needs to be given. The origins of the inspiration should always be respected. Cultures of the world deserve that.
I think it's the tradition and culture of kimchi that deserves to be talked about here. What kimchi means to Korea is one of the most beautiful stories of food I've ever had the pleasure of learning.
If you enjoy our kimchi, we want you to appreciate its history, respect the culture in which it was inspired by, and most importantly respect and admire the people of Korea who hold kimchi near and dear to their hearts.
History of Kimchi & What Kimchi Means to Korea
For Koreans Kimchi is a symbol of national pride. It symbolizes love, family and hope for the future. I feel that this is best explained through video and the voices of people of Korea 👇🏼
This next video is a recipe video for Traditional Korean Kimchi. We love this youtube profile. Her name is Maangchi and her channel is all about cooking, eating, and enjoying Korean cuisine with your family and friends. Be sure to check out her youtube channel here. For her full recipe on her website click here.
Probably the coolest thing I discovered in my readings: The World Institute of Kimchi (video below)👇🏼 They are conducting so much kimchi microbiology research with an effort to make kimchi more global. Of course my huge nerd tendencies came out when I found this. I only 100% want to visit this place in all its wonder and glory. They even have research demonstrating kimchi as a treatment for atopic dermatitis. One of their main missions: Spreading Kimchi culture worldwide.
"We strive to enhance the status of the country as the country where Kimchi has originated by up scaling the Kimchi culture, and secure Kimchi-related cultural resources. We also engage in research to contribute to the enhancement of Kimchi consumption rate both-inside and outside of the country and development of the industries relevant to Kimchi by using the secured Kimchi-related cultural resources."
Using local, seasonal ingredients is the most common theme in the tradition of kimchi making
Which is why we use green cabbage, and ingredients local to our region of the United States. In Korea, kimchi ingredients and recipes are based on where you are and what season it is. That's beautiful and that concept alone is something that should be adopted & appreciated for global sustainability.
We Have a Different Style of Fermenting
I utilize microbiology to ferment our product, and I base all of our recipes around the microbes involved in fermentation. That's just my thing. So we don't make kimchi the way it is traditionally made by most Korean Kimchi makers. The spirit of kimchi making, that's what inspires our kimchi most. The fermenting of seasonal, local produce to nourish the body during times of low crop production, like winter. I absolutely love creating a food with such emotional and cultural history. It's quite fun to merge this historically significant food with my love of microbiology.
When I think of kimchi I think of gratitude for a food culture in Korea that inspired the flavor of our most popular product, which I'm able to make in such a unique way... we are not Korean, and we do not live in Korea, so I don't feel that I should try to emulate/copy what they do by shipping Napa cabbages from California. That's not in the spirit of kimchi. We make Cultured Guru Kimchi inspired by Korean Kimchi, we do not make Korean Kimchi.
It's okay for food to evolve, for recipes to change, and for the world outside of Korea to enjoy kimchi. It's just important to give credit to the origins of your inspirations. It's like having a works cited or reference page attached to paper, it's just what is ethical.
Korean Foodies and Companies that are Rocking It:
These are people and resources for Korean cuisine made by Korean people. They're inspiring and doing great things for education about Korean food.
1. The Korean Vegan
She's a foodie veganizing Korean food, and displaying it in such a beautiful way. If you enjoy eating kimchi, check out her recipes because they're amazing.
2. Mother In Law's Kimchi
If you want true Korean Kimchi, this is the brand for you. Their story and background is rooted in the traditions of Korean kimchi making. Plus this is a Korean woman owned business, and she is a BOSS.
My favorite thing is the origin of their brand name:
"Korea’s culinary tradition have an important relationship with the mother-in-law. When a bride married into her husband’s family, it was customary for the bride to learn the new family’s kimchi making recipes. As one of the most revered culinary skills in any Korean household, traditionally, it was customary for the bride to learn the kimchi recipe from the mother-in-law."
Click the photo below to visit their website!
3. Seoul Shop
We have an Etsy for those of you who don't know, and one of the best food Etsy shops is Seoul Shop. They sell real Korean Kimchi using their grandmother's recipe, and they have RAVE reviews. This is another great option for purchasing true Korean kimchi!
Click the photo below to visit their Etsy.
4. Korean Bapsang
This is the blog of a Korean American mom, who shares amazing Korean recipes. She even has recipes for making traditional Korean Kimchi, vegan kimchi and a few other types. Check out her work, food photography and recipes by clicking the photos below!
Donating to the World Institute of Kimchi:
Stay tuned for this! I'm actively trying to figure out how we can donate to the World Institute of Kimchi... if its possible. I think one of the greatest things we can do to help preserve the cultural significance of kimchi it to donate funding to the organization that lists one of its goals as the "enhancement of Korea's status as a country where kimchi was first developed with a strategy for the globalization of kimchi." I mean, how great would it be to be able to supply funding for Korean Kimchi research!?
All lovers of kimchi should all be on board with this mission. I'll share this blog again and update our social media accounts after I figure out if this is possible. Anything is possible right?
Visit the World Institute of Kimchi website Here.
Thanks for reading and learning about this topic,