Uniting Families Through Food: Book Review of The Kimchi Chronicles

By: Marnely Rodriguez

As much as I'd love to travel to Korea and eat amazing food, that's not a current possibility right this second. Thus, I live vicariously though Marja Vongerichten's cookbook, The Kimchi Chronicles. I fell in love with Korean food during culinary school and having a Korean best friend fed this addiction. Her roommate wouldn't allow kimchi in their dorm room, so at my place was her secret stash. I of course allowed kimchi in my room- the more, the merrier!

Two years later and everytime I've run into a Korean restaurant, I've got to stop, sit, and enjoy a meal. Nothing beats the fiery and fermented flavors of the Korean kitchen, and the rituals just make it even more delicious. Having 10 to 20 small dishes before your main course arrives is foodie heaven, right?

Through the eyes of Marja, we discover a Korea unknown but familiar; with new traditions to learn and delicious recipes to recreate. Born to an American army serviceman and a Korean mother, she was adopted by the age of three and taken to live in the United States. Seventeen years later, at the age of twenty and while living in New York, she discovered that her biological mother was living a few blocks away from her! Food will always bring families together, and it does just that with Marja, whose mission was to reunite herself with the flavors, aromas, and adventures of the Korean kitchen.

Gorgeously photographed, The Kimchi Chronicles covers everything from easy soups, grilled meats, noodle dishes, and of course, many kimchi-based recipes.  Some of the recipes you'll discover include the ultimate cabbage Kimchi, Bibimbap, Korean barbeque dishes, and even Bulgogi.

Something that makes this book unique is that not only will you be able to recreate traditional Korean recipes in your kitchen, but Marja's husband, no other than the world renowned Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, takes this recipes and recreates them with his own French twists.

More of a visual person? Check out The Kimchi Chronicles DVD series, where you'll experience the sights and sounds of Korea through Marja's voice, alongside her husband Jean-Georges, their daughter Chloe, and friend and actress, Heather Graham.

Marnely Rodriguez, author of the food blog, Cooking with Books. A graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, has worked as an Overnight Bread Baker in Colorado, a Chocolate Maker in Virginia as well as a Pastry Cook on the whimsical island of Martha's Vineyard, just to name a few. Currently residing on Martha's Vineyard, where she is an endless search of flavors, tropical fruits and gastronomic inspiration. Follow her on Twitter: @nella22 

For more articles from Marnely, follow me on Twitter (@MarcusCooks)

US Sends Food Aid to North Korea

By: Michele Wolfson

The United States has announced a significant donation of food aid to North Korea this week, the first vocalized accomplishment after months of behind-the-scenes diplomatic relations between the two wartime enemies. An agreement by North Korea to suspend its controversial uranium enrichment program will likely follow within days. The death of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il delayed this expected announcement about the resumption of food aid from the United States to North Korea.

Deliberations have been taking place since summer in New York, Geneva and Beijing. These discussions generated agreements by North Korea to suspend nuclear and ballistic missile testing, readmit international nuclear inspectors expelled in 2009, and resume a dialogue between North Korea and South Korea, according to the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of sensitivity of the negotiations.

The announcement of the food aid, expected to take place as early as last Monday in Washington, not only would be welcome news for North Korea, but also pave the way for another crucial U.S.-North Korea meeting in Beijing on Thursday. That meeting in turn could lead within weeks to the resumption of nuclear disarmament talks that would also include China, Japan, Russia and South Korea.

The concern is that while there are reports that millions of people in North Korea are starving, we all don't know what happens to these negotiations following Kim Jong Il's death. The death of Kim Jong Il leaves his youngest son of the Kim Jong Un in charge of running the family business.

Kim Jong Un is eager to secure his position of power. Reports suggest he already was shuffling the upper ranks of the military with younger officers, who now owe their allegiance to him. The worry is the transition of power to an unknown 20-something will inspire irrational acts by the North Korean military, so the new leader appears tough.

"We are concerned. Time is of the essence," said Ken Isaacs of Samaritan's Purse, one of five U.S.-based charities that helped distribute the last American food aid in North Korea, nearly three years ago. "Whatever was agreed may have to go back to the drawing board in different capitals. Who knows how all that will pan out."

David Austin, North Korea program director for Mercy Corps, said during their last trip to flood-hit regions of the country in September they saw children starving. "The longer you delay this decision, the more suffering there's going to be," he said, noting that it would take between six weeks and three months to set up new food deliveries.

Despite a U.N. assessment in March that 6 million out of 24 million of its people needed emergency food aid, international donors have been reluctant to help, wary of assisting an oppressive regime that has developed nuclear weapons but failed to modernize farming. A U.N. program of food distributions this year has only been 30 percent funded.

The United States is demanding that the distribution of aid comes with rigorous safety measures, such as the presence of more Korean-speaking monitors to prevent food being drawn off by the North Korean military and officials.

It has been reported that much of the North Korean population suffered "prolonged food deprivation" in 2011 as the public distribution system that most rely on was reduced to 7 ounces or less a day, providing only one-third the minimum daily energy requirement.

Mercy Corp's David Austin says not only is resuming food aid to North Korea as soon as possible the right thing to do, it's politically smart. The hope is that after the death of Kim Jong Il, the western world will take this as a great opportunity to put their best foot forward into a new era.

Photo: yeowatzup 

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Five Great Smoothie Traditions

As temperatures are heating up, it is tempting to grab a frothy ice cream-based drink to combat the heat. Instead of cooling down with a milkshake, choose a healthy smoothie. Smoothies can be surprisingly filling and lush with fruit and protein. Around the world, smoothies are a popular summer beverage. Check out these five great smoothie traditions for some inspiration.

1. Moroccan Date Smoothie: In Morocco, dates and cashews get blended with milk and crushed ice. Although Moroccan dates are especially succulent, the real deal is difficult to find in the States. Even without authentic Moroccan ingredients, this sweet blend delivers enough protein and fiber to propel you through your day. Try Medjool dates for a fantastic alternative to the imported fruit.

2. Indian Mango Lassi: Yogurt beverages called lassi are common lunchtime fare in India and Pakistan. While many Indians drink a lassi with added salt, most Americans are more familiar with a sweeter drink served in Indian restaurants. Pick out ripe champagne mangos, cut off the flesh, and process with yogurt, water or milk, and ice in a blender. Incredibly refreshing and guilt-free.

3. Brazilian Juice: At sucos, or juice bars, Brazilians enjoy a summer treat: fresh-squeeze fruit. Not technically a smoothie, Brazilian-style juice is still a delicious drink to try at home. In the morning, Brazilians add guarana, a caffeinated berry-substitute it for coffee!

4. Dominican Papaya Smoothie: Papayas can be intimidating to cook with, since the flavor is a foreign addition to many American palates. This Dominican speciality will make you a papaya convert, though. Milk, papaya and lime are the main ingredients, and it sure beats out a papaya drink from a hot dog stand. Try this recipe for starters and then tweak the combination to make it your own.

5. Korean Misutgaru: Steamed, roasted, and ground grains make up misutgaru, a kind of Korean flour usually made from rice. With water, milk, and a little fruit, misutgaru makes a nutty smoothie. Cafe Americano in Los Angeles serves a smoothie with Misutgaru blended in, creating a protein-packed smoothie rich with cereal-like flavors according to VitalJuice.com.

What's your favorite type of smoothie? Don't have a favorite? Start with this Green Smoothie Recipe for Weight Loss.

Photo: Jose Carlos Cortizo Perez on flickr