Letters from the Editors
Like many others, my sense of time has become somewhat twisted over the past year and a half. For me, that has sometimes looked like being able to describe, in some detail, the changing “seasons,” from blooming magnolia trees to blooming crab apple trees, but not being able to tell you how many days or weeks ago an event occurred.
When we began this volume on jip-bab, we reached out to Kristyn at Namu Farm and Diana at Namu Home Goods. It was a coincidence that they both share namu (tree) in their names. But as it turns out, if you search for namu on Instagram, you will get results for several different Korean companies with namu in their name, especially food-related ones.
We only briefly touch on trees in this volume. We could probably do a whole volume dedicated to trees alone: the ways that we in the Korean diaspora feel connected to them, their life cycles, the impacts of the climate crisis, or the ways that they anchor life—including ours as humans—in any ecosystem. For this volume, I still think about the far-reaching connections between trees and food and the parallels of trees in their ecosystems to sitting down to enjoy jip-bab. Much like the tiny corner of a cityscape depicted in our cover illustration, we are just scratching the surface of jip-bab, and even then, only a small section, mostly about producer-to-consumer relationships. There are many aspects and people who go unseen and unnamed when we talk about what allows us to have such an emotional experience with food.
This offering of a volume was made possible by the care of many hands and people, some of whom I wish to acknowledge here. Thank you to our volume and newsletter contributors; everyone who made a shop purchase, bought a newsletter advertisement, or reposted our content on Instagram; the folks behind-the-scenes providing editorial, production, and outreach support; and to Mirae for co-creating this volume into reality.
Thank you for joining us in this exploration.
“Bab” is a fascinating word. It replaces “food,” although its precise definition is steamed rice. I’ve always thought we’re a population obsessed with bab. We use bab as equal to our livelihood, saying “밥줄 끊겼다,” or highlight it as better for our health than medicine, “밥이 약보다 낫다.” We describe a lucky person as having bab all over their face, “밥이 얼굴에 덕지덕지 붙었다,” and our mental state as losing “bab taste,” “밥맛이 떨어졌다”. It permeates all aspects of our lives and emotions, taking on new meaning beyond just the food we eat.
When thinking about choa’s second volume, I tried to distinguish what makes jip-bab more special than bab. The added word “jip,” or “home,” brings up experiences intermingled with our minds, hearts, and energy. In our current state of endless “take care” messages, jip-bab may be one of the few ways to feel care. I feel this deep in my body, having lived apart from family for many years and always seeking spicy stews and fermented dishes—which may well be the tissues of my body—to rejuvenate fatigue, because I believe some science is at work. Jip-bab, in this way, is medicine and livelihood.
I remember my aunt planting perilla leaves in the backyard of our small townhouse, our first home in Canada, because she couldn’t find them in local grocery stores. One day, a neighbourhood manager mowed them off with the weeds, and she never planted them again. For those living in the diaspora, jip-bab is common yet uncommon. The perilla leaves were still difficult to find, but that moment brought a halt to my aunt’s care for the leaves—checking them regularly, cleaning and marinating them into a delicious side dish. It was a halt in her search for the taste that reminded her of home, and a halt in her sharing of the sentiment with others.
In this volume, we step back from the steamed rice and side dishes on the table to consider the labour and process that allow us to enjoy them. We make visible the hands that cultivate our crops, create our dishes, and decorate our experience. It’s a fragment of the jip-bab journey, but we hope it will shine light on the vibrancy and uniqueness of bab.
For the future,
Subin Yang is an illustrator currently based in NYC. She works in colourful blocky shapes and loose line work inspired by themes of home, culture, and identity. When not drawing, she’s probably eating butter chicken or tuna kimbap somewhere. Website: subinyang.cargo.site, IG @subinie94