Bewitching soup for January

Jardín Kim

Lead Korean Writer

First, butter the pan and stir fry some meat and onions before adding plenty of water. Throw in a chicken bouillon cube, tomato chunks, tomato puree, carrots, cabbage, and celery and bring to a boil. Feel free to grab any vegetable from the fridge and throw it in. When the vegetables are cooked until tender, sprinkle in curry powder to taste. You might ask, what is this meh-looking, meh-tasting food? It’s the soup that has bewitched everyone in my city’s online mom cafe community: witches brew stew. In other words, this is a low-calorie vegetable soup.

Although it’s not a seasonal soup, as soon as the calendar month turned to January, many new posts per day on this brew-stew began appearing. That’s because it’s the new year. January is the time for making all kinds of resolutions, ones that often prove to be pipe dreams by February. And at the top of that well-intentioned list is dieting. Gyms offer discount memberships, Eastern medicine clinics offer discounts on weight-loss herbal remedies, and food companies offer discounted diet-friendly foods like chicken breast (I just bought two boxes of frozen chicken breast myself). In a country where we work hard, play hard, and do everything else hard, we diet hard as well. According to the 2021 data on overweight or obese populations aged 15 or older in OECD countries, Korea ranked second to last. The top honor of last place went to Japan.

Of course, January is not the only month for dieting. The race to lose the unwanted inches began well before the end-of-the-year. Many women worried about get-togethers with people they haven’t seen for a while posted many questions online. Questions like “I want to lose 5 kilos in 2 weeks so what should I do?” Well, the answer is obvious. You only need to carry it out: starve as best as you can, with the help of diet pills if necessary. Why are so many people desperate to lose weight before get-togethers? I don’t know about other countries, but in Korea, you run into a lot of critics who blatantly judge you by your appearance. For example, here are some things I’ve heard from friends and close acquaintances. You have too much gray hair. You need to zap those age spots. Your weight is fine but there’s no muscle tone. What’s with your dry, frizzy hair? Not a detail is overlooked, and they’re quick to point out everything that goes unnoticed by me.

The book of Matthew has a verse about a person’s enemy being those of her own household. Before seeing my parents for the holidays, I remembered that verse and tried not to stir up unnecessary trouble by looking unpresentable. So I put on face packs daily. I went in for a hair and scalp treatment procedure. And yes, I simmered up some witches brew stew. And what happened? None of that kept the enemies at bay. So note to self for the new year: Too many cooks spoil the soup, so stop giving so much of a damn to what other people say.

Translator: Culture Flipper English Team
Original Content in Korean: