Photographs by Erin Kim
I honestly believe there is no going back to “normal,” but I believe we can re-learn how to bring comfort back into our day-to-day routines. Pre-pandemic, my boyfriend, James (who happens to be a chef), and I loved going out and trying new restaurants and bars and being around those who enjoy sharing good food. We used to start a lot of our days at a coffee shop and end them grabbing a nightcap somewhere. We both lived on the go, worked in the hospitality industry, and craved grabbing bites out in the city.
I’ve tried to use this new time to learn more about things I didn’t always have time for, like Taoism and the human response to change. Overshare, a Brooklyn-based podcast, aired an episode discussing how people generally say we hate change—but, in reality, we are rebellious creatures who actually go against the flow to create disruption in our lives.
But what do you do when the change isn’t by choice, is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced, and has no timeline?
A friend who I used to work with reminded me to let go of what I don’t have control over and to work on what I do. Here are a few areas where I realized I could make some adjustments to make this time of change more bearable:
Before COVID, I was a barista at Vice & Virtue and enjoyed hanging out at Comeback on my days off. My go-to at any shop is always the drip or flash brew. Seasonal drinks are fun once in a while, but the lighter blends from Vice, or the medium roasts on flash brew at Comeback, usually fix my cravings.
Coffee at home has definitely been a journey.
I started off with my French press since I typically like fuller-bodied coffee in the mornings. I was missing lattes, so I attempted to aerate milk via my French press and brewed espresso in my Moka pot. A friend loaned me his Bellman Stovetop Steamer to improve my aeration, so I made cortados for us in the morning. At last, James bought me a Hario V60 for my birthday, and I’ve been making flash brew at home with beans from Handlebar Coffee Roasters, a friend’s shop based in Santa Barbara. It’s probably the most relaxing and comforting part of my day.
On Saturdays, our grocery list is usually split into two places: Asiana, a Korean market on Mt. Moriah, and Whole Foods. We started going to Asiana a while back before the pandemic. I had always been nervous to go in by myself because I can’t speak Korean fluently. Don’t let that stop you from going in, though, because the owners, Soon Ah Chung and her husband, have lived in Memphis for 24 years and don’t expect customers to speak Korean. Before July, the owners always had kimbap for sale at the counter. Kimbap is cooked rice rolled up in dried seaweed and cut into bite-size snacks. Each person has their preference in what they fill the rolls with, but at Asiana they tend to stick with carrot, spinach, bulgogi (Korean marinated beef), egg, pickled radish, and crab meat. It’s so good!
We usually buy one tray to eat on the drive home and then the other to snack on the next day.
In the back of Asiana, a metal door opens up to a refrigerated produce section where you can find jars of homemade kimchi, pickled radish, and shelves of scallions, garlic, onion, daikon, green chili peppers, and napa cabbage. We usually load up on the homemade banchan and bulgogi in the fridge up front, and we’re always looking out for any new Korean snacks or noodles. In the summer, they put out an ice cream freezer full of Melona popsicles and Samanco fish-shaped cookies filled with red bean ice cream. Basically, Asiana is your one-stop local Korean grocery store!
We’ve hit a lot of different bends in the road of cooking. Growing up, my mother cooked every day and had books on books full of index cards with handwritten recipes. There was no googling Bon Appétit recipes or DoorDash. I’m not sure how she did it and was still able to put out a dessert most nights. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve seen that we’ve been cooking a lot of East Asian dishes. Our weeks contain a lot of Korean and Taiwanese/Chinese home cooking with takeout on the weekends from East Meets West in Germantown or those delicious appetizers from Pho Binh in Midtown.
I’d never dreamed of making dim sum or bao at home, or even thought about making homemade soy milk until now.
Our go-to meal for easy nights or breakfast is a Korean tofu stew: kimchi jjigae. It’s a belly-warming stew that is easily customizable for any diet and is super healthy with all of that fermented kimchi juice!
Sweets haven’t always been such a big deal with us before. We would grab boba or ice cream once in a while, but it wasn’t a staple. During quarantine, we’ve become huge ice cream fanatics. It started with ordering six different pints of Jeni’s.
Then I found the black sugar boba ice cream bars at Viet Hoa, and they blew our minds!
Now we are munching on some delicious plant-based, non-dairy “ice cream” by Eclipse Foods in Berkeley, California. They have a chef series out; our favorite flavors have been Win Son’s Sweet Potato & Salty Black Sugar Caramel, Flour Bakery’s Sticky Sticky Bun, and Eclipse’s Vanilla.
My go-to at any bar is an old-fashioned, and James usually goes with a negroni or gin and tonic. I always knew how to make a couple of basic cocktails, but I never actually made them at home. The old-fashioned was one of the first things I learned how to make during quarantine, and so far the preferred bourbon whiskey has been Old Dominick’s Huling Station. It’s been the smoothest old-fashioned, after wrestling a few with Bulleit Bourbon’s Barrel Strength.
The last big change while in quarantine has been the addition of our sweet Malamute puppy, Yuna! She is five months old and a little over 40 pounds of crazy cuddles. Her favorite snacks are salmon-skin jerky, frozen bananas, and ice cubes. Follow her cuteness on IG @thekitchenpup.
Erin Kim spends her time freelancing in digital illustration and lifestyle photography. She works with local and national publications to illuminate stories through her work. She recently opened an online print shop and is constantly working on illustrative series to share! Follow her on Instagram to see her cute pup and tasty meals! @oneofakim7