A love letter to the homemade food that kept me afloat at UC Berkeley

Mug of Kristy Choung (Daily Cal Staff)

Hello!

Whether you’ve already left the digestive tract or I’m planning on eating you before I graduate, I just want to give a big thanks to you for keeping me afloat — and alive — while I’ve been studying here at UC Berkeley.

You all mean so much to me and my success that I’m writing a whole column just for you. You were there for me when I needed a hearty meal to get me through the day. You were there as a healthy reminder to take a break and fuel up. You were even there to cheer me up when I was down in the dumps because I couldn’t think of a good thesis statement for my paper. 

To be honest, some days I didn’t even want to think about you because I told myself I had more important things to do. I obviously didn’t have my priorities straight at the time. But on those days, your snack friends Cheez-Its, bananas and strawberry Greek yogurt made sure I was nourished until it was time to eat you.

It was such a joy to focus on you and all of your glory, experimenting away in the kitchen and stalling from my worries. There were many of you I’ve made this past school year, and while I’ve loved each and every one of you — even the unsavory ones — I want to give a shoutout to a special few.

To my kimchi jjigae (kimchi stew), you were there for me whenever I needed an umami pick-me-up. The kimchi that was two months past its expiration date, the tofu that accidentally froze in the back of my fridge, the dried-up onions and the overpriced Spam made for a perfectly balanced meal. To others, this combination of ingredients may sound kind of gross — now that I’m writing about it, it does sound gross — but, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and you were beautiful to me. You were an amalgamation of all the things I love in Korean cooking, and I was elated whenever I got the chance to use my earthenware pot. I especially made you on days when I had week-old rice laying in the fridge because the warm soup part of you heated up the rice just fine. You warmed my poorly circulated body, and I felt closest to home making you.

To my soy sauce glazed salmon with sweet potatoes and broccoli, you were absolutely delicious through and through. I don’t know if it’s because I extra salted you to the point where my tongue got scraped up or if it’s because I liked looking at all the vibrant colors on my plate, but every time I ate you, I felt like I was getting healthier by the minute. The best part about you, though, was the convenience. Unlike the others, it took me only 20 minutes to prep and pop you into the air fryer. That convenience made you the ideal college meal, a struggle meal that didn’t feel like one. Toward the end, I made you too frequently out of this sheer convenience, so I got a bit tired of you. But, you were still a very important part of my survival, and I appreciate you for that. 

Finally, to my all-time favorite breakfast, I will continue to make you even after I graduate. You were just that good. Do you know that scene from “Ratatouille” when Remi revels in the flavors of strawberries and cheese? I had that exact blissful moment with you when I tasted the slice of toasted sourdough bread, ripe avocado seasoned with salt and pepper, fried egg with hot sauce, Italian sausage and golden hash browns. Dare I say you were even better than any brunch spot I’ve tried around town. You’re like if I had an eldest child, spoiled with much time and energy to make you and guaranteed success. I was excited to wake up in the morning just to make and eat you.

Don’t think of this as a forever goodbye, my food friends! This is simply a love letter to express my utmost gratitude and love for all you have done for me while I was in school. This may be the end of an era here at UC Berkeley, but you will definitely make a comeback elsewhere — I’ll make sure of that.

All my love,

Kristy

Kristy Choung was a deputy blog editor in spring 2022. She joined The Daily Californian in summer 2021 as a social media producer and continued in the role in fall 2021. She is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in English as well as a minor in education.