Sometimes, willpower means noodles

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Sometimes, willpower means noodles

It’s about that time of the year when people who made New Year resolutions have returned to their old habits, flagellating themselves for their lack of willpower. As a person whose face has gotten to be the size of an ad balloon (I’m writing this column the day after a late-night binge at a pojangmacha), I have nothing to say about willpower or a life of moderation.
But something has been bothering me ever since I came across a book called “Who Took My Fat?” by Jeong Chan-min, a young TV producer who said he lost 52 kilograms (115 pounds) on a diet after being turned away from bungee jumping for being overweight.
The book is mostly emotional testimony about the suffering of overweight people in our society. It compiles pretty much all the stories one could imagine about being “a fat stranger,” as the author bitterly puts it. He talks about his pants tearing in public, about his nickname “Mount Everest” and about having to sign a waiver at a swimming pool saying that he was willing to risk his life to use the slide. He remembers his fear every morning when he got on the elevator at work, hoping the bell wouldn’t ring. He says he was rejected for life insurance.
With regular exercise and a vegetarian diet, he went down from 130 to 78 kilograms. Mr. Jeong now chirps that some friends at a wedding mistook him for his younger brother.
I admire people like Mr. Jeong, because I think Korea is the worst place in the world for dieting. On the one hand, the national standard for obesity ―as seen in department stores ― is anyone over size 8. There is constant pressure to lose weight, whether medical, psychological or social. Diet pills are sold everywhere, gyms are sprouting like weeds and celebrities are hired to pose for “before and after” shots.
Yet walk the streets of Seoul. It’s literally impossible to walk a block in an office district without seeing food carts. The author tells his readers to “choose their environment.” But what does that mean? Do you have to memorize all the alleys in Seoul that don’t sell street food?
I’m still on the side of people who believe healthy dieting is about eating and digesting well. My best effort, for now, consists of having healthy noodles for lunch instead of a cheeseburger, and limiting my consumption of hot chocolate and butter pecan ice cream from one scoop a week to maybe one or two a month. As a person who is still learning the ways of moderation, that will do.

How to Cook

Momilguksu (buckwheat noodles)

Ingredients: 500g wet buckwheat noodles, a bit of shredded gim (dried seaweed), 1 green onion, 1/2 cup of crushed radish, little bit of cherry tomatoes. For sauce: 1/2 cup of dried anchovies, 1/2 piece of kelp, 1/4 cup of cooking wine, 1/4 cup of soy sauce.
1. Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the noodles. Stir for 3 minutes, then rinse the noodles under cold water in a strainer.
2. Use a cheesecloth to squeeze the excess water out of the crushed radish. Dice the green onion.
3. Boil the anchovies and the kelp in two cups of water for 7 or 8 minutes. Let it cool, strain out the kelp and anchovies and add cooking wine and soy sauce (and sugar, if desired) to the broth. Add the green onions and radish.
4. Serve the noodles and broth separately. Dip the noodles in the broth.

by Park Soo-mee
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