For some young women, food is something to fear

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For some young women, food is something to fear

The teenage years are trying for anyone, but for me, they were traumatic.
One of the lingering memories about my adolescence is an image of a chubby girl dressed in a black satin dress, staring into a bathroom mirror on a boat cruise on my prom night, half drunk. I was already weary about things that would happen in the years ahead.
A week later, I found that my prom date rolled his film into my camera the wrong way by mistake, leaving no trace of my last moments of high school. In a way, it was a relief.
But to console my wounded soul, I had to take the incident as a sign of fate and start my life all over.
The horror of my adolescence didn’t quietly go away with prom night. While I was at college, three of my close girlfriends, who somehow competed in an odd, unspoken rivalry, went on a compulsive diet at the same time, each losing about 10 to 15 kilos (22 to 33 pounds) in less than a year. It was a strange experience to be stuck among three young women who spent half of their time in restaurants counting the calories of each item on the menu.
The results were devastating for one friend, Yu-ni, who suffered from bulimia for a long time. For years, she went through her day on just a Diet Coke and half a bag of tortilla chips.
Then in random phases, she would wake up in the middle of the night and start cooking in her kitchen, while half asleep, to make huge plates of chicken stew with rice to feed her guests. We would share the food.
When I went back to bed after the meal, she would head straight to the bathroom.
Yu-ni, like many bulimic sufferers who empowered themselves by feeding others, enjoyed cooking. She would spend hours in her kitchen dicing vegetables and preparing elaborate meals for friends and family.
At the same time, the guilt that ran in her mind about her illness might have been much more traumatic than her family had assumed. Often when we visited her house, we saw that she had lined up pictures in her bedroom of starving children she was helping through an international charity.
The bulimia was devastating for many around her. She was hospitalized twice after fainting on the street, her weight having fallen below 40 kilos.
Her arthritis came back because of malnutrition. When her muscles swelled, she couldn’t move out of her bed for weeks.
When I visited her house once, she looked at me helplessly while she ate a bowl of vegetable porridge and asked whether her face was swollen. I couldn’t tell just how much of her life was motivated by fear.
The good thing about the days of youth is that they often have their expiration date. After years of counseling, my friend Yu-ni recently gave birth to a beautiful baby girl.
It was an emotional experience for all of us, and sweet revenge after what our fear had done to us.

How to Cook

Vegetable porridge

Ingredients (for 1 serving): 2 cups of rice, 100g of beef, 6 mushrooms, 50g spinach, 50g carrots, 100g fresh oysters, 1/2 gim (dried seaweed), 1/3 green onion, 4 eggs, 12 cups of beef broth. For sauce: 3 teaspoons of soy sauce, little bit of diced green onion, crushed garlic, sesame seeds, sesame seeds.
1. Wash the rice thoroughly and soak them in water for an hour.
2. Chop the beef into bite-size pieces. Dice mushrooms and carrots into fine pieces.
3. Put spinach in boiling water with a little salt, stir a few times and take out the spinach.
4. Wash the oysters in salted cold water.
5. Heat sesame oil in a wok or deep pan, then put in the rice, beef and carrots. When they boil, add the broth.
6. When the rice is cooked, add the rest of the vegetables and oysters.
7. Add the sauce and a raw egg.
8. Serve with sprinkles of dried gim and sesame seeds on top.

by Park Soo-mee
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