Towards the end of May, I started a challenge to be documented on facebook (photos) to make breakfast for 25 days straight, excluding weekends and holidays. After finishing this challenge over two weeks ago, here are some of my reflections (mixed with some of the photos I uploaded for this challenge)…
Before the beginning of the challenge, I was going to have to prepare all the meals for the kids (our older one [5 years old] and our niece [13 years old]) for an indefinite period of time (at least three weeks). My wife was still in Korea at the time with our little one (who was injured due to an accident and had to stay in Korea for followup care after his surgery), and my sister-in-law had to return to Korea because her visa period ended. So I decided to undertake this challenge because (1) it would force me to keep cooking at least breakfast and not rely on something store-bought or processed; (2) I figured that if I could make a good breakfast, the leftovers could be used for lunch and dinner (^o^); and (3) I had started this blog a few months before but was unable to maintain it for long, so I thought this challenge could provide some future content. Even though I didn’t always use the leftovers for lunch and/or dinner (ok, I went to In-N-Out one time – sorry! ^^), the challenge definitely pushed me to keep on cooking in the mornings, and I have some good ideas for future posts to this blog.
Every morning, I uploaded the photos of each breakfast with the day of the challenge, the name of the dish, and the reviews given by the kids, my harshest critics. Fortunately, I was getting more adept at the uploading by mobile so as not to waste too much time (maybe 1-2 minutes maximum) during the day! Thanks to my fb (and real-life!) friends, I enjoyed the “likes” and the comments responding to my posts.
When I originally started this challenge, I had four criteria in mind for the breakfasts:
(1) Overall, the breakfast had to be hot (or at least warm! ^^);
(2) The breakfast had to be more than just flour-based, and of course, have at least SOME nutrition (^^);
(3) No repeat of any featured dish during the 25 days (in other words, something new had to be made each time);
(4) Preparation time had to be less than 30-60 minutes (????).
So what can be concluded? What have I learned?
First of all…it’s possible! Even though I skipped one weekend (originally I allowed for skipped weekends and/or holidays), and I went away for a four-day weekend to Portland for my doctorate studies, I still completed the “25 Days” in exactly 31 days. Also, with the exception of maybe three dishes (the noodle soup [칼국수], the oxtail soup [소꼬리곰탕], and the watermelon peel salad [수박피무침]), which required prep time the night before, all of the breakfasts featured actually were able to be prepared in about 45 minutes or so (not more than an hour). More importantly, clean-up time took less than 15 minutes! ^__^ A little more authentic than Rachael Ray, right? ^__~ And no featured dish was repeated!
Second… I retained a lot more than I thought what I learned from my parents (in particular, my mother) in terms of cooking, and I was able to sometimes combine what I learned as “traditional” Korean cooking with other cooking traditions and/or new methods. Like I said in my introduction to this whole challenge, I have cooked a lot before for the family, and a lot of it was/is based on what I ate growing up, but I often repeated several dishes over and over again. This time, when push came to shove, I actually didn’t run out of ideas during the 25 days, and they kept on coming!
Third… To be honest, I was pleasantly surprised by the positive responses to the breakfast photos. As you may already know, these aren’t your typical “American” breakfasts (then again, what is really an “American” breakfast?), but a lot of them were my/our typical breakfasts in our (Korean) household. While growing up, my peers did not always accept our food – you know, our REAL food, not the watered-down (or even more deep-fried or heavily sauced) version [probably Chinese food is more of a victim of that than Korean food, since at that time, Korean food was not as well known as it is now]. Part of it perhaps was my own doing due to my anticipated fear of being rejected or ridiculed, so I didn’t share too much our food with the mainstream (the mythological “second” menu at an Asian restaurant [again, Chinese restaurants more of a victim of this urban myth than Korean restaurants probably]). Times have definitely changed, as people’s perceptions and/or concepts of food or even GOOD food have evolved and expanded and maybe co-opted as well (but that’s another discussion for another day), taking into account aesthetics, taste, AND nutrition. When I think about it, the food I/we ate in our household definitely had all that. I could probably discuss this point a little more, but again, this may be a more in-depth discussion for another day.
The “25 Days of Breakfast” ended over two weeks ago, but hopefully, we can maintain and even further grow our motivation and enthusiasm in preparing, eating, and experiencing good, hot, nutritious, and sometimes NEW, daily breakfasts here in our Lee-Ryu household. By the way, the first weekend after my challenge ended, I made egg sandwiches and “egg rolls”:
And the next day, I made pancakes! ^__~
Below is a recap of the “25 Days of Breakfast,” the verdicts, and the number of likes and/or comments from my friends:
Day 1: Bean Sprout Soup – “ok”; 1 like…………Bok Choy with Garlic – “ok”; 2 likes
Day 2: Vegetable and Ham Fried Rice – “FAIL (“too many vegetables!”)”; 3 likes
Comments: “Are you ready for a Fried Rice Throwdown[?]”
Day 3: Trout Seaweed Soup (송어미역국) – “WIN”; 1 like……………..”Mild” Italian Sausage stir-fry – “ok”; 0 likes
Day 4: Watermelon Rind Salad (수박피무침) – “ok”; 2 likes……………..Egg-battered fried roll (김밥전) – “good”; 5 likes
Day 5: Omelette Rice (오므라이스) – “Yummmmm!”; 6 likes
Day 6: “Hand-cut” noodles with vegetables in fish broth (칼국수) – “Mmmmm”; 7 likes
Comments: “How come we didn’t get this in our cooking demonstration?!?!”; “Excuse me Cliff hand cut noodles , now your just showing off LOL”
Day 7: Steamed broccoli with “special sauce” – “ok”; 1 like……………….Egg and avocado in dried seaweed wrap – “ok”
Day 8: Egg drop soup (계란탕) – “맛있어!” (tastes good!); 3 likes
Comments: “Are you making all these meals or just taking pictures of them at fancy restaurants? Please tell me it’s the latter – I’m feeling like such a slacker!”
Day 9: Black soy bean sprout rice (검은콩콩나물밥) – “맛있어!” (tastes good!); 6 likes
Day 10: Daikon radish rice (무우밥) – “Hey! It’s ok!”; 1 like
Day 11: Broccoli stem stir-fry – “Hey! It’s ok!”; 1 like………………Okonomiyaki – “WIN”; 1 like
Day 12: Pan-fried egg-battered tofu and squash – “ok”; 1 like
Comments: “I want an invitation to these breakfast feasts!!!”
…………….Tomato and tofu soup – “ok”; 0 likes
Day 13: Egg scrambled with poached water spinach – “eh…it’s ok…”; 2 likes
Day 14: Shredded beef soup (육개장) [without the chile!] – “이거 맛있어!” (“This one tastes good!”); 0 likes…………..Lettuce stem with garlic – <no judgment>; 0 likes
Day 15: “Curry Rice” (카레밥 [not 카레라이스! ^^]) – <silence, just eating…>; 0 likes
Day 16: “Egg Roll” (계란말이) over bok choy with garlic over rice, drizzled with sesame oil – “ok”; 7 likes
Comments: ” That’s so clever–“egg roll”! :)”; “Nice presentation.”
Day 17: Bean sprout and soy bean paste soup (콩나물된장국)- “a little too salty but ok”; 2 likes
Comments: “^^ I wish someone cooks for me every morning~ 매일매일 너무 맛있겠어요.”
Day 18: Grated daikon radish and bean paste soup (무된장국) – “good! and not so salty this time!”; 1 like
Day 19: Squash and Eggs – 5 likes
Day 20: Steamed Egg (계란찜) – “good!”; 1 like
Day 21: Oxtail Soup (꼬리곰탕) – “맛있어!”(“Tastes good!”); 9 likes
Day 22: Cucumber Salad (오이무침) – “ok”; 7 likes
Day 23: Vegetable rice porridge/congee (야채죽) – two “Mmmmm,” one “eh”…; 5 likes
Comments: “Stop it, stop it! It’s too yummy looking!”
Day 24: Braised tofu (두부조림) and pork (actually, bacon!) stir-fried with soy bean sprouts – “진짜 맛있어!” (“Really tastes good!”) and “두부! 두부! 두부!” (“Tofu! Tofu! Tofu!”); 7 likes
Comments: “…if these are your breakfasts, what are lunch and dinner like??? Super impressed by the diversity and fusion of ingredients.”
Day 25: potato and soft tofu soup (감자순두부국) with stir-fried king oyster mushrooms, watermelon peel salad (수박피무침), chicken and greens, and pickled radish stems(무말랭이). Also stir-fried eggplant with garlic – 2 likes
And it looks like these are the “winners”: (^__^)
and the “egg roll” over bok choy and rice, and the oxtail soup (most number of likes!)… ^__^
by Cliff Lee