Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again? (650 words or less)
A few Thanksgivings ago, my mom decided to buy a whole pig and roast it herself. Unfortunately, the pig had a ghastly aroma which filled the whole house, and everyone immediately scolded her for the acrid smell ruining their Thanksgiving meal. Initially, no one ate it – it’s a little different from the traditional ham. But, being as hungry as I was, I decided it couldn’t taste as bad as it smelled. So, I was the only one to try some, and it became my favorite dish. Now the story is repeated every year by my proud mother, whose fourteen year old daughter consumed a questionable part of a pig, when not even the adults could overcome the odor.
Growing up with Korean cuisine, I became familiar with ingredients rejected by American palates – garlic beetles, fermented cabbage, and shrimp heads, just to name a few. While my peers indicate their disgust by slightly gagging or widening their eyes in disbelief, I shrug my shoulders and insist that it’s all healthy, yummy, and, most importantly, edible. When I’m sick, I can consume a whole bowl of miyeok guk (seaweed soup). My dad still thinks it’s strange, but my favorite part of sundubu jjigae is eating the shrimp whole, with all of the flavor concentrated in the head, eyeballs included. In a particularly brave moment, I ate a risky hoagie customized by my bored and slightly devilish friends. When I took the first bite, I was surprisingly pleased. I ate almost the whole thing, until the bread started to get soggy from the pickle juice… and mayonnaise, barbecue sauce, horseradish, and mustard. I had no idea what else it contained until they gave me the receipt with all the ingredients listed – which I keep tacked to a board in my room, where I proudly display this proof of my strong stomach.
My eclectic taste has also allowed me to carry my open-mindedness outside of the kitchen. To some, my meals are disgusting. To me, they are delicious and familiar. It frustrates me that a world of flavors and satisfaction remains unimagined to those who refuse to try something because it’s alien to them. In hopes that I do not convey the same judgment upon others, I try to give people, like food, the benefit of the doubt. I strive to understand foreign concepts, to accept opportunities more freely. A few years ago, I took a hip hop class at a local dance studio, even though my only experience was briefly in ballet 8 years prior. After permanently leaving soccer a few years ago, I joined rugby, a considerably more dangerous and confusing sport than anything I had ever experienced. My junior year, I took Sociology and C++ programming, even though their low credit weight would put my GPA at a disadvantage. However, I found myself enjoying C++ so much that I continued on to take AP Computer Science this year, which I would not have considered had I not taken the risk in the first place.
Whether it’s with a meal that I eat, or the courses I tackle in school, I cannot resist trying new things, even if they serve no direct purpose (my hip-hop dancing skills have hardly improved). There is a Korean saying: “One who is full with more food on the table will waste.” Ever since my grandmother starting greeting me with “Are you hungry?” I have tried not to take food, or anything, for granted. Dubbed the “garbage disposal” of my peers, I thank my fast metabolism and continue to indulge. My everlasting hunger, for food and knowledge, has me always wanting more and never wanting to waste opportunities. I hope that I will always make the same decision as I did that Thanksgiving – to reach out of my comfort zone and challenge the hesitation of others.