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Hoarders: Korean Kitchen Edition

Week one of learning Korean kicked my ass. It wasn’t an all-out brawl exactly, but I’m certainly going to wake up tomorrow with an extensive collection of psychic bruises. Right now, I think it’ll be better to distract myself from—rather than dwell in—the trauma, so I’m not going to get into all the gory details. Suffice it to say that Korean is a tough language made tougher by the various gifts and curses specific to my brain. I am not, what you would call, mentally spry. I can think my way through a problem well enough, but when it comes to speed, I am at a great disadvantage. Unfortunately, an intensive language class is a kind of long-distance sprint. And I’m feelin’ it, yo. Not to play the age card, but boy, 27 is awfully late to be learning a whole new alphabet. Somehow, I’m actually worse at Korean today than I was three classes ago. Even very simple things are getting frustratingly jumbled and I’m starting to second-guess myself. Since I speak Spanish more smoothly when a little drunk, maybe I should enjoy a pre-class cocktail or two? I’m sure that would solve all my problems.

Abrupt Departure, I'm a hoarder, Kitchen stuff, Mapo-gu, Seoul, Korea

Where’s Waldo?

Happily though, I have plenty of delightful distractions because OUR STUFF ARRIVED and stuff always makes life better! Yesterday, the lovely folks at Mayflower Movers showed up at our doorstep like a dower pair of off-season Santas. After the fifty-three day trek, which took all of our earthly possessions across seventeen time zones, the remarkably pristine boxes promised a world of creature comforts, sorely missed. I, of course, dove directly into the boxes marked “kitchen supplies.” I’ve been positively desperate for a few important staples, so there was no negotiating with the urge to start with MY, MY, MY things. Yes, I probably wouldn’t have died if HCB and I had strategized a way to share this first round of unpacking, but I was up to my elbows in kitchen gear before I even knew what was happening. And, you guys, there is a lot of kitchen gear.

The first step in any program of recovery is admitting that you have a problem, and since—here at AD—we try to, at every turn, conduct a fierce and searching moral inventory, I have to admit something to myself and my readership: I am a hoarder of kitchen tools. Back in the States, I could convince myself that I wasn’t hurting anyone, that someday I would get around to all that home canning I’ve been meaning to do. What are you talking about?! Of course, I need a jar lifter! Well, there’s no reality check for a hoarder like a 6000-mile move. The deeper I dug into the FOURTEEN boxes labeled “Kitchen,” which BTW did not include any of my cookbooks, the clearer the seriousness of my disease became. Take, for example, the utensils I exhumed from the hoard:

It’s all totally essential. Especially the jar lifter on the right.

In my defense, the moving company wouldn’t let us pack our own stuff (and what a wonderful prohibition that was), so I didn’t exactly chose to take each of these items. I mean, it wasn’t like I said to myself, You know, it will be important to have this many slotted spoons. However, that’s a poor defense when the magnitude of the situation is really taken in, all at once: I shipped two knife blocks; I brought a sixteen-cup food processor and a seven-quart stand mixer; I have three cast iron pans, four anodized aluminum pots, three stainless steel sauté pans, and an enameled Dutch oven; I even have all the cake pans I would need to make a three tiered wedding cake. This is the packing material used to protect my treasure trove:

Abrupt Departure, I'm a hoarder, Kitchen stuff, Mapo-gu, Seoul, Korea

I’m so sorry, trees.

But, you know what? Now that it’s here, I’m so happy to have all this stuff. Yes, I felt a little silly when I found the barbecue sauce mop, but having my kitchen supplies is both luxurious and completely comforting. Although I’ve gotten less dependent on the idea of a stable, static home as I’ve gotten older, I gain a great deal of security from nesting. I am able to live out of a backpack, but having the things that I expect to have in the places that I expect to have them is one of the hallmarks of home for me. I’ve watched too many hours (days) of Hoarders to not shudder a little at that statement, but it is what it is.

So… Hurray, things!

Now, if only baking ingredients weren’t so bafflingly expensive, I might actually make some goodies for my new Korean friends…

Audience participation: Do you have any stories of imprudent moves or hoarding tendencies? If so, I invite you to share them below. Don’t worry. No one will judge you; this is a safe space.

The landing was rough, but it was TOTALLY worth it.

18 Comments Post a comment
  1. How many BBQ sauce mops are there in Seoul proper…yours and a very few others….time to start a new slow food trend with your unique implement…!!

    April 6, 2012
    • Tim, while unwrapping everything, I thought more than once that the only way to justify shipping all this stuff was to open a cafe in Korea and serve paninis and baked goods. Because it isn’t like my kitchen at home is big enough to do anything anyway. The tiny home-oven-sized sheet pans I bought before flying out here aren’t even close to fitting in my Korean oven. The best laid plans…

      April 6, 2012
      • John W. #

        I completely mis-read “paninis.” Also, I am jealous of your swag. :-D

        April 7, 2012
    • If not that then maybe I can sell it to the Seoul Museum of Western Culture for an exhibit on global BBQ.

      April 6, 2012
  2. Rhymes with moose #

    I a totally use my jar lifter fairly often, and can think of a use for each of those pans. However I don’t think that you have reached the hoarding stage yet. My mother has a jar of 25 plus wooden spoons some of which belonged to her grandmother, and each of which is for particular foods. (she gets really mad when you use a pale spoon for a tomatoe sauce). She has a wooden slotted spoon only used for mixing up frozen juice concentrates.
    Let’s not talk about the 4 sets of measuring cups. Or the heirloom spatulas with hardened first generation rubber. Or the whisks, good god the whisks…

    You are still on the functional side of your collection.

    April 7, 2012
    • I can totally get behind the “a spoon for all seasons” approach to kitchen accessories, but sometimes I feel like Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest: “I said no metal spatulas!”

      April 7, 2012
  3. You know, as I sit here and eat my hangover bagel , I’m reminded of the fact that you were my hoarding coach. Remember those post-free pile chats; those long nights of clothes sorting with a unique explanation for every article of clothing as to why I really should hang on to it (no really, I know these pants were shredded by an angry wolf but they could be my changing-my-car-oil pants); the pre-free pile dragging-me-away-from-thems. Ah, good times.
    Also, those pictures of you are ADORABLE.

    April 7, 2012
    • Good times! Really all that was just so I could have you try on all your fun clothing. And then with space in your closet, we could go by more! Poor Mike thought I was helping him… HA. Also, how are the chickens doing?

      One million kisses,

      April 7, 2012
  4. Linda Elkins #

    Laughing out loud, tears of hysteria streaming… I have to admit that this is all too familiar. The kitchen tool lineup feels like home. And there’s my old friend the “BBQ Mop” which I never figured out how to use(a pastry brush seems so much more civilized. How much sauce do you need?)
    Your writing continues to charm and delight in the most wonderful way. I feel like you are right here chatting with me telling stories in my bedroom with only 3 feet between us. It oddly comforts me. I love you so much….
    PS The photos are fantastic.

    April 7, 2012
    • I hope you noticed that I didn’t throw you under the bus at all. Not even one word of blame pointed in your direction. That’s what love looks like. And lying.

      Love you too. Skype date are going to be hard to arrange while I’m in school but we’ll make it work.

      April 7, 2012
  5. The issue isn’t so much quantity of kitchen stuff. The issue is quantity of kitchen stuff in a country where (for a variety of complex reasons ranging from cost and availability of familiar grocery items to the teeny size of one’s oven) we probably won’t be cooking all that much.

    April 7, 2012
  6. Jenn #

    On my first move across the country, me and my husband sold almost everything we owed because we were driving. We literally took suitcases full of clothes, our tv and computers and books. We bought everything when we got to PA. Now we’re facing another move across the state this time and I don’t want to part with anything. For example, we have a barbecue on our deck but our new apartment does not have a deck, in fact it’s on the third floor with only windows. We don’t have extra storage space and we don’t have a garage, yet I am still trying to figure out a way to take the $20 barbecue we bought a walmart last summer with us. Also books, i have absoultely no need for 8 board review books or an anatomy coloring book that I haven’t opened since that particular class is over, but I’m still holding on to it.

    I guess I better learn how to let go pretty sure. I’ve only got five weeks left.

    P.S. I love this adventure you’re on!

    April 8, 2012
    • It is certainly hard, but it’s also incredibly freeing. I’ve done an impressive job (I’m impressed with myself, at least) of getting rid of other things, but somehow the kitchen stuff never makes it to the bottom of the list. At this point kitchen gear is just about all I have.

      Good luck with your move! Again, it’s traumatic but freeing.

      April 11, 2012
  7. emily w #

    One time we packed up about 8 years of Time magazines, and 6 or 7 years of Life magazines. Came back 4 years later and asked what we were doing, right before we recycled it ALL. And yet I still couldn’t throw out my parents’ saved Time, Life, Look, and Sat. Eve. Post., instead it all went into the yard sale. Love yard sales for getting rid of stuff I do not want, but can’t bear to throw away.

    April 8, 2012
    • Oooh. That’s a good one, Emily! The recycling bit, had me in stitches. You just let the magazines ripen for a few years…

      April 11, 2012
  8. Meg #

    I’m concerned that I don’t seem to think this is that much stuff. I easily have this much kitchen stuff in my apartment. And the amount only increased after my husband and I got married. (BTW, you don’t know me, but I went to Mason with HCB. So hi, love the blog, very Sedaris-esque.)

    April 10, 2012
    • Hi Meg,
      The problem is less the absolute amount of stuff and more the relative amount. Take this as a demonstration of what I’m talking about: the oven doesn’t fit a regular sized sheet pan and half of the cupboards are only five inches deep. And our apartment is positively palatial in comparison to most Korean apartments, so if we ever have to move, heaven help us. As with everything, it’s about the context…

      (Good to meet you, Meg. Thanks for the kind words! HCB filled me in on who you are, but I’m glad to make the connection myself.)

      April 11, 2012

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