Ok, let’s cut to the chase. This post is about kimchi, the famous Korean hot and spicy fermented napa cabbage delicacy.
What does kimchi have to do with cancer? Well, while surfing the internet, I read kimchi contains probiotics and probiotics are all the rage these days and have been for a while now. I decided I’d get in on the action. Gotta be where the action is, especially when it comes to strengthening the immune system, which is usually compromised in cancer sufferers.
Health enthusiasts mention kefir, yogurt, and fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut as excellent sources of natural – meaning not store-bought in pill form – probiotics. One cancer-free best friend of mine once told me that urinary tract infections (UTI) used to harass her several times a year but not any more after she started taking probiotic pills. Of course she has this tendency to try to topple me from my perch as the drama queen.
To satisfy my curiosity and get answers to my questions about probiotics, I revisited my alma mater Google University (GU). Sure enough, entry after entry discusses probiotic properties found in fermented cabbage such as sauerkraut and kimchi.
I’ll focus on kimchi.
GU defines a probiotic substance as a microorganism introduced into the body for its beneficial qualities. It translates to my simple English as good bacteria. We know the bad kind, the ones that bring bad news such as pain, nausea, shortness of breath, the runs, etc. Here we’re talking about the good guys, the kind that by sheer number can overpower the bad dudes and allow for a healthy body to flourish.
Some scientists actually investigated the types of good bacteria that populate kimchi. They found several types that have the capability to annihilate the bad bacteria in the intestines. That fact drove me to rekindle my interest in making kimchi regularly like I used to.
Many years ago, I had a dear Korean friend named Jeannie. Being both Asian immigrants married to Caucasians, we bonded easily. She owned a Mexican restaurant located in a roadside motel in Cuba, a small town in New Mexico some 70 miles northwest from Albuquerque. My engineering company had a construction staking project in Cuba and my surveyors stayed there for the duration of the project. Jeannie and I found a common real estate to do a show-and-tell on making kimchi from scratch. She demonstrated how she and her mother had done it all their lives. Then in a small bowl, she gave me a good serving of her recently fermented homemade kimchi. I remember how awesome it tasted.
Upon my return to Albuquerque, I embarked on kimchi construction based on my newly acquired knowledge. I assembled the requirements: (a) a large jar. My late first husband got it from a bar after the last maraschino cherry was removed from the glass jar to adorn a pina colada drink; (b) locally available fresh ingredients – a couple of heads of fresh napa cabbage, garlic, and ginger; “bagoong” (fermented shrimp Filipino style), sugar, and New Mexico powdered hot chilis.
It was amazing how the concoction developed a life of its own from assembly through fermentation, which took seven days. I made kimchi regularly for years. I liked to claim it was a talent and often told anyone who cared to listen that I had very few talents but the few I had were outstanding. Then I stopped. Hanging out at the bar drinking beer was far more exciting than filling a large jar with vegetables for the purpose of making them saucy and sour. Those were the days when the word cancer was just a word.
Fast forward to modern times when cancer is a disease that hit home, blogging is a pastime and probiotics are the in thing. I made kimchi again based on my memory of the days of Jeannie, Cuba, and the survey project, wondering if my new kimchi would turn out as good as my old ones. By golly, it did! Thus began again the predictable presence of kimchi in the refrigerator.
I’ve been back to eating kimchi regularly because it’s there and I’m an environmental eater. I notice the UTI has not returned in a while. My bff might just have a point.
Do you like kimchi?