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Put All the Ingredients on the Table

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The way Namjoon saw it, it was all Yoongi’s fault.

If Min Yoongi hadn’t been assigned as his roommate during their first year of university, they would have never discovered they were both into underground rap music and musical production, and consequently, they would have never befriended each other. If they hadn’t become friends, they would have never considered moving in together after getting their bachelor degrees (all so that Namjoon wouldn’t have to endure the two years of his Master’s program living in the crappy university dorm with some stranger, and so Yoongi’s miserable salary from his job at Dunkin Donuts could be used for more than just paying rent in a stupidly overpriced apartment, like saving up for the equipment he required as an aspiring producer).

Now, if they hadn’t moved in together, if Namjoon had gone and lived all by himself without Min Yoongi in his immediate perimeter, then maybe he would have learned how to cook and he would be able to fend for himself and not die of hunger if he somehow ended up stuck in a deserted island.

But no; Min Yoongi and he shared a flat, and perhaps that wouldn’t have become a problem if the older man hadn’t banned Namjoon from the kitchen. His excuse was that Namjoon had somehow managed to burn a soup just one day after moving in, leaving the entire apartment smelling like artificial chicken for two days (because it was winter – it’s not like they could just open the windows to make the smell go away. It was, in Yoongi’s words, a tragedy).

Perhaps unknowingly, Yoongi had spoiled Namjoon rotten by providing him with warm homemade food on a daily basis and saving him from learning how to cook (Namjoon took care of other stuff, of course; for instance, Yoongi hadn’t washed a single dish ever since he had banned the younger from cooking except for the times when Namjoon had gone back to Ilsan to visit his family for a long weekend).

But then, a new guy started working at Dunkin Donuts with Yoongi.

And Yoongi kinda liked that guy.

And the guy kinda liked Yoongi back.

And then, a few weeks before Namjoon’s third semester of post-grad started, Yoongi told him that he had a boyfriend called Park Jimin who was ridiculously cute and unbelievably sexy at the same time.

Which was awesome, really – he was all for his friends finding love and getting laid with cute hotties, sexy cuties, or whatever they were into, he really was, but one of the immediate consequences of Yoongi not being home as often was that there was no food at home anymore.

Okay, so maybe it was Namjoon’s own fault for never learning how to cook in the first place and letting the problem grow the way it had, but Yoongi was at least forty-five percent guilty for indulging him and letting him live peacefully in a cooking-free world because he preferred to the work himself instead of actually solving the problem and maybe burning a few things in the process.

The point of the matter was that Min Yoongi the Enabler had started sleeping over at Jimin’s place far too often, which resulted in an empty fridge.

At first, Namjoon had relied on instant food and take-out, but there were only so many times a man of Namjoon’s height and build could rely on instant ramen and cereal bars, and only so many times a man with Namjoon’s reduced budget could order take-out or eat in a restaurant without going bankrupt.

It was a sad realization, and he should have known it was bound to happen sooner or later, but there was no way around it. Even if Yoongi hadn’t met Jimin and he didn’t spend every other night away, it was obvious that Namjoon couldn’t depend on the older man to make his dinner forever.

Namjoon would die of undernourishment if he didn’t learn how to cook.

It was a tragedy he couldn’t allow. He wouldn’t go down as The Man That Could Have Been The Next Nietzsche But Died Because He Couldn’t Feed Himself.

That’s why a few weeks into March, Namjoon decided to interrupt his study session to start putting his life and dignity back together.

He opened up Naver and typed ‘kimchi jjigae easiest recipe’ into the search bar.

He tapped his fingers rhythmically on his desk as he read through the results, and dear god, they all looked boring.

Most of the links had pretty much the same title and were written with the same annoyingly encouraging tone. Plus, many of the pages weren’t really clear, or they had annoying layouts, clearly designed by a middle-aged person in a computer from the early 2000s.

But then he saw it – a result with a title that caught his attention because, well, because it represented him.

It read: EatJin’s Foolproof Recipe Saga – Part I: Kimchi Jjigae for the Inexperienced College Student.

He had no way of knowing if the owner of that website, a blog called EatJin, was mocking him or genuinely trying to be helpful to him. It was probably both, Namjoon decided as he clicked on the blue link and waited for the website to load.

And the website was goddamn pretty, was what it was.

Now, Namjoon wasn’t exactly familiar with cooking blogs (i.e., he had never in his life seen a cooking blog before that day), but he had the feeling that the one he had visited just now should be what every other cooking blog should aspire to be – the Platonic Ideal of cooking blogs.

At the very top of the blog, there was a large banner with a close-up picture of a delicious-yet-ridiculously-gourmet-and-honestly-kinda-weird looking pizza. The words ‘EatJin’ were written in English somewhere over the pizza, and the font was big and bold, yet still casual enough that it didn’t feel overwhelming. It surprised Namjoon when the picture of the pizza was replaced by a mouth-watering photo of bibimbap in a black clay dish.

Namjoon’s stomach nearly growled at the images, but he forced himself to look away from the bibimbap so he could read the blog’s description, which was written in a more minimalistic font in a sidebar on the right side of the blog just below what appeared to be the blog’s logo: a cute doodle of a fork and a knife crossed in an x-shape with a pink bow tying them together.

Hi! My name is Jin and I’m a 25-year-old Korean foodie that runs a blog about my favorite thing in the world, which is –you guessed it— food. Here you will find a little bit of everything, from recipes to restaurant reviews, some random anecdotes, tips and ideas, and many, many bad jokes (none of which I’ll apologize for). The only thing you’ll find none of is cilantro – no exceptions.

If you have any questions or suggestions (that don’t include cilantro), you can read my FAQ and/or send me an email!

Now, LET’S EAT!!

[ For more delicious food follow me on Twitter and Instagram @EatJin ]

Namjoon didn’t know what it was that made him trust this Jin person to teach him how to cook. Maybe it was how simultaneously cute and professional their blog looked and how his mouth had started watering simply at the sight of two pictures, or maybe it was the fact that he, too, hated cilantro with a burning passion, though it was most likely the bluntness and confidence he perceived in every word he read in that blog.

When he looked up from the blog’s description and he saw that the picture of bibimbap had gotten replaced by an amazing shot of cupcakes with soft lilac and baby pink frosting he was sold. Absolutely sold.

He scrolled down to leave the amazing cupcakes out of sight and he started to read.

☀ ☀ ☀ ☀ ☀


EatJin’s Foolproof Recipe Saga – Part I: Kimchi Jjigae for the Inexperienced College Student


Saturday, February 25th, 2014.

Let me guess. You are in college, aren’t you? No? Well, it’s either that, or you’ve simply just moved from your family home. Whatever it was that pushed you out of the nest doesn’t matter anymore. All that matters right now is that you’re looking up in the internet on how to make kimchi jjigae easily (I’d bet 10,000 won that’s what you googled), sitting in your chair with a hand down your pants and an abandoned text book on your desk. It’s sad, isn’t it? Not your situation, I mean – who doesn’t love having their hand down their own pants? No, what is sad is being an undetermined amount of kilometers away from eomma and her unbeatable kimchi jjigae, and suddenly craving the sour, spicy taste of heaven while trying to cram algebraic formulas, big fat books about the biology of marsupials, or god-knows-what into your head. That’s what nightmares are made of, and I’m willing to guess that’s also what made you search for an easy recipe for kimchi jjigae.

Missing home, or not perhaps not home necessarily, but you’re missing a warm meal made with love – with love that you won’t find in instant ramen, no matter how hard you look.

But fear not! You’ve come to the right place, my friend. Plus, you should know you’re not alone in your despair – actually, I think that everybody who has gone through college has experienced something similar (unless, of course, you are like me and go to a culinary school, where food made with love and blood and sweat and tears can be found all around. However, I’ll take a wild guess and assume that you’re not in culinary school –at least not a Korean one— if you somehow wound up in a step-by-step guide to one of the easiest, simplest, yet most vital dishes of Korean cuisine). And I’m not kidding when I say it’s easy – after you’ve done reading this you’ll be raising your eyebrows, wondering if this was really It.

A little known fact is this was one of the first dishes I learned how to properly make, because believe it or not, I wasn’t born with a spatula in my hand and a pasta colander in my head. Shocking, isn’t it? But anyway, it is what it is, and the twists and turns of life have brought me here to put my knowledge to good use; to help you, poor souls, feel at home even as you study your youth away in some college dorm.

Having said all this, I officially inaugurate my Foolproof Recipe Saga, which will count with recipes so easy yet so unbelievably yummy that you and your friends won’t believe you made them yourself. Let the finger-burning begin!

☀ ☀ ☀ ☀ ☀

Namjoon swallowed every bit of information this mysterious, sassy, yet kind-hearted Jin offered with something that bordered on fascination. He had never thought cooking could be so much fun, and he had enjoyed every bit of unrelated information that Jin shared about themselves here and there, as well as the painful jabs at his lack of skill.

Jin was even considerate enough with their readers to include pictures to make sure to illustrate every step of the process.

His jaw nearly hit the floor when he saw that there were over three hundred comments at the bottom of the post, and all of them (at least the ones in the first page of comments which showed the oldest comments, written more than two years ago when the recipe had only just been posted on the blog) had been replied to by Jin.

Namjoon scrolled all the way up and clicked on Jin’s Twitter and Instagram links with determination in order to ‘follow for more food’.

While the blog’s official Instagram consisted exclusively of pictures of food that looked too yummy to be real, the Twitter account was a bit more miscellaneous. It contained lots of retweeted links to recipes by what Namjoon imagined were other food blogs, lots of pictures of food, naturally, and also many random tweets of what seemed to be daily life stuff.

(They also had several thousands of followers in both social platforms, which almost made Namjoon start sweating cold. Could people become famous over cooking? He knew there were famous chefs in TV and all that, and that cooking shows were really a thing, but becoming well-known over a food blog sounded like something extremely post-modern to do).

As he scrolled through EatJin’s diverse social platforms he became aware of something, though.

He hadn’t seen a single picture of EatJin’s Jin’s face.

In some pictures he could see the blogger’s fingers, which were cute and pale and a little bendy, but never the face.

Hell, he didn’t even know if this Jin person was a man or a woman.

Namjoon’s first instinct had told him they were a woman – what with the perfectly decorated cooking blog and the pink bow tying the fork and the knife together in the logo. He discarded that thought almost as soon as it appeared because god dammit, Kim Namjoon, that was so non-feminist of you; genders aren’t color coded, and activities like cooking sure as hell aren’t gender-specific, you dumb shit.

For all he knew, EatJin’s Jin could be a guy. Or maybe they didn’t believe in gender at all.

Either way, he went back to the main blog to look for the link to the frequently asked questions page. He surely couldn’t be the first person to wonder, right? There was people who had probably followed Jin for a long, long time before Namjoon came along. Surely they had been curious as well.

☀ ☀ ☀ ☀ ☀

~ EatJin’s FAQ ~

Hello and thanks for (being considerate) stopping by!! Please read through this before emailing me! ♡ Believe it or not, I’m a busy person so I don’t have the time to answer the same emails over and over again. Maybe someday, though.



1. Jin-ssi, what’s your real name?

Jin is my real name.

2. Jin-ssi, can we see your face?
I’m sure you’d love to, but let’s keep this about the food ok? ;)

3. Jin-ssi, are you a man or a woman?
I’m a bitch, I’m a lover, I’m a saint, I’m a mother, I’m a sinner, I’m a saint— (again, let’s keep this about the food, shall we?)

4. Jin-ssi, what part of Korea are you from? / In what city do you live?
I’m from Gwacheon, but I live in Seoul.

5. Jin-ssi, what is your favorite food?
I feel like such a bad person when I’m forced to choose just ONE favorite food when there are thousands of other delicious foods I also adore… (it’s lobster, but naengmyeon is also dope)

6. Jin-ssi, is there a food you hate?
You know the answer to this question, don’t you.

7. Jin-ssi, are you allergic to anything?
bees :(

8. Jin-ssi, when’s your birthday? / What’s your star sign? / What’s your blood type?
December 4th, which makes me a Sagittarius. And my blood type is O (why would you want to know something like that is beyond me, though)

9. Jin-ssi, Chinese food or Korean food?
BOTH!

10. Jin-ssi, is there something unrelated to food that you really like?
I like videogames and shopping.

11. Jin-ssi, did you study to become a cook or is it something you learned by yourself? / Are you an actual cook? / What school did you go to?
Mmm, I’d say both, a little bit. I enjoyed cooking during high school, and I grew to love it so much that I went to culinary school and studied there for four years. So yes, I’m a real cook. I graduated two years ago. (I won’t tell you what school I went to, though, that’s kind of creepy).

12. Jin-ssi, do you have a job? / Do you have any long-term plans regarding cooking?
I do have a job, but it’s not the one I want for myself. Not forever, at least. But it’s fine for now because it doesn’t pay thaaaat bad and it’s helping me to accomplish my dream: saving up to open my own restaurant in the near future. And trust me, when that happens, you will be the first to know.

13. Jin-ssi, what would you name your restaurant if you had one?
(oh man I’ve prepared for this question my entire life, so brace yourselves)
Mario Patty, Fishcotheque, Turnip the Beet, Burgatory, Tempt-asian, and for the fans of literature either The Lord of the Wings or Tequila Mockingbird.

14. All I have ever seen from you are your fingers, and I couldn’t help but notice they are a little bit crooked. Why is that?
The actual answer for your question would be shitty genetics, but I doubt that’s what you’re really asking. I have this thing called ‘Swan Neck Deformity’. I suggest you don’t point it out at comments in my posts, or whatever, because I know my own body and I know my fingers are structured a bit differently than other people, and I don’t need a constant reminder.

15. Can you speak other languages?
我会说中文. A little bit, at least. And I think I would be able to find a toilet in an English-speaking country. Also, I learnt French in school, but I pretty much only remember technical terms and curse words.

 

And that’s about it! If the question you would like to ask me was already answered, please refrain from emailing me. Any other doubts or suggestions or whatever (though I repeat: let’s keep this about food) are always welcome, but don’t forget you can also write a comment in my blog posts!! Sometimes it’s faster that way.

☀ ☀ ☀ ☀ ☀

Okay, so Namjoon had learned a bunch of stuff about Jin while simultaneously still being kept in the dark about the blogger’s true identity.

(He may or may not have laughed out loud at the references to The Lord of the Rings and To Kill A Mockingbird, and he may or may not have googled Jin’s finger condition to understand more what he was talking about.)

It wasn’t until his stomach growled loudly as he read through some Wikipedia article he had reached after following link after link that Namjoon remembered that – shit, the reason he had started this shit was that he was hungry, he was craving kimchi jjigae, and Yoongi wasn’t going to come home until very late that day, or maybe even the next day, so Namjoon had to cook, but he had spent over an hour stalking a cooking blog, of all things, and its faceless and genderless owner in every social network they owned.

Cursing his disperse mind, he closed all the extra tabs and only left the one that read EatJin’s Foolproof Recipe Saga – Part I: Kimchi Jjigae for the Inexperienced College Student.

He pulled out his phone and started writing the ingredients down.

 

There was a supermarket not too far away from Yoongi’s and his apartment. It was probably a fifteen-minute walk – ten if he walked at a faster pace. Still, it was a bigger distance than the one he was used to walk for food. Usually he would just go to the CU or the 7/11 located less than five minutes away, but since he was going to cook actual food this time instead of just adding hot water to a block of noodles, he had to go where they sold actual food.

He didn’t tell Yoongi he was going to cook.

The older man had said he was most likely coming back that very night, and that it would be Jimin who would stay over this time because he didn’t have class the next day. They were going to watch a movie, or do something equally sickeningly cute together, so Namjoon calculated that he had a lot of time to try to cook and to clean after a disaster (if he created a disaster).

The truth was, he hoped they both came home that night so he could not only surprise them with something nice to eat that he himself had made, but also to prove both of them wrong and show them that he wasn’t useless (not that they thought he was, but that was beside the point).

He only needed to fetch onions and garlic from the vegetables and fruits section, but he couldn’t find them anywhere.

How were onions sold, in first place? By unit or by gram? And garlic? It was too tiny to be sold by unit. Wasn’t it?

It was starting to get ridiculous; he had looked around the same hall three times and he still hadn’t been able to find the onions, so he decided to ask a shop clerk.

“Hey, excuse me?” He said as he approached a clerk who was facing away, a tall guy with brown hair and broad shoulders who was seemingly busy stacking overpriced apples in a strategic way that disguised their imperfections.

“Yes?” The guy replied, turning away from the pile of apples to look at Namjoon.

And woah.

Just, woah.

Now, Namjoon wasn’t exclusively gay, but he definitely would be if every guy in the world looked like the one that was standing right in front of him, looking at him expectantly, wearing awkward and probably uncomfortable clothes with the supermarket chain’s color palette.

“I, uhm,” Namjoon started and god, he wished he didn’t have to be awkward. He wasn’t always awkward – he could be smooth, alright. He was a pretty decent flirter when he had to be, and he sweet-talked teachers like nobody else in the entire Faculty of Philosophy. But for some reason he couldn’t even remember how to spell the word ‘onion’.

“Yeah?” The guy said, a bit more casually. He smiled, which was kind of unexpected, and he cocked his head to the side. He was cute and handsome and those were Namjoon’s kryptonite – since when did supermarkets hired such stupidly handsome clerks? “How can I help you?”

Namjoon shook his head. Enough was enough, he couldn’t act like a tool in front of a guy that worked less than twenty minutes away from where he lived. They were bound to see each other again.

“I’m looking for onions,” he said, in a miraculous recovery (i.e., he looked away, down and away from the man’s face. And that’s when he read it – the pin with his name written on it. Kim Seokjin.) “And garlic. I can’t find them, though?”

“Onions are usually near the potatoes,” Seokjin said, as if it were the most logical thing in the world as he pointed down the hall. “Over there.”

“Oh, okay. Cool,” Namjoon said, though he quickly added. “Thanks! What about garlic…?”

Seokjin was still smiling, and it wasn’t a polite smile you gave to clients, but it wasn’t a rude smile either. He just looked awfully amused.

“They should be right there. They’re usually with the onions,” he said, pointing in that direction again.

“Awesome,” Namjoon replied, “great! Thank you. I’ll look for them again.”

“Just make sure you find the potatoes first and the rest will come your way,” the supermarket clerk said, and Namjoon nodded even though that was probably the most cryptic, most surreal sentence anyone had ever said to him.

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Namjoon assured him, “thanks!”

“No problem,” Seokjin assured him, and he didn’t wait for Namjoon to leave before turning around to work on his pile of apples again.

As Namjoon headed towards the beginning of the vegetable aisle where Seokjin had assured him he would find the potatoes, the onions, and finally the garlic, he only had two things in his mind. 1) How could he make sure his path never crossed Seokjin’s ever again for as long as he lived, and 2) what excuse could he come up with the next time he came to the supermarket just so he could talk to him and see his stupid handsome face again.

He chanced a look over his shoulder and he saw Seokjin looking at him, but the moment their eyes met they looked away almost immediately.

They ran into each other again afterwards, while Namjoon was looking through different types of canned kimchi.

Seokjin was walking in the opposite direction, and their eyes happened to meet. Namjoon grinned then, as he saw Seokjin looking away, his eyes rolling but his lips curved upwards in a smile.

If things were going to be like that, Namjoon thought, then he couldn’t wait to come to the supermarket again.