My Korean name is “So Hyun”. And my Chinese name is “Su Xian.” You know my English name: Sophia. Guess what? All of them mean similar things. The “So” and “Su” in my Korean and Chinese name means “intrinsically” or “naturally”. And the “Hyun” and “Xian” has many definitions, but one of them is “wisdom”. Sophia is derived from Greek, and it means “woman of wisdom”. As you can see…my dad certainly had a vision in mind when he named me. He wanted his daughter to be a person of deep thoughts and spiritual wisdom.
I didn’t particularly like my name when I was young. First of all, my dear Singaporean friends butchered my name and it sounded horrible. Second of all, it just wasn’t as…glamorous as…say, Alexandria. Or feminine and pretty like Angeline. Or cute and adorable like Phoebe.
I didn’t want to be wise, damn it! Wise people are bald, old men with white beards, dressed up in drabs like Socrates, who spent their days debating the meaning of life. How freaking boring. Or so I thought, as my immature kiddie self.
I also confused wisdom with academic intelligence. I thought I was so damn smart (I am, but not as much I as thought I was, heh), and I took the meaning of my name for granted. I already am smart, I thought, And it really is not a big deal.
Well, obviously, I was wrong. Wisdom isn’t the same as intelligence. You can ace AP Calculus, but that doesn’t mean you’re gonna act, think, and decide wisely and prudently in the day-to-day situations you face. Especially after I realized how much I actually lack wisdom, I’ve gained a new appreciation towards my name.
I would like to think that I define my name. But right now, the definition of my name is my aspiration. I’d love to be a truly wise woman one day. But not without the bald head and white beard, please.
And just for some gastronomical illustration…Can you cook a dish that you think defines you the most? I thought it would be fun to create and eat a definition of myself that I aspired to be. It was definitely great fun, and it was also super delicious. I shared this dish with my bible study group, and they all begged me for the recipe.
But honestly…there is no recipe. I don’t come with instructions, people! However, I’ll share with you the thought process that came behind this dish…
I had a few key ingredients in mind that I wanted to use:
- Sweet potatoes: it’s a rather ugly root, buried deep within the ground…but it’s chock-full of super nutrients (wisdom, inner beauty)
- Chickpeas: because it’s economical, but extremely versatile, universal, and nutritious…perfect balance of complex carbs and protein, too
- Peanut butter: for that exotic, perplexing depth…and a touch of nuttiness (my personality)
- Gochujang: for a hint of spice, and a symbol of my nationality
I also wanted to make something that wasn’t too spectacular: Something simple, and plain to look at…but with an intriguing depth at first bite. So I decided to combine all these ingredients into a stew.
I really just threw this and that into the pot at a whim, so I don’t know the exact measurements…and I might even have left out some ingredients. But here’s a rough recipe:
The “Sophia” Stew:
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 1 large onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 heaping spoonful gochujang
- balsamic vinegar (to taste)
- pinch of dried herbs (I used Provencal)
- 1 28 oz can diced tomato
- some frozen okra
- chicken broth
- 4 medium sweet potatoes, chopped
- about 3 cups cooked chickpeas
- pinch of red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter (I used Krema)
- salt and pepper (to taste)
- Spicy salsa (to taste)
- Korean BBQ sauce (to taste)
In a big pot, brown together the celery and onion until nice and soft. Toss in the garlic with the gochujang, and cook together for about a minute. Add in some balsamic vinegar and the dried herbs.
Then pour in the tomato, and okra, cook for another 1 minute or so. Add in the chicken broth with the sweet potatoes. Make sure the broth covers up the sweet potatoes. Bring to a boil, and then simmer until the sweet potato is cooked through, stirring occasionally so that the onions don’t burn.
Then pour in the chickpeas. Now is the fun part: the seasoning! Have fun—I did! I tossed in some red pepper flakes, and then spooned in the peanut butter. Then I tasted the broth, and seasoned with salt and pepper accordingly. I also added some more salsa and some drops of Korean BBQ sauce until I got the taste I wanted.
This is the Korean BBQ sauce I used:
It was given by Biz and I’ve been actually using it on random stuff. It’s not necessary in the this stew, but my hands got itchy and I couldn’t help adding this in, just a tiny bit for that unique kick. The finished product:
Look at that. Yeah, really look at it. It’s not much, is it? At first glance, you’d think it was nothing special.
But dig into it. Come on, just take a bite.
The flavor is fantastic. It is slightly sweet from the sweet potatoes, but with some spice from the gochujang and red pepper flakes, with the tangy taste from the vinegar and acid from the tomatoes.
And oh my god. The peanut butter was the perfect ending to this stew. It wasn’t dominant, but made for this really fascinating and curious background taste that lingered in your mouth, urging you to have more and more. It was mysteriously delicious. As for the okra? Eh, I just happened to have a half-eaten bag of frozen okra in my freezer on its last leg, so I randomly threw it in. It’s a stew after all, so anything you put in there is forgiven.
So there you have it. The “Sophia” stew. I’m certainly not the kind of girl you’d make a double take, and go, “Hot mama!” I don’t exude a lot of confidence or beauty. I’m someone you’d pass by in the streets and never really notice. But I’d like to be someone who has a lot of substance inside. Someone who has layers upon layers of knowledge and wisdom and insight. Someone who feeds and makes people feel welcome, loved, and comforted.
This stew? It may seem humble, but it’s my greatest and grandest aspiration.
Question of the day: What does your name mean? Do you define your name? How do you define yourself right now?
And here’s a challenge for you: Cook a dish that defines you. It can be the person you dream to be, like I did.
Let’s call it the “You Are What You Cook” Challenge. You can post it on your blog, and I might do a round-up of all your creations, linking to your recipe and posting your pictures. I think it’d be fun!