Among living food writers, no one writes more eloquently about the search for home and identity through food than Kim Sunée.
Six years ago, Sunée made a name for herself with her best-selling memoir, “Trail of Crumbs: Hunger, Love, and the Search for Home,” about her life as a South Korean child adopted by an American family and her search for her own identity while struggling as an adoptee and Asian woman to feel like she belongs. Her book will beguile readers who loved “Under the Tuscan Sun,” by Frances Mayes, or “Eat Pray Love,” by Elizabeth Gilbert.
This former food editor at Southern Living and Cottage Living magazines will speak at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Foster’s Market in Chapel Hill about her latest book, a cookbook titled “A Mouthful of Stars: A Constellation of Favorite Recipes From My World Travels.” Mayes, who also lives in the Triangle, will introduce Sunée.
Sunée, 43, was 3 years old when she was left in a busy Seoul marketplace in 1973. She ended up at an orphanage and was adopted by an American family and raised in New Orleans. Sunée spent most of her 20s living in Europe and about a decade in a relationship with Olivier Baussan, founder of L’Occitane, a line of high-end beauty and home products and a man about 20 years her senior. Sunée writes eloquently about never quite feeling at home anywhere, her restless search for identity and the resulting end of her relationship with Baussan.
In a phone interview last week, Sunée talked about the overwhelming response she got from other adopted children to her first book. “So many adoptees contacted me and said, ‘Thank you for writing my story.’ That to me was the most rewarding part.”
Sunée describes her second book as “a travel-based cookbook, a semi-follow-up of ‘Trail of Crumbs.’” But she adds: “I think it was more celebratory than the first book. ... I wanted to honor the people and places that have marked me in my culinary journey.”
Each of the seven chapters features recipes from places Sunée has traveled or lived. The first chapter is about South Korea and her visit there promoting the translation of her first book. It includes recipes for Korean-style pork belly barbecue, fresh kimchi and ginseng chicken soup.
Other chapters offer recipes and reflections from Sunée’s time in such places as France, Norway, Sweden, Mexico and New Orleans. Triangle residents will see a few familiar faces: Bill Smith of Crook’s Corner, who sent a sample of his honeysuckle sorbet to Sunée when she worked at Cottage Living; Sara Foster of Foster’s Market in Durham, who befriended Sunée while writing a monthly column for the magazine; and Mayes, who became friends with Sunée and invited her to Tuscany several times, once for a celebration of Mayes’ 20 years at Bramasole, the home made famous by her book and subsequent movie.
While Sunée’s search for home and a sense of belonging may never end, her life is settling down. She now calls Anchorage, Alaska, home. Her fiance lives there and they are getting married this summer. While Sunée has not chosen a wedding dress yet, as a food writer she has already made the most important decision: She has chosen the caterer.
Basic Fresh Kimchi
Gochugaru, a Korean chile powder, can be found at most Asian markets, such as Grand Asia and SMartAsian Market, both in Cary. From “A Mouthful of Stars,” by Kim Sunée (Andrews McMeel, 2014).
1 medium to large head napa cabbage (about 2 pounds), trimmed of any loose or discolored leaves
2 tablespoons salt
1 firm but ripe pear (preferably Asian), cored and chopped
3/4 cup gochugaru (coarse Korean red chile powder; for a less spicy version decrease to 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup coarsely grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 to 2 tablespoons ground chile paste, such as sambal oelek
1 tablespoon fish sauce, optional
4 to 6 cloves garlic
4 carrots (about 6 ounces), cut into 2-inch matchsticks
1 medium daikon radish, cut into 2-inch matchsticks
CUT cabbage lengthwise into quarters; remove the core, and chop into 1-inch wide (bite-size) pieces. Place half of the cabbage in a large colander in the sink; sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of the salt. Add remaining cabbage and top with remaining salt. Let sit for 10 minutes. Using tongs or hands, turn cabbage so that the bottom layer is on the top; let sit for another 15 minutes. Rinse cabbage, drain thoroughly, and pat dry or spin dry in the salad spinner.
COMBINE pear, gochugaru, ginger, soy sauce, chile paste, fish sauce, if using, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until just blended. Pour mixture into a large bowl. Add carrots and radish; toss to combine. Add drained cabbage; toss to combine. Let sit, covered in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Drain again. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days. It’s still good up to a week or so but it will start getting a little funky and taste more like the fermented kimchi of ill repute.
Yield: about 6 cups.
Weigl: 919-829-4848; Twitter: @andreaweigl