This Korean rice porridge, called dak juk, is easy to digest but hearty and nutritious, perfect for when you’re learning how to eat. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)

This Korean rice porridge, called dak juk, is easy to digest but hearty and nutritious, perfect for when you’re learning how to eat. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)

A comforting meal for new beginnings

Rice porridge is a common first solid meal for many, many babies around the world

A broken heart sent me whimpering back into the bony arms of a companion from my distant past, and once I felt the familiar safety of his embrace, I found I could not bear to let go.

Not for the sake of vanity, I watched my once pink cheeks go hollow, and my shining eyes dull and blacken as the darkness in my mind clawed outward and spread across my face. His incessant whispers were so deafening in my ears, I could not see reason or recognize the path I was being dragged down. For many months I smiled and worked and lived while slowly fading away.

Over time I became more frequently and more severely ill, and last week I found myself in a such a state I had never felt before. With no vigor left in me, a simple virus rendered me helpless, nearly bedbound, and in need of emergency care.

Surely, I thought, my body has reached its limit, and the fear of possibilities and the sting of self-loathing and regret felt well deserved for my selfishness. I sat in the hospital bed anticipating the worst consequences for my weakness but was delivered instead an unremarkable report and a wish to be well and happy.

I avoided severe repercussions, but the experience convinced me I must start the terrible work of freeing myself from that devil’s clutches once again. Last time he held me for 10 years, this time just under one, but he sank his fangs in so much deeper this time and brought me swiftly to my knees.

The task ahead of me is terrifying, and must be done with extreme delicacy, but I am determined now to cast him from my life forever.

I chose to begin by preparing myself a dish that is a common first solid meal for many, many babies around the world — rice porridge. This is a Korean version, called dak juk, that is easy to digest but hearty and nutritious, perfect for when you’re learning how to eat.

Dak juk

Ingredients:

2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (you can use skinless, boneless thighs for deeper flavor)

4 cups water or chicken bone broth

2-4 cloves garlic

1 ½ cups cooked rice

½ large carrot, minced

3 stalks green onion, finely chopped

2 eggs

Thumb-sized piece of ginger, grated (optional)

1 tablespoon sesame oil (or to taste)

1 teaspoon salt (more or less to taste)

Directions:

Place your meat, salt, garlic, and optional ginger in a large pot and pour in the water or bone broth.

Bring to a boil, reduce to medium heat, and cook for 7-10 minutes or until the chicken is cooked.

Remove the chicken and allow to rest until cool enough to handle.

Shred the chicken into bite-sized pieces and set aside.

Bring the soup back to a boil and stir in the carrot and cooked rice.

Keep at a rolling boil for 10 minutes, stirring often to keep the rice off the bottom of the pot.

If the porridge becomes too thick, add in extra water or broth as necessary. It should be thick and creamy, but not as thick as a paste.

Beat the eggs and slowly pour them in while stirring constantly.

Add in the shredded chicken and green onion and continue boiling for 5 more minutes, stirring as needed.

Taste and season with extra salt if desired.

Turn off the heat and stir in the sesame oil.

Serve with extra green onion, sesame seeds and an extra drizzle of sesame oil.

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