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Homegrown Foodways in West Virginia Film Series: “Korean Heritage and Kimchi” Premieres September 1

The following is a guest post by West Virginia State Folklorist Emily Hilliard, who directs the West Virginia Folklife Program, based at the West Virginia Humanities Council. AFC staff have been working with Emily, as well as filmmakers Mike Costello and Amy Dawson of Lost Creek Farm, to co-produce the AFC’s Homegrown Foodways in West Virginia program, a series of four films that explore a range of food traditions in the state, premiering on the AFC’s Facebook page on: Wednesday, August 18th; Wednesday, September 1st (noon EST) and Wednesday, September 15th (double feature @ noon EST), with a culminating discussion panel on Thursday, September 30th @ 1pm EST.  

Marlyn McClendon making kimchi

Marlyn McClendon of Lobelia, West Virginia in the film, Korean Heritage and Kimchi, by Mike Costello and Amy Dawson of Lost Creek Farm.

This Wednesday, September 1 at noon EST on the AFC’s Facebook page, we will premiere the second film in the Homegrown Foodways in West Virginia series, featuring Marlyn McClendon on Korean heritage and kimchi.

In Korean Heritage and Kimchi, West Virginia filmmakers, farmers, and chefs Mike Costello and Amy Dawson will be joined by fellow farmer, forager, and cook Marlyn McClendon, as she explores both her Korean and Appalachian heritage through food. Though she now makes kimchi and other Korean foods often, sharing them with her rural West Virginia community, this wasn’t always the case. Growing up in Huntington, West Virginia, McClendon recalls the sneers and snickers from her mostly white middle school classmates when she brought pungent, homemade kimchi to school in her lunchbox. In school, she was often teased over her Korean-American identity. “It made me want to be white, so I ran away from it,” she says. “It was really kind of embarrassing in a lot of ways.” Over the years she developed a deeper appreciation for her Korean heritage––as well as a closer relationship with her Korean-born mother––largely through food. 

Marlyn McClendon preparing kimchi in her home

Marlyn McClendon salting cabbage for traditional kimchi. Photo by Mike Costello, 2021.

Now living in the remote community of Lobelia, in Pocahontas County, West Virginia, Marlyn celebrates her Korean and Appalachian identity at the dinner table, often preparing traditional Korean foods with locally cultivated or foraged ingredients, like ramps and nettles. In the film, Marlyn and her mother, Yong, prepare traditional kimchi and a variety of other Korean dishes for a meal shared with friends and neighbors. The film adds to existing documentation in the AFC archival collections on ramp harvesting, foraging, food preservation, and gardening, in West Virginia, as well as documentation of Korean-American cultural traditions in Chicago and Maryland.

This is the second film in the AFC’s Homegrown Foodways in West Virginia program, a series of four films produced by Mike Costello and Amy Dawson of Lost Creek Farm, with support from the West Virginia Folklife Program at the West Virginia Humanities Council. The films, which explore a range of food traditions in the state, will premiere on the AFC’s Facebook page on: Wednesday, August 18th; Wednesday, September 1st (@ noon EST) and Wednesday, September 15th (double feature beginning @ noon EST), with a culminating discussion panel with film producers and participants on Thursday September 30th @ 1pm EST, which you can register for here. Learn more about the film series here and we hope you join us!

Watch the first film, Foraging and Relations with Jonathan Hall, here.

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