Kevin Bradley is not just a genius artist/social commentator and co-owner of Yee-Haw Industries hand-set letterpress. These days, he’s got a second identity that involves kimchi, that traditional Korean fermented dish. He makes his own, batch after batch, and has become a sort of kimchi evangelist, unlikely as that seems with his Greeneville, Tenn., background and his 100 percent Caucasian forebears—not to mention his daytime uniform of Ward Cleaver shoes with no socks, summer Mafia straw hat, and mismatched patterns of plaid shorts and shirts.
He gets around and shares the wealth, instructing a class in kimchi construction for Slow Food Knoxville, co-hosting kimchi parties where guests are invited to take home two gallons of the stuff, and thrusting jars into the unsuspecting arms of friends strolling down Gay Street.
Just as he would with any poster or art show, he’s utterly, completely, helplessly devoted to this creative endeavor—but why, Kevin, why kimchi? I asked him to enumerate his own 17 reasons, and here they are:
17 Reasons Kevin Bradley Loves Kimchi
17. It is one of the five most healthy foods in the world, made of all fiber.
16. It smells bad but tastes good.
15. Anchovy kimchi. There are 200 varieties, but I just have the one anchovy kimchi recipe. I got it from friends in North Carolina.
14. The friends in North Carolina go by the name The Carolina Kimchi Consortium.
13. Their slogan for anchovy kimchi is, “Like an Outhouse on Fire.”
12. I like spicy foods, and it’s hot and spicy.
11. I like making my own because I know what’s in it. All fresh ingredients. Do you want to know what’s in it? Garlic. Ginger. Tons of that. Napa cabbage. Green onions. Daikon radish. Crushed hot pepper—lots of. Kosher salt. Anchovies. Two cans of anchovies for a two-gallon batch. It’s traditional to bury it in clay pots, but we leave it for two days in plastic containers and then jar it up and put it in the fridge.
10. Making it is a social event. It takes about four hours to do all that chopping. The most I’ve made is 22 gallons, which is more than 100 pounds.
9. People call it bachelor food.
8. It’s good with everything.
7. You can use it to make a little soup.
6. I like it the first day. Nothing is really mixed and it’s really good on pizza.
5. There’s no particular beverage it’s good with. They’re all good. But you probably want to just stick with a beer.
4. Every day it gets hotter. If it hangs around for a month, it’s really brutal.
3. It’s just rotten cabbage. It can get real old. I don’t think you can hurt it.
2. The average South Korean eats 75 pounds a year. An inordinate amount. Or say 67 pounds, it sounds more scientific. I’m probably Korean in that way. I eat my share. I’ve eaten a quart jar in an afternoon before.
1. Since kimchi, I’m a much better farter than I ever was.
I have a reason of my own for liking Kevin and kimchi together. His business partner and lady love of many years, Julie Belcher, is very dear to me; we’ve been great friends since the ’80s. When she’s asked if Kevin is allowed to eat kimchi at the Yee-Haw store or in the house nowadays, now that he’s gotten so well-known as a kimchi ambassador, she wrinkles one side of her nose and quirks her mouth before speaking in this way I really love. “Oh, hell no.”
Of course, Kevin views that as reason 17 1/2 for loving kimchi. “I have to eat it out on the sidewalk in front of Yee-Haw. Every time I make a batch, that’s where you’ll see me. It’s one of my favorite things, eating on the street.”