Moments to savor: On the move with sweet potatoes

An anthropomorphized sweet potato eats another sweet potato, giving it a thumbs up.
(Katherine Tan • The Student Life)

It’s finally starting to feel like autumn. The weather is cooling down, I’m happily dressing in jeans and baggy sweaters and, well, as expected in late October, school feels busier than ever. Fall break was oh-so-restful and needed, but ever since we’ve come back to campus, I’ve been constantly on the move and in desperate need of some on-the-go fuel.

The other day I rushed to a phonology mentor session with a to-go cup filled with Frosted Mini Wheats in my hand. Don’t get me wrong — I love Frosted Mini Wheats — but as I crunched the dry cereal, I longed for something more satisfying. Specifically, I was craving goguma, or Korean sweet potatoes — which were my on-the-go snacks of choice growing up.

My earliest memories of goguma are when my five-year-old self would accompany my mother to the Korean grocery store near our house. Right outside the exit of the store, an elderly man whom my mom called the “goguma man sold piping hot sweet potatoes out of a little metal cart, and my mother would always buy some for us to munch on as we ran errands. One chilly October morning my mother handed me a massive sweet potato and told me that we had many errands to get done. I remember holding the potato tightly in my little hands and nodding, blowing on it gently before taking a big bite to energize me for the day ahead.

As we rushed from Trader Joes to Target to the UPS store, the goguma came with me. I  munched at its sweet, starchy insides as I followed my mother through the endless aisles of produce and greeting cards; I even offered her a bite so that she, too, would have energy to get her through the day. Looking back, I’m surprised that no one ever stopped me inside the stores. I guess I was particularly charming as a young girl with cheeks full of potato and so no one dared to take it away.

As I grew older, goguma became my go-to on-the-move snack. “Just grab a goguma” became a common phrase at home: late for school and don’t have time to eat breakfast? Just grab a goguma. Need something quick as you head to the airport? Just grab a goguma. The morning of the SAT, I packed a goguma as a mid-exam snack along with my pencils and calculator, and even during my gap year in Seoul, I would grab gogumas from the convenience stores before rushing off to catch the bus. The humble goguma has truly been with me through all the busy moments of life.

It is for this reason that, as a college student, I crave goguma all the more. It provided a reliable, satisfying source of energy as a five-year-old “busily” running errands with my mother, as a high-schooler scrambling off to school in the morning and as a wide-eyed foreigner exploring every nook and cranny of Seoul.

While I am grateful for greenboxes and for Frank and Frary’s selection of prepackaged wraps and sandwiches, I wish that I could buy a steaming, golden sweet potato from the “goguma man” instead. I can just imagine myself peeling the purple skin off the top ever so slightly and taking a bite, immersing my taste buds in its nutty flavor. As I rush to various mentor sessions and meetings in the chilly evenings now that it finally feels like fall here in Claremont, I crave the goguma that warms my stomach and gives me strength for the work ahead.

As college students who are more than halfway through the semester, there’s no doubt about it — we are constantly on the move. So I pose you this question: what is your goguma? What is your on-the-go snack of choice when you are running from place to place?

If the answer comes to you right away, I hope it will continue to satisfy and power you through the rest of the semester. On the other hand, if you do not yet know the answer, I encourage you to look to a Korean yellow sweet potato, if you can get your hands on one. As for me, I am making do with my Frosted Mini Wheats, but deep down, oh how I wish I could just grab a goguma.

Emily Kim PO ’25 is a banana bread enthusiast from Irvine, California. You will always catch her with a scrunchie on her wrist and napping in Lincoln Hall.

Facebook Comments