Thursday, October 07, 2004

Korean Food I

I am not too sure how to begin a piece on Korean food. It is difficult to explain such a multidimensional thing as a cuisine. There really are no bad cuisines in the world. Most food, cooked expertly, will produce a delightful meal. Furthermore food is directly connected with a culture. Food, being one of the most essential needs for life and the cultivation of which forms a cornerstone of civilization and culture, is so in twined that the attitudes regarding are reflected in a whole host of ideas that have nothing at all to do with it.

Koreans take a considerable a pride in there food, and for good reason. Yet pride can create a considerable diplomatic problem for the innocent abroad. It is difficult for a foreigner to label a Korean restaurant or a particular dish in a restaurant as being of poor quality. A Korean will normally interpret this as a sign that the foreigner does not like Korean food, and sometimes be inwardly offended. I am sure many relationships have been broken in Korea over the simple fact that the cook used too much salt.

Accordingly this work is not to criticize Korean food, or Koreans. Rather I hope to simply provoke thought, and to show how foods, and eating habits, are translated in to other areas of Korean life (or vice versa).

First I think I should point out my qualifications for this little tour. I have always been a gourmet of some type. Despite having roots in the humble, and admittedly questionable, cuisine of the upper Midwest United States, I been blessed to live in the United States. Because of its immigrant culture, the United States offers a cornucopia of cuisines in any city. As a child I was also fortunate that my father his family to multiple major cities, and a mother who demanded we go to all sorts of restaurants, preferably the most expensive and exotic. My tastes and dining choices expanded exponentially when I moved to Los Angeles as a teenager. This experience also includes going to numerous Korean (and Korean-owned) restaurants in Los Angeles.

As a child I dreamed of becoming a professional chef. However like most childhood occupational dreams, like "Baseball Player" or "Fireman", your choices and tastes pull you away from such choices. The dream died a tough death, but did die. Only to be resurrected again, with the loving support of my wife in Korea. The first part of my life in Korea was dedicated, much like my childhood travels, to going to the most expensive and exotic restaurants in Seoul. This later half has been dedicated to working as a professional chef (although I still shiver when I think of using such a "honorific¡± title).

Finally it should be noted that this is not meant to be scholarly work. Little of this is researched or referenced in the proper since. Most of my posting is a collection of experiences, observations and thoughts I have had in my travels. If you wish to provide a counterpoint (well researched or not) please do so.


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