What Makes a Meal? Print
Written by Michael Fones   
Tuesday, 19 August 2008 18:01
On my first morning in Seoul, my old friend, Yun-kyung, offered me a typical breakfast in Korea: concord grapes, Korean peach, tomatoes, squash from his farm, and breakfast cereal. I suppose the last wasn't typical a generation or more ago, but the box touted (in pictures, at least) one of it's special features: squash seeds.

It's funny how two cultures can look at the same food item and think of it differently. Yun-kyung's sons made a little puddle of honey on their plates to dip their tomato wedges in. I asked for some salt. I never would have thought to put something sweet on a tomato. Even the salt was a little unusual - more like dust than crystals. This morning I found out it's sea salt that has been purified by being packed in bamboo with the ends plugged with a very fine, special clay, then heated to 1000 degrees until it melts, poured out of the bamboo and hardened, then crushed and put back into more bamboo and heated until liquid, etc. This is done NINE times until all the impurities have been removed. It sells for over $50 for a small jar. Next time I'll ask for soy sauce.

Yesterday Yun-kyung and I went to one of the many ancient palaces that dots the northern bank of the Han River that bisects Seoul. This is the two of us in the "secret garden" of the Changdeokgukgung (Changdeokguk palace). It's a UNESCO world heritage site, and was first built in the early 1300's and rebuilt in the late 16th, early 17th centuries after it was destroyed in a Japanese invasion.

After visiting the palace, we went to the Insadong shopping area a few blocks away where we had a typical Korean lunch. It was a feast! We had bulgogi, a national dish of thin strips of cooked beef and marinated onions, a seafood/tofu stew, and a
lot of marinated foods: raw crab (their cut in half, you pick them up by the legs and suck out the innards from the body), burdock root, codonopsis lanceolata root, squid, sesame leaves (pungent and really, really good), kimchi, bean sprouts, garlic greens, black beans, a dish whose main ingredient was tofu made from acorns, and some really delicious "pancakes" made with green onions and squid. It really was delicious!

I know Sherry's wondering if I have a charism of missionary. I think I just like to eat.