Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Wrong in so many ways - so called 'international' cookbook

Today, I was fed up with my dissertation work and in need of distraction. Food being one of my favorites which haven't made me board yet -thank God-, I went down to book store and looked into few cookbooks.

Few hours later, I am absolutely convinced that I will never ever trust the cookbooks bare name 'international' in terms of authenticity. Recipe may be good. But the explanation is often wrong. It may be better with other foods. But sadly, Korea being the least known country among Asian, it is often insufficient and incorrect.

One author said one radish from Korea can be substituted by daikan, the skinny long white radish widely used in Korea, China, and Japan. It is often true since the small white Korea radish is very hard to find in U.S. However, the recipe the author was describing becomes completely different dish if the kind of radish is substitute. It even has own name which I guess the author has never known or -even worse- couldn’t care less.

I am not expecting every body would have same enthusiasm about food like I do. However, at least you write a cookbook, it is fair to say the author should –or would be better to -pay attention what he or she is talking about.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving, Korean style - "Han-ga-wi"

Like as many other agrarian culture, Koreans celebrates the new harvest. Hangawi, Korean Thanksgiving -AKA Chuseok - is on Aug 15th by Korean lunar calendar. This is few days in Korea that pople make massive exodus to their hometown. This year I went back to Korea, and cook with my mother for the table of ancestry ceremony called 'Cha-rye'.

Chuseok is the day we remember the dead. Cha-rye is a big feast for ancestors. This is the opening of the holiday. It calls for some unusual way of cooking and display of the food. For instance, red colored food is located on east while the white is located on the west. Few very ceremonial foods such as dried whole cod also appear. Steamed rice on the table is made out of new grain to celebrate the season. As my grandmother used to do it, my mother prepared extra bowl of rice for those one who have no one to remember them.

After the ceremony at home, we also visit the grave of ancestors. Christians usually attend service instead of Charye or after the Charye. I went to mass with my mother.

The best known food of Hangawi is Songpyeon; a crescent-shaped rice dumpling stuffed with toasted sesame or sweetened beans and steamed on the pine needles. Gotgam -a dried persimmon- and Sikhye - a sweet fermented rice and ginger drink - is also special treat for this season.

Sikhye & Songpyeon cooked and photographed by Namoole, http://namool.com

During the evening, people gather nearby hill tops to greet the full moon and make a wish upon it. I did it with my friend this year back in Korea. Full bright moon lights up the town with such a joy was really good thing to see, in deed!