Monday, February 13, 2012
Drinking is a BIG part of Korean culture. I mean BIIIG. Koreans are typically shy and by culture, a bit reserved and uneasy to be comfortable with each other upon their first meeting. What's a good way to fix that? Alcohol! It's how they become familial with new acquaintances, it's how they are initiated into a new position at work, it's what they do after hiking a mountain. However, drinking culture in Korea is much different from drinking culture in America. When Koreans go out drinking, they sit either at a table or in a private room to put the emphasis on the group that is out drinking together. They are not up, walking around, and mingling like we do in the States. Koreans put a BIG emphasis on the group, not the individual and that is easily reflected in many aspects of their drinking culture. I mentioned a private room--these are fairly common in Korea. Sometimes when one goes to a bar, they will be taken down a hallway that has rooms on each side of the hallway, every one is closed off by a sliding door. The room is only large enough to fit the table and booths, which typically seats 4-10 people. There is a button on each table (this is actually the case in about 90% of restaurants in Korea) that the customer pushes when they need attention from the server. A 'ding-dong!' sound can be heard that will signal a waiter to come to your table. If the bell's not pushed, you're left alone. Pretty cool.
Anyway, the point of this post is not to discuss the drinking culture in Korea because that is a topic that could be discussed for a loooong time but rather to talk about how much Koreans eat when they drink! It's unreal! Ok so let's set up a typical weekend night out with Korean friends.
7:00 meet for dinner. Usually Korean BBQ which looks something like this. There, we eat a lot and drink an average amount.
8:00 leave the restaurant and go to a hoff. (At this point, I've forgotten if hoff is English or Konglish. Hoff = bar-like place; a place that is intended for drinking.) Order drinks and order more food. Usually chips, sausages, fries, fruit, veggies, or soup.
10:00 change locations, just go to a different hoff. Order more drinks. Order more food.
1:00 am go to a Korean style karaoke room. Order more drinks. Order more food.
You see a pattern? Drinks AND FOOD. Koreans will ALWAYS eat when they drink. Always. How in the world do Koreans stay so thin???!?! I still don't know. The picture that is at the top of this post is showing a typical order while at a hoff. It's fruit in strawberry milk, egg soup, and spicy rice cakes. Perfect with beer, right?!
Tuesday, February 7, 2012
School lunches, regardless of which worldly coordinates are used to pin your lunch table and plastic chair, are something that most can smile, shake their head and sigh about as they say 'oohh...school lunch...'. Korea is no different. While I am not a picky eater and complain about very little (just glad to have a lunch!) there is humor to be found in the meal that I eat five times out of every week. Many expat teachers do, in fact, love to complain about their school's lunch and vent about it's lack of appeal in both the atheistic world as well as the mmmmm-this-is-good world. I, on the other hand, am perfectly content with eating kimchi and rice everyday for lunch (and actually crave it if I don't eat it for more than 2 days) so everything else that I get for lunch is like a bonus! yaaayy! Bonuses!
The lunches in Korea don't have options like the lunches in America do. I remember choosing everyday between chef salad, pizza, submarine sandwich, or the main course that was being served that day--and that was in elementary school. When I got to middle school and high school the choices were even greater. (man, I could really go for a Little Debbie right now...) This is not the case in Korea. The lunches are served on a cart that is wheeled to each individual classroom. This is the system of my elementary school that I was at last year and my middle school that I'm at this year. Some schools do have a cafeteria where the students walk through the line and are served but from what I've gathered, that's not too common. So each day the lunch ladies (I'll come back and correct this is I ever hear about a single male cooking lunches for schools.) prepare lunches that are practically freshly made right in the school. They put the meals on a large metal cart that they roll out in front of each classroom. Just so you have an idea of how much work this is, I'll throw out some numbers for you.
elementary school: 6 grades. each grade has about 7 classes. plus one for the teacher's room = 43 metal carts rolled out to 43 different locations.
middle school: 3 grades. each grade has about 13 classes. plus one for the teachers room = 39 individual carts rolled out to 39 individual locations.
high school: write lacks enough knowledge to say
THAT'S A WHOOOLE LOTTA RICE TO BE COOKIN'!
A typical lunch includes: rice (everyday), soup (everyday), kimchi (everyday) a fruit (most days not all the time), another vegetable (sometimes not all the time) and "main" dish. I use " " because it is the dish that changes on a daily basis but there's nothing main about it because it is meant to be eaten as a very small serving. No beverage is served with lunch but there are mini water cups available if I'd like to have a shot of water after my meal. The two pictures I've taken show two lunches; the latter of the two is more common--spaghetti happens once in a blue moon and it's kimchi spaghetti at that.
Although many complain about the school lunches, I'm just happy to have a lunch and have my daily craving for rice and kimchi satisfied.
Thursday, February 2, 2012
Koreans sure do know how to use their resources when it comes to many things and eating is no different. Korea has had a few different rough patches in their history, which left the country in poverty and its citizens poor. Many Koreans will attribute the Japanese invasion for why the eat the things they do while others will trace it back further before the Japanese invaded Korea. The Korean diet and tradtional Korea foods consist of many foods that westerns consider to be a bit odd, difficult to digest, or down right repulsive. Koreans will eat EVERY part of an animal (with the exception of brains; I have never seen brains served or on a menu)and consume anything that comes from the earth that they can. This includes roots, bark, and leaves. They have figured out a way to boil, steam, and fry things so they taste much better than they look Also, Koreans will tell you two things about ANY given food: it's history and how it affects the body. Last night, I went out for dinner with one old friend and one new friend (both Koreans). We went to Gongdeok station in Seoul, which an area that is famous for its restaurants that serve pigs feet. It's actually just the meat that is around the lower leg and foot. It's actually really good! I used to be one of the pickiest eaters around when I was a child, eating only yellow foods. Then I became vegetarian and thought I would never be eating meat again. Now, I eat basically everything. It's incredible, the changes we can make if we open our mind. The first picture below shows cow's tongue in the middle of the grill. The one following shows two pieces of cow's heart on the grill surrounded by cow's stomach. After being grilled, each one has a nice taste to it and is "good for health", as all Koreans say about Korean food.