Sunday, January 10, 2010

Some Winter Foods

In Korea particularly, foods are culturally identifying, not only by location but also by season. In the winter time many cultural foods appear but patjook (red bean pottage or gruel), ddeokguk (rice cake soup) and ogokbap (5-grain rice) are three that come to mind.

Patjook is particularly a winter food, and probably one that is for bidding farewell or greeting the lunar new year as it was traditionally eaten due to its color: red. Red is the color that demons hate and so by the timely eating of this food, belief was that the demons would be expelled and bad effects would be defeated.

Ddeokguk was and still is the food eaten on Seolnal, the lunar new year's day. This food I am told signifies solemnity and cleanliness of ceremony and when the food is eaten on Seolnal, everyone "eats one year", that is, each person can now say that he or she is one year older. [Traditionally, Koreans didn't celebrate individual birthdays but had a collective birthday on the lunar new year. This has changed and Koreans long ago picked up the concept of celebrating one's birth day. Caution needs to be taken when attributing westernization to age in all aspects for when asking a Korean his or her age, the person might answer '21 in western age', which means (s)he is at least one year older in Korean age because at birth Koreans are one year old. This is based on the belief that life starts at conception and, which is a very viable belief based on time because pregnancy to Koreans is thought to be 10 months in duration, nearly a full year.]

Ogokbap is the representative food for the first full moon of the new year. The five grains usually comprise rice, two kinds of millet, red beans and another larger bean. By eating ogokbap on the new year people were wishing themselves health and a good harvest. Also on this day was the eating of nuts - chestnuts, walnuts, gingko, peanuts, pine nuts and others. By cracking the nuts, not eating pre-cracked nuts from the modern-day supermarket, people but particularly children augured good fortune for the coming year.

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