Thursday, February 2, 2012

Daeboreum and Bureom

Following the lunar calendar the first full moon day (정월대보름 or 대보름) is classed as one of the five traditional Korean holidays. On this day people traditionally went out into the rice fields and "played" with fire in a ceremony called 쥐불놀이, literally 'field fire game' (source). This is rather uncommon anymore because Korea is no longer the agrigarian society it was 4-5 decades ago with many rice fields nearby and the desire to go out in the cold and play because there was nothing to do at home. People now prefer the warmth of their homes and more "exciting" entertainment like wii games and cartoon and movie networks or hanging out with friends in warmed coffee shops and heated theaters. But still, on this 15th day of the first lunar month the food culture is strong ... because it is a fact, Koreans love love love their food and eating!

대보름 Food Culture

대보름 now is heavily linked with the food culture in Korea. To start the eating culture for the day, chilled rice wine is served in the morning symbolizing the wish for good hearing and for charming only good news to be brought in one's hearing during the new year; this wine drinking and wishing tradition is referred to as 귀밝이술, or literally 'hearing cleanly liquor'.

On the big first full moon day, Koreans make mult-grained rice called 오곡밥 (5 grain rice) typically made with glutinous rice, black beans, red beans, millet and sorghum although other beans and grains can also be included.

나물 or vegetables are joyfully eaten on this day (although every day Koreans eat assortments of vegetables with their traditional Korean soups although the selection is very small). The vegetable assortments are eaten, and the vegetable pantry or in olden days the dried vegetables hanging from rafters and beams are cleaned out and/or more properly stored for the winter.

And of course 약식, the sticky rice cooked with chestnuts, jujubes, pine nuts and brown sugar are a tasty treat. Ah, I love this mixture and thankfully it's to be found at rice cake shops year round now! And for other 약식-lovers, here's a link with instructions on how to make the delicious dish.

And very importantly, nuts with hard shells are given on this day, particularly to children. At schools children have these nuts packed in their lunch boxes and they share, trade and give them to their classmates. The symbolism surrounding the hard-shelled nuts is to crack them with one's teeth, which is a wish for maintaining hard teeth as well as wishing for no boils or other skin problems in the new year. On this day the ancestors believed that if a person crunch the nuts as many times as his or her age, the person would not get any sores in the coming year and everything would go well. Most common nuts eaten on this day are the pine nuts, chestnuts, peanuts, and walnuts, and the tradition of cracking nuts for making wishes is called 부럼 as in the phrase 부럼을 깨물다, "biting nuts to ward off boils".[Just a note - do not confuse the pronunciation of 대보름, the first full moon day, with that of 부럼, cracking nuts.]

In these modern days, Koreans are a little more analytical about the nutrition of the nuts and not just fascinated with following their rich traditions. Now people discuss more the actual health qualities of nuts, and more and more nuts appearing in the market places because of this heigthened health awareness:
pine nuts ....... fights fatigue
chestnuts ....... promotes growth & a lot of urination
walnuts ......... prevents heart disease and diabetes, rich in Omega 3
gingko nuts ..... helps maintain appropriate urination
peanuts ......... abundant in protein

And now I hope you had a very pleasant 대보름 and cracked nuts as many times as years you are alive. Have a healthy year!

And here are some picts of the spread of seed and nut cakes available. Freshly made, still gooey and delicious! Puffed rice cakes on various flavors are also a big new years treat.

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