Tag Archives: food

Infidel Links, Vomit-Inducing

2 Mar

Sequester Fuck-UpI’m resorting to a link dump post, so that I can enjoy the rest of the day – reading while not attached to a laptop!

Salt Sugar Fat: NY Times Reporter Michael Moss on How the Food Giants Hooked America on Junk Food (Democracy Now!)

MICHAEL MOSS: …I managed to come across a trove of internal documents that enabled me to get insiders to talk. And when they did, what it showed was that salt, sugar, fat are the three pillars, the Holy Grail, if you will, on which the food industry survives. And through their research, they know that when they hit the perfect amounts of each of those ingredients, they’ll send us over the moon, products will fly off the shelves, we’ll eat more, we’ll buy more—and being companies, of course, that they will make more money.

AMY GOODMAN: Name names, and talk about examples of the weaponizing of salt, sugar and fat.

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Big Ass Steamed Bread Dumpling

15 Aug

Big-Ass Steamed Bread Dumpling.jpgIt’s Liberation Day in South Korea, and so, of course, it’s a good day for a big ass steamed bread dumpling, full of meat and onions!

Gwangbokjeol is an odd sort of holiday. When I think of “independence”, I think of a violent or disruptive action that causes tension. On the Korean peninsula, though, independence came through no such action – it was just the legal consequence of the Japanese surrender to the Americans on August 15, 1945. That is, V-J Day, which is not an official holiday in either Japan (although it is the second day of Obon) or the U.S.

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Koreans Just Don’t “Get” Their Own Food!

3 Sep

Sashimi with Garlic and Bean-Pepper Paste on Leaf

From Mother-in-Law’s Birthday Party (May 2008)

Joe McPherson pours cold water on Seoul’s “yangban-to-yangban – loosely trans., chauvinistic snob to snob – approach to marketing“:

The Korean government claims that it wants “Global Hansik” to rank among the top five world cuisines by 2017, even though such a ranking system doesn’t exist. It has also taken an imperial “hallyu” approach to this goal. Rather than listening to its target market, a few prominent public and private personalities are dictating their sometimes ludicrous concepts on what foreigners like without any consideration of the foreigners themselves, which will only alienate their market.

Korea possesses a great provincial country cuisine that has captured the hearts of visitors. Yet the Global Hansik promoters are concentrating on the more pretentious and, dare I say, Japanese aspects of Korean cuisine. A good example is the billions of won thrown into an institute to change ddeokbokki into the Japanese sounding “topoki.” The reasoning for this is that changing the name may magically make foreigners start eating the dish. Doing so comes across as condescending to everyone’s intelligence while revealing how lost the people in charge truly are.

There’s a clownish obsession with class status over proud peasant roots. The Korean Cuisine to the World 2009 symposium stressed the importance of catering to the needs and tastes of local markets. Yet the men in charge stubbornly want to lead with royal court cuisine. In a worldwide recession, how is something like Korean royal court cuisine going to become popular if it’s too expensive for people’s pocketbooks?

Two years ago a New York Times reporter contacted me to help him find out more about the food scene in Seoul. One of the restaurants we tried was a fine dining interpretation of Korean cuisine, owned by one of the most vocal promoters of the pretentious “let’s make everything expensive” school of Korean food globalization. The food was indeed pretty yet it was ridiculously overpriced and little of it was memorable. The service was stiff and discourteous. The meal was ruined by a snobbish perception of what fine dining should be, making the customer feel uncomfortable.

I’m not knocking beef (bulgogi), pork (samhyupsal et al), or chicken (dak galbi) barbecue. BBQ is for expats a delicious, not too foreign introduction to Korean food and eating culture. It’s also a relatively cheap way to get acquainted with South Koreans in a public setting. But, I wonder, even if Seoul’s modern versions of yangban technocratic hacks followed McPherson’s marketing advice, would the ROK’s livestock farmers provide the meat? Is that even possible? Or, could Koreans’ signature bulgogi start with Black Angus? South Koreans, like my parents-in-law enjoy a finely marbled slab of meat which frankly I find inedible. The amount of pork grease that doesn’t feed the flames is a sobering reminder of what will stick to one’s arteries. There also might be a rude awakening when global consumers realize the ROK’s livestock is most likely not as safe as Seoul’s yangban dreamers would have it. No one really knows, because Seoul is still refusing to comply with World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) testing regulations. And, I’ve always considered seafood the distinctive source of exotic protein in the ROK.

The part about Korean-style sashimi I have always enjoyed is the freedom to choose how to arrange the various components (lettuces, seafood, sauces, and vegetables) into a small mouthful. The same principle operates with beef and pork, but for some reason, for me with seafood, the whole presentation is more elegant without being so artistic as to frustrate the enjoyment (my problem with Japanese food).

Finally, what McPherson lays out is not only a list of bad marketing practices, but a template of how South Korean administrators generally go wrong in governance in general. Planning and contempt for the perspectives of inferiors and consumers pretty much sums up Korean official culture, and leads to another Korean popular attitude: cynicism.

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