Friday, July 29, 2011

Changes of Plan

I didn't get to go see Captain America tonight.  I wanted to.  It opened yesterday in Korea.  I had private lessons last night after work, so that wasn't an option.  Tonight, no privates.  I said to my wife, "Let's go!"

She told me we couldn't.  Her in-laws were making samgyetang, a rice and chicken stew.  There are certain times during the summer when Koreans are supposed to eat it "for health."  So we went, and ate.  It was good.  I'd still rather have gone to see the movie, though.

Anyway, my week of summer vacation from the kindergarten starts this evening.  We've got plenty of time to go see Cap.  Also, my father-in-law wants to go hiking and eat boshintang.  I'm not sure I want to.  I had boshintang once before, the day before my wedding.  My buddy Atley came to Korea with us for the wedding (we all lived in Japan at the time, he was a member of the Yamanashi group) and wanted to try it.  I thought, hey, it's an experience.  So we went.  We ate.  It wasn't bad tasting.  But it's not something I ever felt like eating again.

Boshintang is dog meat stew.  And supposedly it's a magical curative for "men's health."  My in-laws are hoping for another grandchild and they think if I eat it I'll be firing magic bullets of love and paternity.  Or something like that. 

Anyway, Korea's got plenty of food superstitions or general strange beliefs that could be mined for interesting details to use in an RPG or fantasy novel.  A lot of them are simple sympathetic magic.  Like eating eel is good for "men's health" because, you know, eels are long and tubular and so are men's...  Well, you know.

Others, though, are a bit less easy to figure out.  Like tonight's samgyetang.  You're supposed to eat it piping hot on the 'hottest days' (set by some almanac or geomancy or something, it wasn't that hot today or the day we ate it last week either).  Fighting fire with fire is more or less the logic behind this one.  Make yourself hot on the hot day and you'll be fine the rest of the summer.

Anyway, I ought to ply my wife for more of these Korean eating superstitions.  I'm sure I don't know the half of them.  But here's a cool one, especially for anyone using Vampires heavily in their games:

If Korean men can catch a deer alive (as my friend Ahna's uncle did in his company's factory building one day), the men subdue the animal, cut a small incision in the upper neck, and drink the deer's blood.  Again, it's supposed to impart vitality and good health.  And again, not something I think I'd want to try myself.


  1. Dog stew, I could not eat that as I just got a new puppy and would be thinking of her.

    That said, I was watching Andrew Zimmern once and he showed a jar of peanut butter to kids from somewhere, I can't remember where. But they had never seen peanut butter before and thought it was very odd.

    Interesting to see how other people live and view foods.

    Anyway, good post. I enjoyed reading it and hope you get to see Captain America soon.


  2. Are you TRYING to make me happy that I'm not in Korea anymore? Because you are succeeding, admirably.

    Yeah, stories of Fan Death have totally captivated my friends back here. They're torn between political correctness and facepalming in disbelief. My sister waxes wroth that she can't test rats at her lab but Koreans can chop up octopi and eat them squiggling or beat a dog to death with sticks so the dog stew tastes good.

    Christ, I'm glad to be back in America.

  3. I wouldn't knowingly eat something that contained animals like dogs or cats. Not because I think the meat would be disgusting, but because I can't help but feel that anything that shows a certain level of intelligence deserves better than being food on my plate.

    Although I suppose you can make a case for any living creature, that's where I personally would draw the line. If it's smart enough to be a companion, I'd keep it off the menu.

  4. @Whisk-The funny thing about Korea is that if I tell them I have eaten deer meat, or rabbit, or kangaroo, they think, "How could he eat such a cute little animal?"

    @Dave-you could use some happiness. Cheers.

    @KM-having helped Dad raise pigs for all those years, I can honestly say that pigs are smarter than dogs. But they're much more delicious and make worse pets. There are some places in China where you can eat cat, but I doubt I'll ever go there. If I do though, I may just try it for the experience, like I did with dogs. Who knows?

  5. Hmm. I suppose that pigs just aren't as endearing or something. Like most people, I guess I haven't spent enough time around them to see their intellect. Also doesn't help that they happen to be made out of delicious bacon.

  6. you can get cat in korea.

  7. Doesn't surprise me. I don't think I'll be lining up to eat it any time soon, though...

  8. I do agree that pigs are smart little buggers. But ... I grew up with dogs being a part of our family. Loyal and guard-like. I can't eat one because it would be for me, eating a part of the family. Silly as that may sound to those who enjoy eating doggy stew.

    That said, I do watch a good deal of travel food shows and always find it curious what is normal to some and not to others.

    I've seen many rave over tarantula. Deep fried, even.

    Have you had that yet? And if not, would you?

  9. Well, there are a lot of Koreans, especially of the younger generations, who don't relish the idea of eating dog. There's some speculation that when the War Generation is gone, the boshintang restaurants will mostly disappear as well.

    Deep fried tarantula? Maybe. I've yet to (willingly) eat any bugs, but just about anything deep-fried is tantalizingly delicious...

  10. And as a farm kid, my siblings and I grew up 'keeping' a lot of the cows and pigs as our 'pets.' We'd give them names, and say they were 'ours.'

    And sometimes, we'd sit down to dinner and know which pig or cow the meat came from. I guess that somewhat desensitized me.

  11. I had a coworker that grew up on a farm and her grandpa would name all the cows after his grandkids. And she said when her cow wasn't outside anymore, she couldn't eat beef until so much time had passed. I'm not sure I'm explaining that right.

    Haven't done the fried tarantula either. I might, but I would probably chicken out. But I do find it interesting that so many people say it tastes good. I just don't know if I could get past the fact that it was tarantula.

    Anyway, thanks for this post. I enjoyed reading and chatting with you.