I was watching the documentary Salt Fat Acid Heat on Netflix and every episode is placed in a different country and explains the primary tools to cooking. It made me reflect on my own experiences with food and cooking. I love food and I love cooking and I often post on my Snapchat or Instagram “Cooking with Caroline” (kudos to my older brother for giving me that name) I post step-by-step instructions on my cooking and ingredients that I use. It’s a way for me to share my own experiences with food and also help others with recipe ideas. It’s just for fun and I only do it every so often. I also think that since I live alone and meal prep every week it’s just a fun way to share it with others and try cooking new foods! Food is culture and brings people together. I grew up in a family where holidays are filled with traditional food that goes back generations. It stems back to my countries of origin, Norway, Denmark, Italy land Slovenia. I love that food brings people around the table, helps form closer relationships and allows for conversation starters.
I remember in Korea how uncomfortable it would be when I first moved there and had to sit with all Koreans during meals when I didn’t speak the language. One of the most comforting things was when I learned to talk about food in the Korean language and was able to connect with other people with talking about food. Even if it was a simple “Delicious!! Yum! I like it!” I instantly felt more connected. Koreans take a lot of pride in their food and sharing food. It is communal and you often share the same soup bowl and dishes. So the dishes are put in the middle and you use your spoon and eat from the center. I remember when a Korean friend told me how strange it was when she went to the USA and each person had their own individual dish and they didn’t share any food. I always thought that was funny and after living there I noticed I always loved sharing dishes more and even if we ordered items on a menu, we always ended up sharing them across the table. That’s something I have brought back home with me and still love to order multiple items on a menu and share them instead of just getting my own.
It also had me reflect on traveling overall and how that brings in more traditions into your own cooking and family traditions. One of the main things I look forward to when traveling to a new country is trying their local cuisines. Food can share so much about a culture from the way you eat, to the way food is presented. I think back to some of my own travels to Italy, England, Ireland, Norway, Mexico, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Japan, China, etc….so many places and so many different types of food! Even across the US there are so many different cuisines depending on the state you live in. All amazing in their own ways. In Korea I loved watching little 1st grade students eat their lunch with chopsticks and be able to eat a piece of cake with chopsticks (it took a long time for me to figure out the exact formula to eat cake with chopsticks without breaking the cake apart into small pieces and it falling apart haha) I loved sitting on the floor while eating (even if at times it was uncomfortable). I loved all of the small side dishes called Banchan that were given at every meal. I loved that when they described parts of meat they used the actual body parts of the animals (oh this is the fat part of the pigs neck…this is chickens feet…this is the stomach lining of the pig) It still disturbed me a bit because it gave such a visual but I also loved that that was the norm there and how they described food is so specific. All of these were traditions that have been around for hundreds of years.
Food is a huge part of Korean culture. It was often way cheaper to go out to eat than it was to buy the ingredients and cook it ourselves. There are outdoor food markets and stands all over the city and restaurants and cafes on every corner. In restaurants there are buzzers at every table so you can buzz for the server whenever you need them and you always pay at the door when you leave instead of waiting for your server. It’s genius and I wish that the USA would adopt this system.
My family didn’t go out to eat often when I was a child so we always had great home cooked meals, so to this day I still prefer a home cooked meal over a restaurant meal any day. However, living in Korea was the exception to that. I truly loved going out to eat there and the food was just amazing. I can’t replicate the beautiful food they make in my own kitchen so I can’t wait for the day I go back and visit and go back to all my favorite local spots 🙂 I posted on Instagram last winter some of my favorite dishes that I missed from Korea. I thought I would share these here on my blog with you all and I hope that if you visit Korea or a Korean restaurant near you, that you try each and every one of these!
Love from Snowy Minneapolis,