New Blogger, Egbert: An Introduction
Some of my fondest memories carousel around food. There is a remarkable understanding shared when one person hands a bit of food to another. Despite the various cultural differences and endless language barriers that people swimming in the international pool confront daily, food transcends time, distance and experience. It offers the here and now to whomever is caught with their guard down and momentarily susceptible to personal connection. In the blink of an eye your appreciation of where you are can gain momentum enough to carry you through the difficulties that living in another culture creates. Some of my fondest memories are food-based, yes, but standing steadfastly on this base are the real hearts and souls with whom I have connected through food.
I have been living in Ulsan, S. Korea for ten months. I am a native New Yorker doing what most of you are probably doing-trying to eat my way into a writing career. Attempting this is easy in Korea because of the dynamic nature of it’s delicious cuisine. I hop from restaurant-to-restaurant with my girlfriend, Julli, owner of the fun, and colorful Indian jewelry shop in Ulsan called Parpur. She has shown me that Koreans are masters of frugality and purveyors of a modest carnival quality that has blanketed most of my culinary experiences here. Through waeguk eyes I am seeing and eating food that I have never seen or eaten before. The fact that the day-to-day grind of the countless Korean restaurant workers brings me such jubilant and childish glee tips the balance of the world in my direction and favor, for restaurants are what I do.
I often say that food is four things-artistic, humanitarian, honest, and a relief. I don’t need to explain why I feel that food is artistic. Do I? Anyone who visits Seoul Eats surely understands how it feels to be on the receiving end of a beautifully arranged and presented dish. If you are a cook, or a chef then you know the joy of presenting a carefully arranged plate.
The humanitarian aspect of food is also obvious. Being offered a meal, a piece of food is the ultimate gesture of humanity. From one strange hand to another moves a bite of nourishment that carries a message of hope and encouragement.
Honesty. You can’t hide in your food. When you cook a meal, you are cooking yourself. The end result is a reflection of either how much effort you put in, or how limited, or advanced your cooking ability is. Ultimately, no matter how good or bad your meal turns out, the end result is honestly you.
Food is a relief to us all. No matter what your economic status, none of us truly know where our next meal is coming from. Consider it a long lingering fear long stored in our cache of subtle primal fears. As humans, we have been unable to shake many of the old animal tendencies that have guided us for thousands of years. Today, food is still king and hunger is still fear. When sitting before a meal, shoveling that first bite into your mouth, your fear is eased-your mind is relaxed, and you are relieved.
Why so serious for my first blog? Oh, I don’t know… I guess I wanted to share my personal thoughts on food and Korean cuisine before I get into it and start having some fun. I’ll lighten up for my next post, I promise. I’ve never written for a blog before and, as I told Dan, am fairly pop-tech inept. I want to thank Daniel for giving me access to his blog. I look forward to writing more.
Peace & Health,