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« Blog of The Week | Main | Spaghetti with Seafood Tunisian Style by Anis Toumis »

September 02, 2005

Childhood Food Memories by Ji-Young Park

Farid was tagged by by Tana Butler to share five "Memories of Childhood Food" for a meme. He's teaching double shifts these days, so I'll respond.

I was born in Seoul in 1969 and immigrated to Los Angeles in 1975. My most vivid childhood memories of food are from the mid-seventies. My childhood memories are a glimpse into life in pre-industrialized Seoul. I have not dropped the ball on my Korean cuisine series. At the moment I'm over whelmed with other projects. I should be back in the game in about a week or so.

1) Dak Dori Tang  Spicy Chicken Stew 1974
Baby chicks were sold in the streets of Seoul for today's equivalent of 5 cents or less. Children bought them to play with like pets or they were purchased to be raised for food. One day my mother and father made a makeshift chicken coop and purchased a dozen or so baby chicks. I remember watching them grow fat and plump, each day they seemed more and more like pets in my four year old mind.

Then one day they were gone and we had dak dori tang for dinner. I asked my mother if they were made from our chickens. She lied and told me that our chickens had been adopted by a nice farmer and this evening's dinner was made with store bought chickens. I didn't believe her, didn't care one way or another after eating the delicious stew.

2) Mee Jeh Foods Mee Jeh means "made in America" or "American Made" 1974

My uncle was a Congressman. He was one fo the elite of South Korea with access to mostly black market American foodstuffs.

European goods, especially French, were even more expensive. He had two homes, a house in the suburbs and an apartment in what to me at the time seemed like a very glamorous high rise in a city that had very few at the time.

Whenever I went to visit my uncle and my aunt they would offer me American chocolates, cookies and canned pineapple. They seemed so exotic and special. I would brag about eating them to my school friends who reacted with envy and awe.

When I was seven after having spent two years in America I went back for a visit to Seoul with my parents. Turns out the chocolate was Hersey's,  the cookies were chips ahoy or something like that and the pineapples were of course Dole. Common American supermarket items.

3) Fresh Roasted Peanuts...

falling off the peanut truck. The kids in the neighborhood would shout out to eachother that the peanut truck was passing through, sort of like "I scream, you scream, we all scream for I scream" only it wasn't ice cream.  We were crazy for fresh roasted peanuts.

The peanut truck would ramble along unevenly paved or totally unpaved roads happily dropping peanuts as it went along. The kids in the neighborhood would chase after it to gather the peanuts. My brother's and I did it for fun, some of the other kids did it because they were hungry.

We were not particularly poor compared to other Koreans at the time. The country itself was poor, refer to entry number 2.

4) Pok Gee

Pok Gee are cooled disks of caramelized sugar. They've fallen out of favor since western hard candies became widely available.They were starting to make a comeback of sorts a few years ago but I haven't been back to Korea in about 4 years.

Our neighborhood Pok Gee Halmuni (grandmother) imprinted hers with designs. I cannot remember what they were exactly. I remember animals and cartoon characters. The game was to eat the edges of the Pok Gee while keeping the silhouette of the design intact to take back to the Pok Gee Halmuni, the prize was a free Pok Gee!

5) Bonbel Cheese

Bonbel cheese was one of the first foods I tried in America. There were very few packaged foods available in Seoul in the mid-seventies. I had only seen a handful of products and certainly never cheese.

I debated with myself whether or not to take off the waxy stuff. But it just did not make sense to my five year old mind that the cheese could be individually wrapped with something inedible. It seemed so decadent and wasteful, surely the waxy stuff is meant to be eaten. I did not try cheese again for 4 years.

This is where I should list 5 other blogs to tag. I will do it later today.

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Comments

Very interesting!

Paz

Paz,

Thank you. The "made in America" foodstuffs that were sold on the black market back then included army rations! And they were very expensive considering the average wage at the time.

I suppose it illustrates that oftentimes what the elite in any given country at any given time thinks is "special" has more to do with scarcity and cost, rather than actually quality and taste.

I enjoyed reading about your childhood food memories, especially the "made in America" story. ;-)

I love fresh roasted peanuts, although I haven't had it in ages.

Paz

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