Friday, January 15, 2010

Korean Table Culture

The process of eating is a very important part of life, both of the body and spirit.Koreans can eat what in other cultures you would not dream of eating and not even think it possible. This over the years develops into a culture of eating and a way of behaving at table.

Is it that they enjoy eating so much that they can eat even those things that are not eatable? They eat insults, fright, age, money, their hearts, heat, cold, effort, great loss, points in a game, goals in soccer and many other things.

I have always admired the eating habits of Korea for the table is set up in a way that no housewife is embarrassed if more show up than were invited. You have all kinds of side dishes placed on the table with the ever present eating utensils--chopsticks. So with a rice bowl and your chopsticks you are ready for the common table.

Yesterday the men in the mission station wanted to send off the pastor of the parish, who is being assigned to youth work in the diocese, with a farewell meal. We went by our van and picked him up and went to a raw fish restaurant overlooking the ocean.

We all sat down at a table that was prepared for us with common dishes of all kinds of sea food, both raw and some cooked. This was the appetizer followed by strips of raw fish. Each would have a small dish with some condiments, mustard and pepper sauce, in which to dip the strips of raw fish. At the end of the meal there is another common dish, a fish stew, boiled on little stoves set before us and eaten with the rice that finishes off the meal. Of course this is taken with Soju the preferred drink for Korean males. It would be comparable to the Japanese Saki.

The meal takes about two hours to finish, with a lot of talk and sharing. The comradery is shown in pouring the drinks of our table mates and making sure the glass is never empty. This is one areas I would like to see changed to our American style of pouring one's own drinks but the eating from the common table has a meaning that our western way of individual dishes does not. The talk is more intimate and conducive to a bonding that for me is missing in the western table manners. The drinking of course does help.

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