This post is another reflection from my summer travels to Asia and in particular the two weeks I spent in South Korea.
The tradition of bringing back some local treats and gifts when one travels in an Asian country, especially when you have been to a more rural area and the city folk you left behind want to know what’s there, is one that I enjoy. Especially when I’m one of those who are stuck in the rat race and urban jungle, and get to taste some goodies brought back from someone’s travels. On this particular trip, it was the other way around, as I decided to purchase some sweet snacks that were reputed to be the best representation of what Gyeongju has, and I was told, would be appreciated by the Seoulites who would be on the receiving end of my generosity.
As with many food gifts, packaging is key, especially when one is challenged by a large display full of various types. As people “eat with their eyes”, I can see why so much effort is spent on making the containers, boxes, etc. as appealing as possible and thus help boost sales. Convenience for me is often key (especially when I’m traveling by air) and so a slim package such as the one above is much favored. This particular pair of items was bought in a gift shop just before departing Gyeongju city. A last stop kind of place to get your fill of this resort area before returning to the more populous (and non-touristy) places around the peninsula.
Taking a cueonce again from my colleague aka the Foodosopher, I thought I’d jot down some random thoughts from my past two weeks of eating in South Korea, as I slowly begin the process of recovering from the time zone switch as I’ve landed back on North American soil.
I was fortunate to have the opportunity to travel throughout the country this time (and not just bogged down in Seoul), hitting the metropolitan area of Seoul and neighboring province of Gyeonggi-do, as well as venturing through the central parts of the country (Chungcheongbuk-do), and the eastern province of Gyeongsangbuk-do. Almost made it down to the major southern city of Busan, but with the havoc being raged by Typhoon Dianmu, we elected to retreat northward.
I was bitten by the photographic food blogging bug when I was given a Blackberry by my former employers about two years ago. It had a crappy built-in camera which took equally crappy pictures – but the Blackberry was enough to get the ball rolling. (The Blackberry has a lo-fi aesthetic that I really like, actually. The images are grainy and washed out, yet there is something very “immediate” about them:)
It’s quite funny looking back how I never really considered taking photos of food until that time. In my travels through Asia many years ago, I carried an inexpensive pre-digital Point and Shoot camera and the only real pictures I had of food were of food stalls and markets. I took hundreds of shots…and the photos were mostly of the typical “tourist” shot. (I have since been back through Asia a few times for business, but my photography was limited due to my obligations).
While I wish I had a stunning review (there are many new restaurants out there worth talking about), a topical subject (the failure to ban Bluefin Tuna exports from the Atlantic for example), or something really interesting to share with you this weekend, I don’t. What I have for you is the gift of perspective.
You see, I’ve temporarily lost my sense of taste. When it will come back, doctors have no idea. 5 days? 10 days? Weeks? Some people report a year or two!
Food has pretty much no appeal to me. I can’t taste anything. I can’t tell if something is salty, or flavourful. I couldnt tell the difference between Batali and Olivieri. Between the tenderness of calf moose, or rotting beef. I can feel textures and acidity – astringent, “warmth”, mushy, firm but there is no taste. I thought i tasted banana today, but i think it was taste memory playing tricks on me. I tried eating garlic – to see if it would kick start my tastebuds. Now the people around me suffer as well.
So appreciate what you have. Great food, or slightly mediocre, a shared meal, or a quiet moment alone with a bowl of soup – appreciate the smell of roasting meat, the freshness of greenery, the warmth of a simmering pot, the bright smells of citrus, and the lowly smells of compost. Because without a sense of smell or taste, there is no enjoyment in food at all. And without enjoyment in food, this bond we all share, whether we agree or disagree on a given review, doesn’t exist. It’s a lonely place, feeling disconnected from something we’re all so passionate about. May you never have to experience it.
Quickly now, what comes to your mind when you hear the words French Cuisine?
For me, fine dining, regional, and an assortment of French translations for common ingredients that are clearly the fading remnants of my eight plus years of childhood education in the language come rushing out at me.
Now do the same for say, Italian or Chinese. I’m sure strong images pop into your mind, mainly of the favorable variety, including some great dishes or full meals you’ve had associated with the countries from which they came.
Sadly, yours truly is currently on forced exiled in the wintery tundra of Alberta, specifically the freezing cold city of Calgary where a few minutes of prolonged exposure to the outside elements can result in some unpleasant, numbing sensations on your skin and extremities. Winter in the prairies is not my cup of tea, despite my past of living in these brutal winter conditions for many, many years.
Perhaps taking a cue from the stalled offensive machine of the local National Hockey League club that is mired in a seven game winless streak, the below zero temperatures have seriously stunted my drive to explore the city’s culinary scene, and the changes wrought since I last lived here. But as fate would have it, sitting on the top of a pile of magazines in my hotel room was one that had the bold faced text trumpeting “Calgary’s Best Restaurants”. With a publication date of January/February 2010, it was fortunately not an out of date rag. Exploration in the comfort of my hotel room – perfect!
As I settled in, I began perusing the magazine, beginning with this note from the editor. Again, the mention of a respectable crew of commentators from the city was noted as those being responsible for the rankings inside. Fair enough, “let’s hear it” I thought, and I moved to the pages deeper in the approximately 80-page piece, seeking the wisdom of those “people who know Calgary’s restaurants inside and out”, and read about their choices for the “establishments that they felt would make a lasting impression of Calgary for visitors like (me)”.
In looking back over the past year, I realize that in pursuit of my passion on a day to day basis, that I am always learning. Eating out, discussing food, sourcing ingredients, cooking, it all affords us the opportunity to learn. But while i learn something every day, there are those “A-ha!” moments that you have that stick with you. That change how you look at a cuisine, an ingredient, or a dish.
We started Foodosophy 18 months ago for a variety of reasons, but one of the primary ones was to learn from other people, and to share what we learn. I thought it would be a nice way to end the year by sharing, and encouraging everyone else to share things that they’ve learned.
So without further adieu, I would like to present my Top 5 things I learned in 2009.