Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Cooking for Character Development

Kimchi! Bibimbap! Jjajangmyun! After watching several Kdramas or reading some Manhwa, my mouth inevitably starts watering. With Manga, I crave Onigiri and restaurant quality Ramen. To satisfy my cravings, I decided to use my vacation break to whip up some of these treats.

On the left, you can admire the mouth watering goodness of my fresh kimchi. I used a recipe from Maangchi, a korean cooking website which I highly recommend. It presents the steps in detail with a photograph for each or alternatively you can watch a video of the preparation. Be prepared for lots of food. The original recipe called for ten pounds of cabbage.

I also served up bibimbap to my family. It was a confirmed success. Good thing too, cause it's hard to use up a whole container of Gochujang (hot red pepper paste) at one sitting.

...But then my mom asked, "Should we be consoling you about something?"

"What?" I naturally replied.
"Well, don't heroines of Korean soap operas cook bibimbap as a comfort food?" she explained.
And that got me thinking.

They do indeed cook bibimbap as a comfort food. They eat it in giant mixing bowls while watching TV in their sweats. It acts as the Korean version of Haagen Dazs boosting them up against the injustice and loneliness of the world, or it confirms them as self-directed women who don't care about their stick-thin figures and the attractive Asian stereotype.screenshot from Coffee Prince of Eun Chan and Han Gyul

My favorite example of aggressive non-feminine eating is the Jjajangmyun eating contest in Coffee Prince. Eun Chan, the female lead who is frequently mistaken for a boy and disguised as a man for much of the show, takes on her sister's would-be-boyfriend, to see who can stomach five bowls of black bean noodles. She finished with a satisfied burp while the sad loser barfs off screen.

But there's also the inverse feminine food activities, making Obento (lunch boxes) for your boyfriend or chocolates for your valentine's crush.

It makes sense really; why add food to the plot except to advance the narrative? All these different munchies aren't there to make the audience salivate, well occasionally they are, but mostly, they are there to show that the heroine is sad, or independent, or love-struck.

Back to my culinary experiments, kimchi suggests that I have a home building instinct, while bibimbap suggests I'm an independent woman or disappointed in love. Not much of a personality test, but something to think about the next time your narrative instincts kick in in the kitchen.


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