11.278 Truly a Felicitous Combination

Cycle 11 – Item 278

9 (Fri) October 2020

Truly a Felicitous Combination


by me

at home

-Changgok, Sujeong, Seongnam, Gyeonggi, Republic of Korea-


Newbery 100 Medals, 100 Meals (7) (see 100 NEWBERY M&Ms)

While reading the 99 books that have been awarded the annual Newbery Medal since 1922 – leading up to the 100th winner to be announced next year – I will also attempt to create one dish for every book, a dish that is directly referenced in or indirectly inspired by the events of the book.  Food plays a strong role in many of the stories; not surprising as the characters in most of the books are faced with adversity of some sort, including poverty, so they’re often very hungry and thus grateful whenever they get a bite to eat – as we all should be at every meal, give us this day our daily bread.  The dishes will be featured as posts on Give Me This Day.

The only book among the 99 that’s about Korea, by a Korean-American author, only the second book to take place in Asia.

A Single Shard (2002) by Linda Sue Park.  The book is about Tree-Ear, a homeless orphan in 12th century Korea, who lives under a bridge with his friend and mentor Crane-Man.  Through a turn of events, Tree-Ear becomes an apprentice for Min, master potter of celadon ceramics; though the apprenticeship is unpaid, the potter’s wife provides lunch every day for Tree-Ear, who always reserves half to be shared with Crane-Man after work under the bridge.

I really appreciated this book for the sweet if saccharine story and positive if predictable life lessons, though a bit corny in its oriental schtickiness.

A new tofu product from Pulmuone: Yet (옛) (old) Dubu (두부) (tofu).  According to the packaging, the cakes are made with traditional drying techniques, supposedly resulting in richer flavor.

While they did seem to be a bit nuttier in taste – boiled in salt water – I found that the rough and rustic texture was the highlight, making the cakes feel handmade.

Anyway, the Yet Dubu was perfectly suited for this particular application, even if only in name.

Cucumber kimchi aka oi sobagi from J-Mart.

Whereas kimchi as a pickled vegetable dates back to at least the Three Kingdoms period around start of the common era, kimchi developed into spicy versions sometime after the early 17th century, when chili peppers were first introduced to East Asia by European traders.  Recipes of the 19th century show further evolution of the dish to include more pungent ingredients, such as garlic and ginger, shrimp paste, fish sauce, as well as a broader variety of vegetables, including the then-newfangled, now-standard napa cabbage.  Until then, kimchi was generally white/clear/simple, like dongchimi of today.

[paraphrased in part]

“Bean curd tonight,” Crane-Man would say, his eyes gleaming.  “With cucumber kimchee as well.  Truly a felicitous combination.  Soft bean curd – crunchy cucumber.  Bland bean curd – spicy cucumber.  That woman is an artist.”

The point is that kimchi in 12th century Korea would not have been spicy, also uncertain whether cucumbers were pickled at all back then.

This tin pot, which was brand sparkling new when I took it with me to college, now sporting 29 years of hard-cooked patina, is the longest held piece of cookery that I own, one of the longest held pieces of personal property that I own.

In the book, Tree-Ear receives his meals in a dried gourd shell, which for millennia is what commoners in Korea have used for bowls.  My grandparents had actual dried gourd shells in common use around the house; plastic replicas of gourd shells are still used, though not really as food bowls, more of a utility scoop.

The modern equivalent might be the tin pot: cheap, indestructible, versatile, often used to cook ramyeon and other quick soup meals.

I hadn’t used my old tin pot to cook anything in years (see most recently 3.218 Neoguri Ramyeon with Bean Sprouts & Egg) – it sits these days as an ornament on the bookshelf with my cookbooks; in Manila, our helper used it to keep spare change – so I gave it a thorough scrubbing before bringing it into service here.

The meals from the potter’s wife always include steamed rice.

Truly, the felicitous combination made for a very austere meal.  I was grateful.

(See also FOODS.)

(See also PLACES.)

4 thoughts on “11.278 Truly a Felicitous Combination

  1. I love literary food. One of my favourites is The Good Earth (probably because I feel a deeper connection to the food, being of Chinese descent). There’s actually quite a few blogs out there dedicated to recipes for food in books.

    1. Coincidentally, just a few days ago, I was talking with an English teacher, and she was asking me if we had authors like Pearl Buck, but for Korea.

      I really should read other blogs on occasion.

  2. I will say that yours is one of the better blogs I’ve come across, and I am very grateful for the continued updates. It’s well written without being over the top, informative, dotted with cute anecdotes, and very genuine. Also your sense of humor, wry and dry, echoes mine 🙂

    1. OMG, this is the highest praise, perhaps the only praise, that GMTD has ever received!! It was never about accolades, but I really do appreciate your support!! (If only Number One Fan Lisa would weigh in here….)

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