17 (Mon) May 2021
Some Pig Bones for a Stew
-Changgok, Sujeong, Seongnam, Gyeonggi, Republic of Korea-
with the Family
Newbery 100 Medals, 100 Meals (48) (see 100 NEWBERY M&Ms)
While reading the 100 books that have been awarded the annual Newbery Medal since 1922, 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 (i.e., give us this day our daily bread). The dishes will be featured as posts on Give Me This Day.
The Midwife’s Apprentice (1996) by Karen Cushman. Set in the countryside of medieval England, the book is about a young girl who starts out as a homeless child called Brat living in a dung heap, taken on by a midwife as a servant and redubbed Beetle (dung beetle), eventually becoming an apprentice and renames herself Alyce.
I liked it. Short and snappy, each chapter presents a new experience, a new learning opportunity, a new stage of growth for the girl. Most of all, the the story is made enjoyable by the scrappiness of the protagonist, who begins to sense that she is much smarter, much braver, and even much prettier than her origins would’ve suggested.
[paraphrased in part]
The midwife, needing to replenish her stores of leater flasks, nutmeg, and pepper, made plans to attend the Saint Swithin’s Day Fair at Gobnet-Under-Green. Beetle had been to fairs, but only to beg a turnip or some pig bones for a stew. She dearly longed to accompany the midwife, but still being Brainless Brat, she was afraid to ask.
Initially, I considered making a typical European-style stew with a bit of tomato paste (closer to what the characters in the book would eat, except the tomato paste) or a Japanese-style curry (easier to make) but then decided on Korean gamja tang (more likely to be appreciated by the people actually eating it). If the book were set in modern day Korea, gamja tang is the kind of thing that the characters would be eating.
My first time making gamja tang, I was happy to ditch the standard ground perilla seeds – don’t like the bitterness – and instead adapt my spicy doenjang soup recipe that is wildly popular these days (see for example 12.124 Siraegi Gukbab).
It turned out great. After 2.5 hours, the meat was at last falling off the bone. The potatoes, added much too early, were to the point of disintegration, but everyone seemed to like them that way. The broth was rich and spicy and wonderfully thick – partly from the bones, partly from the potatoes. With bowls and bowls of steamed rice, what a great meal.
Having initially reported the theory that the “gamja” in “gamja tang” is not the standard word for potato but rather a regional slang term for the pig’s backbone (see 3.226 Gamja Tang) – a tidbit that LJY and GK both seemed quite tickled to learn – then later expressing skepticism about the theory (see 10.340 Gamja Tang), I am now almost convinced that the theory is bunk. I have yet to see any credible evidence, other than people shrugging and saying, “Well, that’s what they say.”
In any case, for the dish tonight, which is of my own creation, the “gamja” refers to the potatoes.
(See also FOODS)
(See also PLACES)