13.087 (Geonbbang) Hardtack

Cycle 13 – Item 87

2 (Sat) April 2022

 (Geonbbang) Hardtack


at Solddeul Camping

-Sinbok, Okcheon, Yangpyeong, Gyeonggi, Republic of Korea-

with IZ

Camping Rehab, Part III (Day 2)

Hardtack is a type of Anglo-American cracker.  Baked from flour into a dense, dry form designed to be portable and long-lasting.  Historically, hardtack was fed to sailors/soldiers – according to Wikipedia, reenactments of the American Civil War often involve eating hardtack – as well as laborers.  Nowadays, hardtack is still relied upon as emergency provisions, such as by survivalists.

In Korea, the equivalent to hardtack is geonbbang, meaning “dry bread,” still provided as field snacks for the military.  Beyond active duty, geonbbang is consumed primarily by former personnel for nostalgic reasons, according to MtG (who had himself eaten geonbbang when he was an army conscript).

I recall Gallipoli: The Scale of Our War, a larger-than-life installation at the Te Papa Museum in Wellington, commemorating the New Zealand experience in World War I.  One exhibit depicted what soldiers ate in the trenches, including hardtack (see 10.292 Bomber).

Newbery 100 Medals, 100 Meals (75-76) (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.

2 titles, both taking place in America during the 1860s, are presented in this post.

Rifles for Watie (1958) by Harold Keith.  The book is about Jeff Bussey, who enlists in the Union Army at age 16 to fight for the Union in the American Civil War.

It was pretty good.  The most densely plot-driven story thus far, Jeff goes through lots, and lots, and lots, in the course of the war, each chapter detailing his (heroic) exploits as a (good) soldier.  Some of the details, especially about death on the battlefield, is kinda graphic.  With a bit more on sociopolitical issues, the book would make for a fine basis as a  young adult Netflix mini-series.

For a novel set amidst the backdrop of the American Civil War, race relations do not feature prominently.  The one black character is portrayed with a reasonable degree of decency, though his speech is depicted with the stereotypical “Yessuh, Massuh!” inflections.  Though the titular character is the historical Stand Watie, a former chief of the Cherokee Nation who was a general in the Confederate Army, he does not play a major role in the story, and Indians generally are mentioned only in passing.

Surprisingly, for a book about the Civil War, a time and place when/where food wasn’t such a major priority, it contains a cornucopia of references to food, specifically Southern foods, such as:

wheat bread, fat bacon, corn bread in pone, dandelion greens, wild honey, fried onions, fried wheat biscuits, roasted sweet potatoes, green-grape cobbler, wild grape cobbler, sweet toast, apple butter, bacon gravy, hardtack, salt horse, beefsteak, roasted Irish potato, brown-topped sourdough biscuits, ham, flapjacks, broiled beef, beans, dried fruit pie, fried quail, ginger cakes, Dutch oven t-bones, fried eggs, ham and fried potatoes, roasted okra seeds

With so many options for the Newbery M&M project, I chose hardtack, even though it didn’t involve any cooking.  The decision was prompted while I was grocery shopping, where I was passing by the snack section and saw a bag of geonbbang, labeled on the package in English as “solid barley hardtack,” reminding me of Rifles for Watie.  Until that moment, I’d read about hardtack in various frontier-type books but never thought about what it is, exactly.  Until tasting them here, I’d never eaten ggeonbbang.

The geongbbang (hardtack) was meh.  Just a small crunchy biscuit, with a wisp of artificial sweetness, probably nothing like American hardtack.

I can’t recall the last time that I enjoyed a completely free afternoon while camping, when I could relax with a book (David & Goliath), accompanied by a beverage (Tiger Beer) and a snack(geonbbang).

Caddie Woodlawn (1936) by Carol Ryrie Brink.  Based loosely on the author’s life, the book is about 11-year-old Caddie, a tomboy who gets into various adventures with her siblings and schoolmates while living on the wild frontier of Wisconsin.  Yet another infuriatingly plucky Newbery heroine.

One major event in the story involves a potential armed conflict between the skittish white settlers and the “frightful savages” across the river.  Caddie saves the day by bringing together her father and her friend Indian John to broker peace.

Food is mentioned occasionally in the book, often as a metaphor for larger frontier issues.

[paraphrased in pertinent part]

The air was full of the noise of wings, and flocks of birds flew like clouds across the sun.  The pigeons were on their way south.  They came down in the fields and gardens, feeding on whatever seeds and grains they could find.  Everyone armed themselves, but Caddie stayed indoors.  This was not hunting – it was a kind of wholesale slaughter.  She knew that wherever the beautiful gray birds went, they were harassed and riven away or killed.  Something of sadness filled her young heart.  The pigeons, like the Indians, were fighting a losing battle with the white man.  

But father was not a glutton.  “Don’t kill more than we can eat.  There is moderation in all things.”


(See also CAMPING)

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