‘밥 먹었어?' This is a very common and widely used greeting in Korea, which translates to ‘Did you have your meal?’ or ‘Did you eat something’ in English. It is also my favorite greeting, as I am a person who thinks eating is very important and crucial in life. There does exist a certain cultural, historical background for this greeting, but that is not what this column will cover. This column is about ‘밥’ itself. What is it to eat? Why does the very act of ‘eating’ matter so much? Through this short writing, I wish to share what I adore about ‘eating’, and what meanings it carries.
1. Eating as memories
Memory is very complex. It is very powerful. It is tied up with so many different senses: sound, smell, touch, and taste. Certain tastes bring you back to a certain time, and this is what I really love about food and eating. Below are some of my favorite memories, my favorite tastes.
-The warm taste of 곰국(Gomguk, a Korean soup brewed with beef and beef bones; tastes mild and a little bit greasy.) brings me back to when I was 6 years old. I made a fuss about not eating the spring onions in the soup. Mom picked out all the onions and fed me rest of the soup. It was so nice and warm, and I felt very loved.
-The sweet, sticky taste of maple taffy brings me back to Canada. I have lived in Canada for a year when I was very young, and maple taffy was everything for me back then. Every Saturday, after skate class ended, mom would buy maple taffies for my sister and me. There was this man selling taffies every Saturday. He would pour the syrup on the ice board and roll a wooden stick on top. It looked very similar to a popsicle, but more brown and shiny all over. We would happily suck those taffies all the way back home. What memory have you got?
What taste recalls your 6 year old you? You may as well write it down somewhere... Or even better: eat it!
2. Eating for one
As my favorite comic says, eating is a noble act given equally to every being, and no one can disturb this time. It is very pleasant to enjoy meals with your loved ones, but what I enjoy most is eating completely alone. I get to choose what to eat, where to eat, and when to eat. Not many things in life give you full control, but eating does. You become the decision-maker of your meal. Isn’t it fascinating? You can even choose what music you will listen to, or which Netflix clip you will watch while eating. Or you can even choose to eat in total silence. This sense of having control over what I eat has a significant impact on the rest of the day; it certainly helps one feel that I have my free will to do things and that I am being responsible for myself. When you are having a bad day, I strongly suggest you go get a meal; grab something, sit down, and have some time for yourself!
I wanted to write on this topic because I believe food is a part of life which does not change, and things that do not change are what keep life going. The last few years have been very harsh and turbulent overall. It was hard to keep up with what used to be ordinary and daily. A lot of parts have changed in life, but one thing that does not change is that we eat every day. We eat every day. We taste every day. So after all, 밥 먹었어?