My last dental appointment in London left me explaining to my dentist why he needed to fix as many teeth as possible. Healthcare in Korea isn’t free unlike the UK. And I needed to make sure I wasn’t in need of any type of life changing surgery before going abroad.
He chimed on about diet, lifestyle choices; like what I eat, why I eat it and what my plans were for my new home abroad. I expressed to Dr Omar my excitement at being able to travel. To which he said, “You are going to South Korea right. Yeah, a friend of mine is a dentist there. That’s where you are going? Really? Why?..Plus I heard the foods awful.”
Needless to say, negative Nancy put a spanner in our conversation. I stopped trying to have idle chit chat with a man whose hands were in my mouth. I needed this guy to concentrate god damn it! Yet 7 months on, every time I sit down to eat in a traditional restaurant in SoKo, I’m reminded of our exchange. I still can’t find a complete place in my heart for Korean food, and I thought I would share my reasons why. So Dr Omar..this one’s for you!
My food should be dead. End of….Live octopus exists here and I will never consume it. Sorry. Raw and ALIVE differ greatly. You can call me ignorant, boring. Heck, tell me I possess the palette of a two year old. Not really fussed. But personally, I need to be sure that what is being served, has been gutted and cleaned first. Unaware or uncertain is something I can be when choosing to swallow something. (No crude jokes please).
Cuisine Vs Comfort food….This took me a while to understand. And technically, as someone from a Afro Caribbean background, I’ll admit, I should have grasped it quicker. Similarly to the food from my grandparents homeland, Korean food is one of comfort, culture and I guess for some, nostalgia. It resembles not the cuisine of the French or Italian, where indulgence takes precedence.
If you can’t recognize it then it’s probably pork. But I hate pork….Again, I grew up with Afro Caribbean parents. And most…not all, but most of them have a few wayward beliefs on pigs. They insist they don’t eat “Trenton.” (a random word for pork that has no semantic relation to jack shit lol). Also making claim that it is an unclean animal. So when I first arrived in Seoul, I didn’t know what to do. My Mum has spent decades trying to convince me that ‘Turkey Rashers are the same as Bacon.’
‘Can you eat it? It’s so spicy.’ … Anybody from your Korean boyfriend, friend, co worker, to the lady serving you will ask this question. If you select a dish that is deemed ‘spicy’ by SoKo standards, expect to be asked if you can handle the heat. For some reason Korean’s are under the impression that foreigners can’t eat spicy food. ..I know a lady who puts at least 6 scotch bonnet peppers in her rice…and she isn’t Korean. That’s all I’m saying.
Honestly, I can’t complain too much, it’s all great experience. I have slowly learnt to love different dishes…And for the record, more importantly my teeth are all still in tact!