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childhood memory

normalcyispasse reminded me of this; he's teaching in Korea now, where I lived for about a year during my first-grade year. Thought I'd share the story here:

When I was a little boy living in a boss-owned neighborhood north of Seoul, the boss-man invited my mother and me to his house for frequent dinners. Americans were rare then; it was during the Vietnam War, and soldiers' families weren't supposed to be there. So it pleased him to have as guests these exotic foreigners, especially me and my brother with our blond hair.

I recall eating many things I wouldn't have touched while living in the US. But Boss Man explained to me that since my dad was away serving on the DMZ, I was the man of the house and must eat what's offered to save face for my family. Gourmet items he offered included things like transparent soup - served in glass bowls, of course - with complete fish (and other objects) floating within them; octopi the size of small children; "Thousand-Year Eggs" and their attendant bouquet; and all manner of stinky and spicy foods I couldn't hope to recognize and wouldn't touch today. But I ate them, because Boss Man and his sons had frequently demonstrated how important "face" was to them, and I didn't want to harm my family.

I would love to be able to watch the Koreans' faces while I stoically put such delicacies into my mouth, a little 6-year-old boy eating what I'm sure many of them wouldn't dare try. I do recall hearing some of the Korean party guests laughing as I ate something. Ha ha.

Best,
Chris

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Comments

( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
tessagratton
Oct. 22nd, 2007 05:29 pm (UTC)
That's awesome.

I smell a short story!
mckitterick
Oct. 22nd, 2007 05:35 pm (UTC)
Y'know, I've toyed with writing a fictional autobiography. Y'know, what most people call a "novel," but based on my childhood experiences and enhanced with a fictional storyline. Even started it and outlined the thing. But I've taken a vow to write no more books (except with Jim, of course) until I sell the ones I have.

However, if I treat this as a short story, I could end up writing the whole thing eventually, anyway, as I'd then have two. Hm.
tessagratton
Oct. 22nd, 2007 05:40 pm (UTC)
I don't think I could keep a vow to not write more books. I'd be playing around with it, pretending it doesn't count if I make a serial in my LJ or write a whole bunch of interconnected short stories.

Short story!
mckitterick
Oct. 22nd, 2007 05:53 pm (UTC)
(Yeah, I must admit that I'm kinda writing a book that starts with my Visual Journeys "Jupiter Whispers" story. Now I only need to write three-to-five more.)
tessagratton
Oct. 22nd, 2007 06:27 pm (UTC)
I just looked up century eggs, and although that's a lovely shade of teal, food really, truly should not be that color.
mckitterick
Oct. 22nd, 2007 06:41 pm (UTC)
Eeeeew.
(Deleted comment)
mckitterick
Oct. 22nd, 2007 05:51 pm (UTC)
The phrase, "wing bits stuck in your teeth," kinda squicked me out.
(Deleted comment)
normalcyispasse
Oct. 22nd, 2007 11:21 pm (UTC)
Ha -- I knew immediately it was going to be beondegi.

The worst -- for me, at least -- was the live octopus. The feeling of the food trying to escape is just CREEPY, and when you eat it the suckers stick to your tongue and mouth as you chew.
the_monkey_king
Oct. 22nd, 2007 06:18 pm (UTC)
That's a wonderful story. My family has a long history with exotic foods, from the 1000 year eggs (my father ate the first one, but demurred when pressed with a second -- the feathers tickled, the bones crunched) to tripe and candy chilis and beer.

But then, I've always wanted to get my hands on chocolate locusts and snake blood soup.
mckitterick
Oct. 22nd, 2007 06:21 pm (UTC)
But then, I've always wanted to get my hands on chocolate locusts and snake blood soup.

You are an adventurer, sir.
clevermanka
Oct. 22nd, 2007 06:40 pm (UTC)
That's just mean. And I thought I didn't like children.
weaselmom
Oct. 22nd, 2007 06:46 pm (UTC)
Well, you know how I feel about (a) family and (b) doing stupid things for the sake of "face" and (c) forcing people to eat disgusting things for reasons connected to (a) or (b). Even as a six-year-old boy, you were a better man than I am, Gunga Din.
mckitterick
Oct. 22nd, 2007 07:06 pm (UTC)
Heh. But yeah, I hear you.
emessar
Oct. 23rd, 2007 09:23 am (UTC)
I've often wondered how many things in Asian cuisine were actually just cruel jokes to play on foreigners.
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )

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