Friday, March 2, 2012

Food and Writing Should Be Cooked with a True and Honorable Spirit

Two na-in, Jang Geum and Geum Young, setting the surasang for a feast
(Credit: Dae Jang Geum)

That is a tenet of traditional Korean cuisine. And it is evident if you have watched the drama series "Jewel in the Palace" or "Daejanggeum" ("대장금") in Korean. In Korean royal cuisine, food was presented and prepared in deference to a guest's position and social standing. The higher one's social status, the more elaborate and refined his/her table setting would be (The Inheritance of the Joseon Dynasty's Royal Court Cuisine - Part 22011 presentation of the Institute of Korean Royal Cuisine). This holds true today in the homes of modern day Koreans when they receive guests as well as eat together as a family. A proper Korean mother will put her love and devotion into preparing meals for her family. A proper Korean host will make sure to provide his or her guests with plenty of food and refreshment. 

Hospitality is a big part of Korean culture and this should be demonstrated in the way one receives a guest, the thoughtfulness and consideration that one shows through the food and accommodation that one provides. To be a good host is to be gracious, to make sure that one's guest is comfortably accommodated and provided for. It is through one's spirit that one realizes this grace. So when cooking food or receiving guests, one should do it with a true and honorable spirit. We realize our spirit through the manner by which we undertake our actions. We realize our spirit through the intention we approach every moment of the day. Our spirit not only affects the actions we take, but our surrounding environment as well, the spiritual and emotional landscape around us. This includes the food we prepare for others as well as ourselves. So it is important to prepare food with a true and honorable spirit so that this intention is expressed. Our sincerity is the most important aspect of being a good host. Letting our guests know that we care and will accommodate them is how we realize this intention. What we cook for others affects their well being as we are physically, mentally, and emotionally affected by what we eat. So in preparing food, we must also be cognizant of the health of our guests and cook accordingly. That is true jeongseong (정성, 'a true and honorable spirit'). 

This quality does not just apply to food, but writing as well. It is important to write with the right spirit, respecting one's subject by doing thorough research and approaching it with an open and honorable mentality. There is a power in the written word to convince, provoke, and affect one's readers on an emotional as well as intellectual level, so it is important to be aware of that and respect one's readers. Some people do things with the right spirit, seeking to create greater understanding and awareness, while others choose to use their platform to spread ignorance and misunderstanding. It's not about perfection, but putting forth one's best effort to realize a work of quality. Just like food that has been prepared with a negative attitude, writing that is done in that spirit is terrible. It shows the writer in a bad light and makes one lose respect for him or her as both a writer and a human being. We are all responsible for our mentality and so we should act accordingly. 

Posted by tastingkorea

1 comment:

  1. Purabi Naha wrote:

    I love Korean culture. Loved reading about this from you!


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