When I write about food and what makes it good and special, what defines my taste buds and what I consider tasty?
Korean food nowadays is largely condensed to spicy stews and grilled meats. Yes, we love our spicy foods but that shouldn’t attribute most, if not all, of our foods as spicy. Actually, Korean food is known to be quite bland. Most of the spicy foods came later to adhere to the younger generation’s taste buds.
Hearing my parent’s stories, the Korea I know and visit is not the same Korea they grew up in. Korea used to be largely under Japanese rule; Koreans were forced to give up food for the Japanese army that resided in Korea, creating massive famine and starvation throughout the country. With nothing to eat, Koreans turned to the forest. We scavenged around for the tough roots and vegetables that no one wanted to eat and boiled them for hours, making them somewhat palatable. We didn’t have access to pepper flakes and salt was scarce, so seasoning was sparingly used. These seasoned roots and vegetables are called 나물 “na-mul.” They are prepared the same way, but each dish tastes different according to the vegetable. Eaten with hot, white rice, this is the comfort meal to most Koreans.
To most older generation Koreans.
Younger generation Koreans prefer the spicy kimchi soup. The interest in these vegetables is subsiding, because they don’t think it’s spicy. The majority of an entire generation is denoting a large section of traditional Korean cuisine as “gross.” What happened to our taste buds?
Our taste buds evolve with us. If we grew up eating a certain dish, there’s a big chance we will enjoy it later in life. We can train our taste buds to be able to handle bits of food we aren’t used to until we can consume it in large quantities.
Taste is very subjective, but it evolves with what the generation prefers. Korean food’s evolution is astonishing, given our dilapidated inclination towards natural vegetables to our growing intrigue in new instant ramen flavors.