Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Can this guy make a speech or what!

Normally, I am apolitical, but this year's U.S. Elections are actually interesting for the first time in my adult life; an African-American, a woman, and a war hero making up the practical set of choices....and they ARE real choices. For the first time, I don't feel like I HAVE to choose the lesser of two evils. There are several good choices. I believe that ultimately it will come down to Obama and McCain and that is just fine with me. As a card-carrying fencerider, I am still giving both candidates a fair shot at my vote. That said, I recently came across "The Yes We Can Song" and thought I would share it with my readers. It is a political message, of course, and it is full of some familliar faces from music and Hollywood. It is based on a truly inspiring speech by Senator Obama. Although, I'm not naive enough to just allow an inspiring speech to take my vote from me since I prefer to look at the issues and the person as well as the candidate but if I voted tomorrow, he would probably get my vote because, like so many Americans, I want change, too. McCain is a good man and would undoubtedly be as good a president as Obama could, but he still hasn't inspired me like this. I'm waiting.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Korean Food: Keeping up with the Neighbors

A recent editorial article in the Chosun Ilbo English Edition asks the not so rhetorical question of how Korean cuisine can compete in the world.

A country's cuisine boosts exports of its agricultural products and improves itsnational image. That's why different countries are competing to spread their cuisine around the world according to a strategic game plan. Japan hasestablished a committee that oversees research into new variations of its cuisine, seeking to raise the number of global fans of Japanese food from 600 million now to 1.2 billion by 2010 by pursuing various globalization projects. Italy opened a culinary institute for foreigners and adopted a system of certifying and endorsing Italian restaurants around the world. Since the 1990s, Thailand has been pursuing a "Global Thai Restaurant" project that promotes adherence to preparation standards for Thai cuisine, trains foreigners as chefs and supports Thai restaurants abroad.

I did a search for information in English about universities, colleges or even private institutes that teach Korean cooking and all I could come up with was a few classes or special offerings on how to make Kimchi. I know that there are some fine culinary science departments in some universities out there. Unfortunately, there really isn’t anything out there on studying the rich food culture and cuisine of Korea and that is a crying shame because, on a personal level, I know that I have discovered a great deal during my 12 years in Korea. I almost feel that I could open a Korean restaurant of my own except that I don’t have any formal training. What I know, I have learned from my mother-in-law and sister-in-law and the flow of information from them seems never ending. What can be done to REALLY bring Korean cuisine to the rest of the world? More from the Chosun:

Only this year is the Korean government finally launching a program to investW78 billion (US$1=W943) by 2011 in an effort to develop Korean cuisine so it can rank among the top-rated cuisines around the world. It's time for the government, civilians and businesses to pool their efforts to spread Korean cuisine globally. If this does not happen, then Korean cuisine may disappear overseas without ever having the chance to take root.

Better late than never, I guess; Alrighty then, here’s my 2-cents on the subject and some of it is emphasized in the article. The government should use some of that money they plan to spend to do the following:
  1. Open up a National Culinary Institute and make the faculty come from some of the best known restaurants from all over Korea. Have the courses all taught in English (yes, I see the problem here but keep reading anyway)
  2. Bring over some willing participants from all over the world (and those with English ability from within Korea) to engage in some serious study on the subject. Scholarship potential chefs from all over the world to come and study so they can bring ‘real’ Korean cuisine to the rest of the world.
  3. Create an award system for some of the most common Korean seasonings and allow outstanding companies to have ‘excellence branding’ in much the same way that Thai Government has done by labeling certain products with awards for excellence.
  4. Create a government fund that will subsidize the creation of ‘real’ Korean restaurants and restaurant chains around the world. Offer this funding ONLY to those who have graduated with honors from the National Culinary Institute.

Korean food is delicious and healthful and deserves to surpass the popularity of other Asian cuisines. I would agree that more aggressive action by the Korean government and private enterprise is needed. A lot of trash gets talked about Korea on the Korean Blogosphere but the one thing about Korea that I have rarely heard bad-mouthing is the subject of Korean food. As for me, if I had to choose between exporting Korean cars or Korean food…keep the Ssangyong, pass the ssamjang.