Korea has a wide variety of foods. Among Korean foods however, the one that can be said to have the most cultural meaning would be the food called soojaebee. The food can be described as a hot soup with water, rounded pieces of flour, throw in a bit of salt, and there you have it, soojaebee. Does it sound rather unappetizing? But, to Koreans, it will forever be one of the most delicious foods.
The reason Koreans love this strange food, called soojaebee, is that this was the only food most people could afford during the times of Japanese colonization. Those were very tough times for Koreans, and this is where historical particularism of Boasian Anthropology comes into play. Soojaebee, if it can even be called food, was the only thing people could call food. Where they had nothing else, they had water and flour. The only thing the people could make was this thing called soojaebee. During this bitter time in Korean history, this was the food that allowed survival, the thing that brought life. So then, how can the people ever forget the taste of the thing that brought them life? The taste could be nothing but delicious. The history behind this food makes it so that the people can never abandon this food because of the way it served them during their darkest times.
Soojaebee has become somewhat of a symbol in Korean culture. From our great-grandfathers to the present generation of college students, this food holds still a significant meaning. Koreans usually eat this food during the winter and sometimes just any time of year. But especially during the Korean New Year or Korean Independence Day, people will eat this food. Some of the elderly folk will eat it even today and remember the tough times they had experienced during Japanese colonial times. That’s when the stories of olden days and the great heroes who shaped modern Korea will be told to the younger generation. Then the children also learn the pains of the people. So soojaebee holds a symbolic meaning in the culture of the older generation of Koreans. The younger generation may not know the history that soojaebee holds, but nevertheless, its meaning is there. In present day Korea, the food brings families together during the making process. Because of its simplicity, even children can help to prepare the food, and whenever the food is eaten, it warms families together. It warms people bellies as well.
This very simple and rather unappealing food may seem strange to others. But to the Korean people, it will always hold a great meaning. It is the food that allowed them to survive another day. The food that provided their bodies a means to be nourished. It is the thing that brought life to the people.