Saturday, August 16, 2008

More 부대찌개 investigation

Eventually this will all go up as a more comprehensive folklore of 부대찌개 on, but for the time being . . .

I've collected a few more folk and personal histories of 부때찌개 both from informants who I've been able to talk to, and a few more over the internet. I'm still getting a great many versions of what I'm going to call "Variant A" in which Koreans are directly taking meat from scrap heaps, or receiving food like spam as food aid, taking home, and cooking. I'm starting to find more and more accounts of "Variant B" which locate the source of the spam, hot dogs, etc. as the black market (the one I currently believe to be closer to the actual historical origins of the food - which I'm still interested in, but for now I'm going to concentrate on the folklore aspects of it.) I've also gotten a few secondhand accounts of how rare some of the ingredients would have been (if available at all), further dating the origins of the stew as we now know it firmly outside the immediate postwar period. I'm going to look for a few people in their 40's, 50's, and 60's (and older) who can give accounts both of what kinds of food were readily available, and their first experiences of 부대찌개. The earliest recollection anyone has of eating it in a restaurant was in the 80's, and they further speculated that it probably really came onto the culinary scene in the 70's as the economy started to take off.
I've been further thinking about the significance of the name, too, and the 부대 part seems to me a bit strange for something that should have had stronger "American" ties. Just a hunch, but it does push me towards thinking that maybe this was something that started with American rations being shared with Korean soldiers, who initially combined ingredients to make the stew, and continued to make it using black market ingredients after their discharge . . .? Maybe? Anyway, for now, I think I'm going to focus on collecting personal recollections of the dish from older informants than I've been using (mostly out of laziness - things have been busy at work and I've been neglecting personal research. We've had more conferences and workshops in the past month than in the previous six altogether! And I opened my big fat mouth and volunteered to organize two more over the next two terms . . . oy vey!) At any rate, the one thing I really have found is almost a total lack of the name "Johnson탕" as common usage. Not a single one of my informants so far has used it, and most of them had never even heard it before - I'm now 99.9% sure that all the Johnson탕 stories are apocryphal.

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