If Fan Death is the Koreanism most widely discussed (and mocked – I must admit) by westerners, the salutary affects of individual foods is the one you encounter most regularly. At almost every meal I enjoy with Koreans, my companions will speak to me about the health-improving qualities of this or that item we are eating. This occurs so consistently, I expect it now as a regular social element of Korean dining.
This goes far beyond what your mother told you when you were young about eating your carrots for your eyes, or the importance of milk for your bones. Koreans routinely ascribe far more specific salutary effects to almost ALL food items. Indeed, sometimes I ask my dining companions, out of sheer curiosity, what this or that food does. None (of my friends) are trained nutritionists or health experts, yet my acquaintances ‘answer’ this question immediately, easily, and earnestly. It is an astonishing piece of shared social knowledge. One wonders if North Koreans would similarly be able to comment on the salutary effects of individual food products.
I will try to comment on particular improving properties and foods as I learn them. Here are the most singular three I have heard so far:
1. Eating Duck Fat will scrub the inside of your blood vessels.
2. Eating dog will improve your ‘vitality’ (ie, sexual virility or potency – and yes, I have tried dog, and yes, it was tasty).
3. Eating foods of many colors simultaneously will synergize into an extra booster effect for your overall health.