[SO WHAT ELSE ... ?]East meets West at dinner table

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[SO WHAT ELSE ... ?]East meets West at dinner table

While I was visiting Champagne, France, a French gentleman, who had worked in China and Southeast Asia for seven years, told me, "You're like a French person!" Bewildered, I thought about what I had just said -- that I enjoyed eating fresh fois gras prepared in several different ways: seared with apple syrup, as a topping on a rib-eye steak or stuffed in a pigeon. He went on, "You talk about the details of food. Most Asians who come to France talk about tablecloths, plates, decorations and so forth."

Flip that situation around. Most Europeans who dine at Korean restaurants in Seoul say how "wonderful" it is to try Korean foods, while enduring excruciating pain in the lower half of their bodies. It takes a while to be able to distinguish one regional kimchi from another. Foreigners rarely get to learn that authentic Korean cuisine is not just spicy but rather a harmonious blend of natural flavors.

Only if globalization can mean more than the mere mixing of cultures can people who live only a 10-hour flight apart better understand everyday things that are close and personal -- such as food. E-mail me at inescho@joongang.co.kr

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