[FOUNTAIN]Preserving the memory of taste“Yes. That’s the taste.” This is the advertising phrase for a condiment made by a food company that named an actress, Kim Hye-ja, as its spokeswoman a few years ago. The expression is far more evocative than the simple words “It’s delicious.” It seems to bring to mind the childhood memories of the taste of mother’s cooking.
Food specialists say food is, in a sense, “a memory of taste,” referring to the memories of the flavors of foods that are handed down from generation to generation. In this context, fast food is incompatible with “the memory of taste.” Some even argue that uniform and standardized fast food can bring on “the amnesia of taste.”
Typical of these advocates is the Slow Food Movement, which was started in Italy in 1986 by a group of indignant citizens after a McDonald’s opened in the Spanish Plaza in Rome.
They feared that the growth of fast food would make the traditional cooking and dining experience extinct. Extolling the pleasures of eating, they emphasize the preservation of traditional food. Now the movement has about 70,000 members in over 40 countries.
In France, “Tasting Week” is used to educate children about food. The concept was developed by the famous French chef Joel Robuchon, who proposed it to the French government in the late 1980s. During this week, top chefs visit schools and teach children about the unique tastes of the food of France. Children are encouraged to sample various kinds of cheeses, for example, and compare the flavors.
In Japan’s Yamaguchi and Akita prefectures, children are also taught the taste of local food so that they will remember the flavors of their hometown even if they later move away.
The taste education of advanced nations is not just to prevent children from having an unhealthy diet. It stems from the thought that if the memory of taste disappears, the food itself may disappear. The effort to keep the memory of taste almost rises to the level of the preservation of cultural assets.
In Korea, these activities are not yet alive. That is because Koreans may be accustomed to the exhortation to “be quick!” But food is culture, too.
To appreciate and preserve food well is a great cultural activity. I wonder how much the next generation might remember the taste of Korean traditional food.
by Nahm Yoon-ho
The writer is a deputy city news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.