Sunday, October 12, 2008
To the Namdo Food Festival.
It was a weekend with a lot of festivals in the area, and the first one I went to was the Namdo Food Festival at Nagan Folk Village in Suncheon. I thought I'd be the first person to blog about it, but A Food Journey in Korea beat me to it. I've got a collection of over 120 on my Flickr page, so have a look there if you'd like. I've picked a few of the ones I like best and included them below. The set isn't extensive or exhaustive, since I was only there for a few hours and didn't see everything, and because I'm not a food guy, but whatever. There wasn't as much food-related stuff as I expected, but it was still a pleasant day.
It was unseasonably warm on the 11th, and was a lovely day for walking around. The pictures I took of the scenery turned out pretty good I think, but I suck at photographing people and things. Just like Hitler. Anyway, the only trick I know how to do on my camera is to use the flash during the day to produce a old-timey, yellowish tint. See below:
Persimmon and cosmos:
This guy was there, making things out of melted sugar.
These figureines were crafted out of hanji, Korean paper, as were the other things on display at the tent. Really quite impressive. The artists' website is here.
I had expected to find little restaurants or something devoted to each of Jeollanam-do's counties and cities, because as you know every single spot in the country is "famous" for something or other. The bibimbap in one place is so distinct from the bibimbap you'll find right down the street, after all. I was a little disappointed not to find anything like that during my first go-round, but on my way back through I found booths devoted to regional specialties. They were arranged in a semi-circle around this little eating area.
Gwangyang offered its traditional specialty: sandwiches.
And this meat, not sure what it is.
LMFAO, poor Yeongam county. Had to be the least popular booth of the day. Yeongam was making and selling jam, which of course attracted all kinds of bees. The woman spent most of her time swatting them away, to no avail. I was just brave enough to ask her what she was making, before I had to retreat. If you enlarge the photo you can better see the struggle.
Muan had the most colorful table:
Mustard kimchi (돌산갓김치) from Yeosu.
Other regional specialties included 굴비 from Yeonggwang and pears from Naju. Not pictured was some incredible sponge cake from Hampyeong. The Hampyeong booth produced one of the day's many interesting moments. Let's backtrack: I'm a white guy, so any time I go out I get hit with all kinds of "hellOOOOOOOOOO"s, "where u prom?," and "어 . . . 외국인이다." Now, I spend just about every weekend with Girlfriend in Jeollanam-do, a Japanese woman who is mistaken for a Korean woman by, seriously, every single person we ever meet. She definitely gets more positive attention, as people in markets and shops will always talk to her, and gets no weird stares or catcalls. Even when I speak Korean, people will usually respond back to her, as if she understands. Anyway, whatever, it does get annoying, and I wish I wouldn't get either ignored or taunted. But walking around with her does highlight some interesting behavior I get, too. For example, when we walked into the park there was a guy passing out informational pamphlets about conservation efforts in the region. She got one, of course, but when I went up he didn't give me one. Instead he gave me this wood pendant. I didn't know what it was, until I looked around and saw every kid wearing one around his neck. Yes, every kid. And when we stopped to look around all the booths, the attendants always asked her where I'm from. At the Hampyeong one the guy asked her where I was from, and I answered that I'm American. He beckoned me over and gave me a piece of the greatest-tasting cake I've had in Korea. My girlfriend said "저는 일본사람이에요" and the guy said "응" and went back to talking to me. I just about pooped my pants. But as I explained, I deserve a little cake once in a while for having to deal with being a conspicuous foreigner and all that entails. As I explained to my girlfriend, she's not a foreigner, she's Asian. *cough*
In the middle of the village was a group of tables where chefs from local universities were participating in a cooking contest. After the judging the food was auctioned off.
LOL, this is just weak:
The students from Honam University are over it.
The festival organizers were going for a world record: the longest string of red peppers in the world. Actually, it was the "longest pepper line of love" (세계에서 가장 긴 사랑의 고추줄). It started around the tables I just showed you and continued around the fortress. I asked one of the students charged with holding up one of the poles how long it was, and he said 1.5 kilometers. It ended up being just under 1.4, and had some 29,000 peppers, according to this article. I contributed three.
The bull is pulling a child in a cage. The first and last time you'll ever read that sentence.
Here's a white guy photoshopped in.
And, to provide some continuity with the last post, here's a Jindo in a cage.
One kind of annoying thing was the transportation situation. When I wrote my list of Jeollanam-do festivals, the Namdo Food Festival website said there would be free shuttles to and from Gwangju, leaving about a half-dozen times a day on the weekend. However, when I checked back on Friday the only shuttle left Gwangju at 10 am and left the village at 4 pm. There were several shuttles to and from Suncheon Bay, though, but no shuttles between the village and downtown Suncheon. The buses, which run pretty irregularly, were filled to the brim, and while I guess they were effective, I kind of wish they'd run more often during the festival.
Nagan Folk Village is one of Suncheon's top tourist sites, along with Suncheon Bay, and is a pleasant place to visit at any time. Take a look at my first write-up on the area this past spring for more information about the village. And if anybody has any entries of their own about this festival and would like me to link to them, please leave a comment. Or, any entries on anything else going on in the area, for that matter.