Rice, rice everywhere

15 years ago

To the editor:
    It is a festival weekend for the Koreans. Chu Seok has been part of Korean Culture far longer than our own Thanksgiving. It is a bit more complex in that it is not so much a reflection and appreciation of what has come to people, but a reflection on the strength of the family. From near and far the families come together to celebrate.     There is not the football fanaticism that now marks our holiday. You will not find big parades or the start of a shopping season. Instead people gather to talk about their hopes and dreams. They share the common heritage of family in its past, present, and future forms.
    I had a person ask me why I travel so much and so far from home. Not an easy question to answer. A flip response would be that I can, so I do. A similar response would be that it is because I meet and make new friends. This weekend I have spent the entire time in Sun Chang. Sun Chang is in some respects about the size of Presque Isle. This means that you can easily walk the whole town in an hour or so and find yourself out in the country. I have done a lot of walking.
    Houses are small and tucked away in the hills. Field after field is filled with rice with the occasional vegetable garden and squash plot breaking up the view. Rice is a heavy water plant. In the early spring, the fields are flooded with water and the plugs of rice are put in the fields. As they grow and mature more water is added. When harvest time comes, the fields are dryer but still loaded with water. What this has done is create sculptured patterns to the fields reflecting the flow of water from the hills to the valleys. Streams and rivers are tamed with the meanders and warbles of the water becoming part of the whole cycle.
    Now is the time of the rice harvest. Using mowers and people power the rice farmers cut and dry the kernels. As you walk down the street, you will see vast mats of plastic with the brown kernels of rice drying in the sun. A couple of days out in the sun and the grains are sacked and taken to a machine that polishes the bran off the rice. And from there into more sacks to be stored for the coming winter.
    There are potatoes grown in Korea. The plots are far smaller but the produce is just as delicious. While waiting at the hospital for one of the tests necessary for my employment to be done, I watched as Korean television showed how Koreans dig their spuds. They use a claw-like two-prong rake. While some hills are made for the plants, they are not the deep and tall ones that we know in the states. A popular way of eating them is to steam the fresh spuds and eat like one eats bread. Butter is not a common element on the Korean table. Still, it is good to find the spud. Now for some fries.

Orpheus Allison
Sun Chang, South Korea