We have just finished watching ‘Burning’, Lee Chang Dong’s masterful cinematic work from 2018 set in South Korea dealing, like ‘Parasite’, with the vampiric usage of the underclass by the rich. Frustrated love, thwarted; and desperation. But slow, real slow burn; poetic; layered. Beautiful.
It is making me want to go back to Korea again.
We have only been there once before; to Seoul, almost twenty two years ago, when D had only recently arrived, still didn’t have a working visa (he was living with me working one hour a week) and we were compelled to leave the country for eight days or so to qualify for the documentation. We chose the nearest capital city, and stayed in a freezing February, heated at feet level by the boiling ondol floor of the windowless guesthouse we were staying in and where I woke up in the night, heady, almost feverish in the darkness with what can only be described as garlic poisoning. Livid with garlic. Shaking, sweating, and breathing it like a dragon. Never have I had so much garlic in my entire life as I did that night (which I love, ordinarily, and cook with all the time but mama mia – fistfuls of chopped cloves (or even whole cloves eaten as appetisers) in the food, in every dish,that we let the proprietor order for us (mischievously?) at will, with beer and Korean local liquor, and I just wasn’t accustomed to it, the sweat that pored out of me perfumed with garlic at the blood level; almost hallucinatory.
All this time later – more than two decades have passed since that trip that I can’t remember with very much mental or visual clarity any more – and unimaginably, only a week or so ago I heard that my book, Perfume : In Search Of Your Signature Scent is now being stocked at the Myeongdong branch of LUSH Seoul. A fact I find very exciting, particularly with this newfound interest in Korean cinema (any other recommendations in that area are very heartily accepted). I need to see it. My book on the shelves. Have the food again, more selective; now as an aficionado who loves chige and shichimi and the spicy, red coloured soups. See, and taste, it all, with new eyes.
8 responses to “BURNING”
Holy cow. Captivating photos and post. And hey, congratulations. I knew you’d be a global sensation! Good news.
My eyes bugged out at that jar and bowl of whole garlic cloves. And then it hit me. You might have been experiencing the double whammy of garlic PLUS chili. That would be seriously incendiary for the uninitiated.
No really, it was INSANE: raw cloves in chilli for starters, and then levels of garlic I had never experienced before – a total newbie (in England in my life I had never eaten anything like it and had not been long in Japan either, which doesn’t use garlic in its traditional food (like the Anglo Saxons). I felt like I was asphyxiating on it and it is my strongest memory of the entire trip by far.
to the DEATH!
Doubt you’ll be doing that to yourself ever again. I feel your pain.
Not pain ::: INTOXICATION
I gave your book to my daughter for Christmas – along with a promise to buy her signature scent once you’ve helped her figure out what it is. We used to love visiting Seoul from Tokyo in winter – serious cold. Always remember entering a lift in a shopping mall on our first visit and being knocked back by the scent of garlic! Seemed to rise off the skin of the Koreans in the lift.
The COLD ; I always think that Tokyo is cold in winter but we are kidding ourselves. My friend in China wants us to go and stay in January but I won’t even contemplate it.
And the garlic is inescapable there : I am presuming it is the highest per capita consumer.
How long did you live in Japan?
And I hope your daughter likes the book. It should at least steer her in the right direction..
Just checked : China is the largest consumer of garlic ( around 14kg per person a year ), followed by Korea (6.4 kg). It makes me think the Chinese food I have been eating here is not authentic.