Saturday, March 29, 2008

Seaweed

미역 [Mi-Yeok]

When I was little, I used to think the slithery greens that I see floating in water or laid across the shore are what we eat for seaweed soup or salads. So, whenever I see them on a beach, thinking they are a source of free foods I would get all excited and procure them and bring to my parents' attention. To my disappointment, however, they simply said those seaweeds are not edible and asked me to put them back into water.

To this day I am still not completely convinced what makes edible seaweed or what not. Nor do I clearly understand how edible seaweeds are harvested and processed. What I know is though, after the seaweeds are harvested, they are dried in open air with ample sunlight and winds. And, when we soak dry seaweeds in water (for about half an hour) to cook, they suddenly grow again, in size - a mere quarter cup of dry seaweeds or less could easily make a pot full of seaweed soup...

Seaweeds are especially known to be very nutritious in vitamins and minerals, and a bowl of seaweed soup is often served to mothers as their first meal after labor. It is also customary that when buying dry seaweeds to feed a mother who just delivered a child, you are not supposed to bargain the price of seaweed with the seller - of course, this only applies in the past though when people used to buy groceries in conventional local marketplaces, often held weekly or every few other days, in Korea instead of huge supermarkets that we see today...

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