Aesthetics and the senses / Food and Culture

The Historical, Socioeconomic, and Artistic Functions of Kkultarae

Please View this link: The Historical, Socioeconomic, and Artistic Functions of Kkultarae

I am a South Korean adoptee and the last time my family and I visited Seoul, we came across a street vendor selling Kkultarae, or The King’s Dessert, that was created centuries ago as a treat for members of the royal court. Over the years, the socioeconomic status associated with Kkultarae has transformed since it is now available to people of all classes because a box of ten candies, like the one you see the candy maker adding to at the end (2:45-3:00), costs ₩5000, which is roughly $5.00.

Nowadays, the process of making Kkultarae has become a form of entertainment for tourists because the candy maker interacts with customers by asking them questions and explaining his actions. For example, at the beginning of the video, he asks the woman if she knows what the candy ingredients are (0:08-0:12), then explains that the block is honey and the white powder is cornstarch (0:13-0:20). Then he knocks the block against the walls to show that it is solid honey (0:26-0:30), pokes a hole in the middle of the block (0:31-0:40), and begins the most important part, stretching the candy (0:41-2:20). The most entertaining part of the video is when he folds the stretched candy into 16,384 strings (0:50-2:20), adds the almonds, peanut, or walnut filling (2:40-2:43), and rolls the strings around it (2:44-2:47). Therefore, Kkultarae has historical significance from its original consumers, it indicates a shift in socioeconomic status from ancient Korea to today, and has transformed into a semi-new product since it combines artistry and entertainment with tourism, which also infers that the candy maker is bettering his socioeconomic status by making money from his shows and candy.

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One thought on “The Historical, Socioeconomic, and Artistic Functions of Kkultarae

  1. I really like the point you bring up here about the shifts in the socio-economic significance of food over time. this is something that i have also thought about. i remember one time going out to eat with my father, who is older and comes from an impoverished coastal background. In the early 40’s when he was little, his family was so poor that they sometime had to resort to gathering their own food from the sea in the form of crabs that they would collect on the beach. For my birthday one year we went out to very expensive restaurant and ordered a very expensive dish of crab. He refused to eat it and explained that to him crab signified poverty and destitution. I think this kind of ties into the evolution of the economics of food and food distribution over time and also connects to the theme of personal association with specific foods that we have been talking about.

    You said that the candy used to be a treat for members of the court but that it has now become a treat for everyone. i interpret this as meaning that it no longer carries the same implication of status. do you think that the social status of a kind of food can have a significant effect on the way that we perceive the item’s taste?

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