Aesthetics and the senses / Food and Culture

Food Without Function

  Imagine a birthday cake decorated in a specific image, or a bento-box creatively arranged to pique the interest and imagination of a Japanese grade-schooler, or even the elegant and often minimalist displays designed to heighten the experience of elitism at a five-star restaurant. All of these forms of appetizing expression represent food that is … Continue reading

Aesthetics and the senses / Food and Culture

The Historical, Socioeconomic, and Artistic Functions of Kkultarae

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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