America is a Salad Korea is a Soup
By, Josh Niehues
My title may not make since in the way it initially reads. You may think, “Oh, this post is going to have something to do with the cultural differences between the U.S. and Korea.
That’s not what this post is really about. It’s about smell. Now before you start thinking about all of your favorite soups, Creamy Potato, Tomato with Ricotta cheese, and Chicken Noodle, let me define what I mean when I say, “America is a Salad” and then describe this soup that is Korea.
America is a salad. America has a smell to it. Not all its smells are lilacs and lavender. There are areas for sure, that produce pungent odors, back alleys, dingy night clubs and gas station toilets to name a few. Then there are the areas that are fresh like a salad. There are the expansive fields of fresh cut alfalfa, the crisp ocean breeze of the Pacific North Coast and the fragrances of fall in the Mid-West. These smells are the better side of America.
Korea is a soup. Korea has a smell to it. Some of the smells are comparable to those of America. The coast has a sweet smell when the wind rushes across the ocean. In fall, the fallen leaves give off an aromatic scent. It also has its unpleasant smells as well and in these days of summer an undesirable smell beings to emanate from every building, street and crammed subway entrance. The summer air becomes stagnate. The humidity seems to trap in every smell and coat you in it; similar to dumping soup on your head.
Garbage is picked up on a regular basis, but there are no trash cans only pink and yellow plastic bags. The pastel colored waste piles up next to the buildings. Yesterday’s dinner becomes a furry creature’s treat that is scattered into the streets. There are no street sweepers in Korea. The garbage that is not collected is washed into shallow gutters.
The summer rains are hot and sticky. It liquefies the contents of the soup. Red peeper paste, kimchee, spicy noodle soup and a marred of other condiments and edibles mix into an odor frenzy crescendo. Sprinkle in the occasional dash of urine and you have the pungent aromas of my part of Korea.