Many of the traditional foods of Korea date back thousands of years.
The tale of how Doenjang was created is preserved as part of Korea’s Buddhist tradition. It runs as follows.
During the period of Old Choson (2333 BC~108 BC), there lived an enlightened master.
He was always pondering as to how human beings might commit fewer bad deeds, and accumulate less bad karma.
The master reached a simple conclusion: people do bad things because their minds are not at ease.
Since all beings need food, he wondered if there was a dish he could create that would calm people’s minds, and fill them with gratitude to the heavens.
This way, just by virtue of what they ate, they would be less likely to commit sin.
He prayed and meditated devotedly on the subject
Eventually, he realized that he should use soybeans, as they are both nutritious and easy to grow.
He soaked the soybeans for about a day, and then boiled them at a low heat for roughly twelve hours.
He then ground the soybeans and shaped them into blocks.
These bean blocks were hung under the eaves of a house and dried by sunlight and wind.
By placing them in the sunlight, the master was exposing them to the energy of the heavens.
By drying them in the wind, he exposed them to the breath of the Buddha.
When the fermentation was complete, they were soaked in saline water.
The salt contributed the energy of the sea, and while in the water, the blocks were suspended in the clear mind of the Buddha.
That’s the story of Doenjang!
You can read the story as a historical anecdote. But historical or not, the effect of Doenjang (as we saw in previous posts) is to do great things to your body, which enables you to live a full and happy life.
And as to the effect it has on your mind?
If you look at Korea’s long history, you’ll see that it has never invaded other countries.
If you ever go there, you’ll find a country where people are basically kind and warm, both in their relationships with each other, and with visitors.
Stories like the tale of Doenjang give you an insight not only into the food, but the culture of a country.
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