Search for the Master Chefs
If the name of Janggeum’s hometown wasn’t known before, it is now: Hanyang. After all her travels, she has a chance to put what she’s learned to the test, to see if she can win the cooking contest.
Before then, she’s gone through a bit more. A bit of Taoist magic nicely explained the mystery of the bamboo grove, and Yu was able to send Janggeum on two more quests. Chances are he wanted to make sure she didn’t tag along with him, but he did know which places she would come across on her journey.
Janggeum’s story should be enough to impress anybody. She stole and accidentally destroyed a precious cookbook, and because of it she was kicked out of the palace, banned from returning, and threatened with going to jail if she did not stay away. She left home, embarking on a journey across Korea, learning from others, and saving lives through her knowledge. Everything she learned, all the experiences she had, she wrote down in a book of her own, a book with recipes able to be readily made for feeding the people of Chosen. This book, this book of recipes written by a girl who was once an apprentice court lady, by a girl who was banned from the palace, this book will now go out to the villages, copies for each village. The secrets in this book will be spread far and wide, and may save more lives over time than Janggeum could ever imagine.
So long ago, Court Lady Han told Janggeum to think about what she lost, and what she must find. It was during Janggeum’s first weeks in the palace when she led Yeonsaeng into the forest with her to find “the taste of nature”, and it was there where she found Geum-young one step ahead of her. While it all seemed clear to Janggeum what this “taste of nature” was, she’s since learned so much. Looking back, she must feel as if she knew absolutely nothing back when she was forced out of the palace, comparing with her knowledge today.
It was not king Jungjong’s idea to have Janggeum leave the palace. He felt he remained indebted to her for saving his life, not once but twice. There are laws which must be upheld for actions taken, and his hands were tied on the matter. With the arrival of Janggeum’s book, he’s finally had a way to pay her back. I don’t consider Haeya’s freedom as a gift to Janggeum, as Jungjong has that done because he believe it was what was right. Actually, the same is true about Janggeum’s book. The people have been suffering through a difficult year, and her book will be a boon to them. Still, Jungjong is putting Janggeum’s written experiences out there. Soon her name will be well known across Chosen, and she will be a legacy.
I’m under the impression the Korean languages uses a lot of “loan words” from Chinese. When the government officials from Jeolla-do loaded the buckwheat greens onto the cart, a singing voiceover use the word “goban”. This sounds a lot like the Japanese word for dinner, “gohan”, which is also a loanword from Chinese. Any relation?
Jeong-ho still has yet to return Janggeum’s ring. I foresee Janggeum winning the cooking contest, learning her book has been copied and sent to the villages, showing that she’s succeeded in her dream, and that will lead to Jeong-ho returning the ring. The ring will find its way back to Janggeum only after she’s truly achieved what she set out for.
Han’s actions regarding Janggeum’s asking for forgiveness, her actions and her words to the child, were the best she could have done. It may have been hard on her, but being soft could have made things much worse. She much blame herself for whatever Janggeum’s had to suffer through, so hopefully Janggeum’s return can put Han’s mind at rest. Maybe not right away, but after finding Janggeum has “found what she lost”, I think Han will be just fine.
I had wondered before what the girls were writing with. Turns out it was brushes, after all. I’m not very good at writing with a brush and ink, so I find it impressive to see Janggeum and Yeonsaeng simply standing casually, writting notes. Maybe it’s nothing exceptional, as anyone and everyone in Korea who knows how to write would be writing with a brush, not just Janggeum and Yeonsaeng, but I still find it a good show of ability.
One of the two master chefs passed away, but Soso, a very young boy, is said trained under a master chef, and even surpassed his mentor. If a child is such a grand cook, Janggeum will be able to learn that age doesn’t matter. It’s all in the teacher, the teacher’s love of preparing the dish, and in the student, the student’s willingness to learn, and love of preparing the food as well.
Not only does Janggeum meet the two master chefs Yu sent her to find, but she has the chance to speak with a chef kn-owledged in the “unknown” foods, such as red peppers. There are plenty more great chefs she can learn on, but perhaps her focus will be on the contest. Everyone will be making what they’re good at. The court ladies might prepare an extravagant meal, but the famous chefs may each know one dish well, the dish best able to serve the people, and that’s what they’ll be making. These dishes cannot compare with something from the Bamboo level court ladies, as well as the Sanggungs, the upper court ladies, but they’ll be exactly what the queen is looking for. I’m afraid this will be one cooking competition where Choe and Geum-young do not stand a chance.