Saturday, April 24, 2010

Doenjang Girl

Today on my weekly trip to the supermarket I was reminded of a Korean expression that I learned recently: "둰장 여", or "doenjang girl".

Doenjang chiggae is a fabulous Korean stew with tofu, mussels, onions, and soybeans. It is definitely my favourite Korean food. Not only for its taste (yum) but because it's cheap. The average doenjang chiggae usually runs about 4000 won, which works out to something like $3.50. For that, you get the stew itself, a bowl of rice, and an array of side dishes.

Unlike traditional Korean food, which is ridiculously cheap by Western standards, any kind of Western food or beverage is usually about the same price as it would be at home (dinner at the local Indian restaurant easily sets me back $30). Starbucks' prices are no exception.

So the expression "doenjang girl" has arisen to describe a Korean girl who wants to appear wealthier than she actually is. Instead of visiting an expensive foreign restaurant, Doenjang Girl will eat her $3.50 bowl of doenjang chiggae, then goes to Starbucks to purchase a six dollar latte.

It's interesting how things like this make you consider your own perspective. In the West I usually expect to pay at least $15 for a meal out. When my favourite Ethiopian restaurant in Ottawa charged me only $7.50 for my curry, I kept scanning the menu trying to figure out what the catch was. If you're used to that, spending $6 on a latte doesn't seem like a big deal. Considering it from a Korean perspective, however, it would be like me paying $25 for a latte after a $15 supper. Kind of nuts.

That thought was with me today when I was confronted by these beauties in the grocery store:

At first, I told myself they were way too expensive. I would never spend that kind of money on a few tiny pieces of fruit. Then I realized that I would have paid the same amount for an iced mocha frappucino without batting an eye. These were just as delicious and much better for me. I bought them, took them home, and promptly ate them all. They didn't taste like Canadian raspberries (I think they must actually be another kind of berry) but they were awesome all the same.

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