One of my favorite students is a high school girl from South Korea. When I tutor her, it is more like chatting with a younger sister. She is a bright, outgoing, and funny girl. Each week, I give her a list of vocabulary words, and she uses them to write sentences, which I correct the next time I see her. Her sentences are hilarious, and are usually about her classmates’ antics or her family’s vicious white lapdog, Sweety, whose best talents are vomiting and biting visitors.
The other night, this girl and I were talking about her experiences in her American high school. We got on this topic because we were trying to figure out if the term “fob” is less offensive to Asian immigrants of her generation than it is to those of older generations. This girl has lived in the United States for a few years now, and she told me how she sometimes feels embarrassed by some of her classmates who immigrated more recently from Korea.
“One day this one fob guy told the class about how Koreans eat dogs, and I was SO embarrassed!” she told me.
“Well, I tried dog meat in Korea, and it’s pretty good!” I said, and her eyes got big with surprise. Even she has never tried dog meat.
Then I told her that she doesn’t have to be embarrassed, because every country in the world has food preferences that other countries would call gross or immoral. I gave her some examples, such as how in France, they eat horsemeat, and many Americans think that’s wrong. Or how in America, we eat catfish, which are poop-eating bottom feeders, and in Sudan, eating catfish is considered DISGUSTING. I also told her about the things my Okie father ate when he was growing up. Snakes, frog legs, and god only knows what else. From what I’ve been told, if my dad and his brothers could shoot it, they ate it.
Then I asked her if she had heard of Rocky Mountain Oysters. “Rocky Mountains… that’s in Canada, right?” she asked. I pulled an atlas out of my bag and traced out the Rockies through Canada and the United States. I pointed at the portion in Colorado and told her, “That’s where I’m from. That’s where I watched Rocky Mountain Oysters being made when I was a child. But as you can see, Colorado is very far from the ocean. So can you guess where the oysters come from?” She looked puzzled. “Well, you see, we have a lot of bulls there. You know, boy cows. And we…” “No!!!!!” she exclaimed, realizing where I was going with this. “Ohhhhhhhh yes!” I said. “But don’t worry, I never tried them. I just watched farmers dropping them into buckets after they cut them off.” At first she looked horrified, and then she started laughing.
So now my dear student has a great defense if American kids are judgmental about Korean meat preferences! (Sure, Koreans might eat dog meat, but Rocky Mountain Oysters?!)