“Probably the best meal that I have as yet indulged in” : An American missionary’s description of Korean dishes in 1909

Gürsel B.

INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF KOREAN HISTORY, vol.27, no.2, pp.165-195, 2022 (Peer-Reviewed Journal)

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 27 Issue: 2
  • Publication Date: 2022
  • Doi Number: 10.22372/ijkh.2022.27.2.165
  • Journal Indexes: Emerging Sources Citation Index, Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.165-195


In the wake of the Chosǒn-United States Treaty of Peace, Amity, Commerce and Navigation (1882), the relationship between the Korean Empire and the Western world intensified, and large groups of diplomats, missionaries and travelers arrived in the peninsula. Lloyd H. Snyder was among those newcomers and acted as a missionary educator intermittently for more than thirty years in Korea. This article employs a letter-which was sent by Snyder in 1909 to a visitor from the United States-as a primary source to elucidate how an inexperienced American missionary explicated the details of a meal that he consumed at the house of a privileged Korean. Aside from providing concise insight about Korea’s deep-rooted culinary practices and traditions and a number of pertinent examples from late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century American accounts, it also demonstrates how a young American in the early 1900s perceived, scrutinized and conveyed some significant features of the gastronomic identity of Korean elites. In a historical context, the article also demonstrates the relevance and significance of food and eating habits in defining and recognizing a society’s cultural identity.