December 24, 2011

The Recipe: None of the Ingredients Needed for a True Romance

Is it really that unusual for a man, about to be executed for heinous crimes, to long for a simple dish like a bean paste stew in his final moments? Choi Yoo-jin (Ryu Seung-Ryong), a none-too-bright TV reporter at DBS, evidently thinks so he pulls out all the stops -- favors from his friends at the police force, extensions of deadlines from his rightfully skeptical boss, even conferences with the dead -- in order to find out the recipe behind this mystical dish. For the record, the ingredients are pretty specific: soy beans that have been grown with pig manure and spring water found under a lacquer tree to name but two. And Choi is committed to getting every single one of them, even when they get esoteric (like the vibrations of crickets) and sickeningly sappy (like tears).

Those tears are caused by the foiled romance of two cute-as-a-button artisans: stew-maker Hye-jin Jang (Lee Yu-won) who reeks of soy beans and wine-maker Kim Hyeon-soo (Lee Dong-Wook) who stinks of booze. Together, rumor has it, they make a delightful smell. Or at least they did when they were alive. Sadly that memorable combination of odors is no more as these two lovebirds never got to get married and make a sweetly scented baby to carry their patented mix of soy and wine forward into the next generation. You see, he got whisked away for an arranged marriage in Japan just as she was going to cook him up something sweet and tasty to eat. If you didn't get a whiff of what's coming next, let me tell you straight: He ends up drowning trying to get back to her by ship; she gets killed in a car wreck that's one of the stranger instances of euthanasia on record. Just try to sniff back the tears.

I'm not sure what the big pay-off is here for Choi. He neither makes a bowl of orgiastic soup that tastes of nirvana on earth nor has a ratings-smashing special turning him into a food network superstar now that he's uncovered the story behind the dish. It's hard to picture him finding true love for himself with the batty shop-owner (Lee Yong-nyeo) who's always wearing curlers. It's equally hard to imagine him getting promoted at DBS. Maybe he sells the story to director Lee Ann so she can spoonfeed the sentimental dreck to us here while he runs off with one of that movie's extras, a pretty young actress more concerned with trinkets and baubles than a bowl of fermented soy that smells like flowers and childhood and ultimately, poop.

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