Feb 12, 2013  •  In Food, Korean, Personal

The Hidden Meaning Behind Peeling an Apple

When I was a little girl still living in Korea, I overheard that a good “test” to conduct on a future daughter-in-law is to have her peel an apple for you.

If she is able to peel the apple so that the skin remains in one piece, this indicates that she is not only adept with kitchen knives (which would presumably mean that she has spent some time preparing and cooking food), but that she is also patient and skillful.

And if the peeled skin is thin, with very little of the flesh still attached? That’s even better, because it indicates that she is not wasteful and most likely has a frugal personality.

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Having been a people-pleaser ever since I could remember, I took this premise to heart and began to practice my apple-peeling as soon as I was allowed to wield a knife. I knew that being able to peel an apple well is not the only sign of a good daughter-in-law, but I wanted to master the skill just in case. And I became pretty good at it, as you can see from the picture above.

(Now that I think about it, I’m pretty good with knives in general. For example, pencil sharpeners were still expensive when I entered school in Korea…so my mother taught me how to sharpen pencils using pocket knives. I sharpened my pencils using this method when I was just a wee first grader!)

Years later, I learned that having a daughter-in-law who thinly peels the skin of her apples is no longer desired. Why not? Because this would indicate that she is from a poor family! Surely a girl who grew up in a wealthy family would not care about wasting apples.

Some time after that, I heard that a daughter-in-law who can properly peel an apple is not desirable at all — because if you’re rich enough, you’ll have others who’ll do it for you!

People who grew up here in the states are always fascinated when I tell them this story. I remember that my old psychologist was especially intrigued by these theories, stating that they are outstanding examples of the psyche of an economically advancing society that places great importance on upward mobility.

Have I ever been the subject of this apple-peeling test? Well, three of my ex-boyfriends were Korean with very traditional parents. However, none of them ever asked me to peel an apple. :-)

It’s okay, because I pride myself in this little skill. I still like to test myself sometimes, trying my best to only to peel the thinnest slices of skin, being careful not to let it break, and moving the knife faster and faster with each go.

12 Responses to “The Hidden Meaning Behind Peeling an Apple”

  1. I like the original theory. I have never heard this, but whenever I peel and apple I challenge myself to peeling it all in one piece and do a great job! I think my FMIL already likes me though so hopefully I don’t have to peel under pressure.

  2. Ugh, yeah my parents still make me practice peeling apples when I’m at home. It really annoys me actually because it’s an outdated notion. They even made my boyfriend practice peeling apples when he came over.

  3. NB:

    I remember my grandfather saying something very similar – only this time it was mangoes (India – has to be mangoes ;). And me, in the same lines above, have mastered the skill.

  4. laura:

    hilarious! i used to be so jealous of my friends whose moms would peel the apple skin for them. Mine would never do that because she wanted to preserve the vitamins in the skin and of course as a child i only cared that skinned apples taste better. now that I’m an adult, I’ve become like my mom and choose to eat apples skin on.

    • After reading your comment, I realized that I’m very particular about how I eat my apples! If I eat an apple whole, I always eat with the skin. If it’s sliced (i.e., presented nicely on a plate with forks), it HAS to be peeled or I won’t eat it. But yes! It’s so interesting how so much stuff we discard, like the skins of fruits and vegetables, are the most nutritious parts!

  5. Hannah Kim:

    I also did (and still attempt to do…) this! I’m, however, awful at peeling apples. I’m slow and imprecise. ]:

  6. […] The Hidden Meaning Behind Peeling an Apple (Geek in […]

  7. Seongjin:

    I’ve heard that, among fruits, an apple is the one that needs many kinds of insecticide and chemicals because every creature on earth loves to eat it. So I peel thickly an apple off for safety and my traditional parents also changed their point of view after that. :D

  8. I still can’t peel an apple properly. Mom always did it for me. Does this mean I’m a priviledged princess from the working class? o___o?

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