Monday, September 04, 2006

teacher, eating!

That is how Kibeom tells me it is time for a meal. I watch my host mom set everything out and tell the boys in Korean to tell me to come eat. Then Kibeom comes in my room and Kiyeong sort of dances around behind him, while Kibeom says, very urgently, "Teacher, eating!" I obediently go out and sit at the table, even though dinner is never actually ready for another 15 minutes or so.

Sometimes at dinner we watch TV--usually our favorite Korean drama. The show is about a girl with a side ponytail and fierce bangs. She lives on a grape farm (vineyard? I'm pretty sure the grapes aren't for, grape farm? it sounds funny) and pouts a lot. Last night, however, we watched some show in which contestants had a karaoke face-off to see who had to bungee jump off a tall platform. Karaoke is so huge here...if you flip around the channels at least a third of the shows will involve it in some way.

Dinner here has settled into a fixed pattern of really good, really bad, really good, really bad. Last night the main attraction of our meal was "Korean pizza," which is actually a fried pancake-like thing with potato and flour. It also has green onions, hot peppers (of course), and sometimes squid--although ours had octopus left over from the night before instead. In the pancake setting, the octopus was not bad at had been chopped up into little pieces and was just salty and a bit rubbery. The pancake is dipped in some preem sauce and is delish. We also had some really tasty (and unimaginably salty) tofu soup and some of my favorite side dishes (soybean sprouts, mushrooms, green and white onion salad) in addition to the usual anchovies and fish skin (which my host mom mostly knows I don't really like).

The dinner before that was a different story. We sat down to a big, bubbling pot of what was basically spicy, spicy water and lots of shellfish. Not only do I not really like shellfish, but also it's really awkward to try and pick up the giant shells with chopsticks and place them neatly in your bowl (we had big scallop-like things in addition to the usual clammy kitties). To dip the stuff in, my host mom brought out soy sauce (yay) and wasabi (not yay). I don't like wasabi--not because it's spicy, because believe me I am getting used to spicy--but because it tastes like chemicals. My host mom gestured for me to mix my wasabi into my soy sauce and I said, "Oh no thank you, I don't like wasabi." She told me that it was easy and reached over to mix it herself, apparently assuming that I (in my left-handed and foreign chopstick ineptitude) simply didn't understand how to stir it. I interrupted her and said in Korean, "I don't like it," and pointed to the wasabi, to which she replied "but it is delicious," and vigorously stirred it in. Biting back a sigh, I sort of looked down and noticed a large bucket next to my foot. Inside the bucket were 3 cat-sized raw octopi floating in some water. After we had all eaten enough shellfish to satisfy my host mom, she plopped those suckers into the soup, whole. There is something disconcerting about a dime-sized suction cup attaching itself to your tongue as you frantically try and chew it without wincing.

The night before this we had an amazing dinner of sort of fried rice and vegetables. It didn't have any meat in it! Not even little pieces! The best part was definitely the kimchi. I really like kimchi under normal circumstances, but when that stuff is fried it becomes one of the most delicious foods imaginable.

Then the night before that we had this sick soup. I was eating it and thinking, "this has the exact taste and consistancy of mud," when random-family-friend-dad (mentioned in a few posts) said to me "teacher, this mud pishy." It also had huge clumps of sesame leaves, which I hate--they are sort of minty and furry and just kind of awful.

Before that we had some really good samgyupsal in a restaurant with really good dishes to put in the lettuce and rice cooked until crispy in the pan afterwards. The pattern continues basically, I'm nervous for tonight. I was just handed a big plate of disgusting crustacean-flavored chiplike to a good start.

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